Sat Oct 22 15:29:15 SAST 2016

Violent conspiracy theories can cause loss of lives in harsh backlash

By unknown | May 14, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

We have been here before. It is not a nice place to be, and it is no place for a new and democratic South Africa to be.

We have been here before. It is not a nice place to be, and it is no place for a new and democratic South Africa to be.

KwaZulu-Natal, that province so intimately connected to political assassination, violence and destabilisation, is once again on the boil.

There is talk of men paid humungous amounts of money to kill political opponents. There is worrying talk of disrespect for one group by another. There is talk again of fighting "to the death".

The first worrying factor centres on fights, already taking a violent turn, between the ANC and the IFP over the changing of street and town names in the province. The IFP is aggrieved. Streets named after leaders such as Mangosuthu Buthelezi are set to be changed and replaced with those of ANC leaders or their relatives.

Two weeks ago the IFP led a violent march through Durban in which shops were vandalised and robbed. The IFP now claims some of its leaders are being harassed.

Guns are being confiscated, there are allegations of hit squads sent to get rid of "problematic" leaders and other such things. Harsh words are being uttered. Fists are being raised. The ANC and the IFP in the province are baring teeth against each other.

Once again, we are reminded of the death and destruction that followed these two parties' bitter fighting in the 1980s and early 1990s. Once again, we wonder when cool heads and reason will prevail.

We do not want to go back there. It is a place of pain and of loss; of ugliness and of division.

Our children cannot have their future blighted by the repetition of such a bloody and regrettable era in our history. We cannot go back to a time when brother fought brother, when sister turned against sister.

The second, and more worrying, development centres on ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma and allegations that a sniper was promised R1million to assassinate him at a rally in Durban in 2004.

The Mail & Guardian said on Friday that the plot unravelled because Zuma did not arrive at the rally as planned. It also said killers planned to lace Zuma's clothing with poison when it was dry-cleaned.

The newspaper said fears remained that the assassination plot could still be carried out ahead of the ANC conference in December, when the party's presidential leadership race would be decided.

Two police teams were apparently investigating but police spokesmen refused to comment.

What does all this mean? The race for the ANC presidency is really hotting up now. The ANC in the Eastern Cape has formally asked Mbeki to stand as a candidate. He told them that he is a servant of the ANC and will respond positively if he is asked to stand. Well, he has been asked now.

Yesterday it was reported that Tokyo Sexwale, the millionaire businessman and former Gauteng premier, told the BBC that he would be prepared to stand for the presidential post if he is asked to by members of the ANC.

Zuma has been traversing the country basically drumming up votes for the December conference. Among card-carrying, rank-and-file members of the ANC, Zuma is a man with a real following.

Like him or not, despise his personal and political choices or not, everyone is running against Zuma rather than for something.

No ANC leader has come along and said: "I want to win". Instead, in their actions and body language, they exist merely to stop a Zuma ascendancy. He is the man to beat.

It would be therefore be easy to construct a conspiracy about some force out to "get" Zuma. After all, the ANC is wracked by conspiracy theories. Remember the allegations that Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa and Mathews Phosa were planning to assassinate Mbeki?

The accusations were patently false. There have been others, and almost all of them have been debunked.

So what is one to make of the Zuma allegations? It sounds to me like yet another example of the fear and paranoia so prevalent in large chunks of the ANC. It sounds like yet another case of a deranged former soldier walking into someone's office, spinning them a tall tale and being believed. As it is, the allegations emanate from one source without any evidence to back them up.

The worrisome thing here is what such allegations can lead to. The belief that there is a conspiracy against Zuma, and that people are prepared to take him out by violent means, can lead to a violent backlash.

Worse, Zuma's main support base is in volatile KwaZulu-Natal, where a huge number of guns are still floating about. The possibility exists, so long as we entertain and encourage talk of conspiracies and assassinations, that these guns will be brought out.

We do not want to go back there.


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