My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
When Mahatma Ghandi visited the United Kingdom after the Second World War and was asked by a journalist what he thought about Western civilization he reportedly said: ¨Yes, its a good idea.¨ I feel the same way about Cope.
When the ANC took over the government after our democratic revolution, many of us felt that it was not such a bad thing that it had overwhelming support ¨among the masses of our people¨. After all, in the wake of the unjust and deeply unequal situation left by the apartheid system, we needed a strong government to ensure the speedy transformation of South Africa to a more just and equitable society and to ensure social stability – and the ANC looked like the only party ready and capable of governing South Africa and doing just this.
Now, fifteen years later, the arms deal scandal later, Zuma later, the firing of Vusi Pikoli later, HIV/AIDS denialism later and laughable blue light brigade escapades later, a strong ANC looks less and less like a good idea and more and more like a disaster for South Africa.
So when Mosiuoa Lekota took the plunge and formed Cope, it seemed like a good idea: finally a credible party to take on the increasingly arrongant, anti-poor, delusionally arrogant people in the ANC government who think its ok to elect a President who might very well be guilty of serious corruption and fraud. Even though I did not rate their chances of getting more than 10% of the vote, I was still rooting for Cope to shake up our politics. Goodness knows, we need it.
But sadly, Cope seems to be disintegrating before our eyes. Because the leaders could not decide who should be the face of the party for the election, they chose a political non-entity, Bishop Mvume Dandala, to front for the party while Lekota and Sam Shilowa fought it out behind the scenes.
And as Sipho Seepe points out in a thought-provoking column in today`s Business Day, Bishop Dandala seems to be a Thabo Mbeki lackey:
That Dandala would be Mbeki’s favourite priest is no accident. He was invited to officiate at his inauguration and rewarded with the now disgraced National Order of the Baobab. Dandala played his part in the struggle against apartheid. There was nothing to lose. The real test of courage is when we have something to lose. In my book, Dandala failed this test.
And then I read on news24 that Lekota refused to comment on whether HIV causes Aids. “Look I am not an expert on HIV and Aids and I don’t want to venture an opinion on whether it does or not,” he said.
Well, I am not a geographer but if someone asks me whether the earth is round I am going to say, yes of course. And I might not be a scientist but if someone asks me whether boiling water is hot or cold, I am going to say: well it is hot.
So, for Lekota not to want to contradict his ex-boss by confirming the bleeding obvious, namely that HIV causes Aids and that ARV`s can help to significantly prolongue the lives of poeple living with HIV is outragous and incomprehensible. Unless Lekota is still scared of angering his ex-boss who might still be pulling the strings of Cope behind the scenes.
I am only too thankful these guys won`t form the next government. Who needs a third term of Mbeki`s obfuscation and denialism?
Then rather give us Mr Zuma, who might still surprise us all. Who knows maybe when he gets elected President he will become a principled person who tells people what they need to know, not what he thinks they want to hear. Who knows, maybe he will stop doing a Carl Niehaus and will start living within his means. Who knows, he might even do a few good things for the poor and will stop going around like a buffoon in a banana republic with thick-necked body guards who make Os Durand look like a ballet dancer and who go around in 20 car cavalcades and push ordinary people off the roads.
Maybe he will be humble and act the part.
Meanwhile, we will remain an impoverished democracy without any real choices come election time. Because of the implosion of Cope, because of the DA´s disasterous ¨fight b(l)ack(s) campaign which have made them unpalatble to most decent people, and because many voters still vote just as much to affirm their identities than as a considered choice about what would make their lives better, the ANC will again romp home to victory.
When will this change? Well, if we become a real united nation (not a nation united under the ANC), with a shared sense of identity, then people will start voting issues more than identity. In Brazil, where I have spent the last week witnessing two million people dancing in the Streets to the Portuguese Samba music they all seem to share and love, one is struck again by how fractured South African society is. Although there are huge gaps between rich and poor, and white and black here, what I saw in the streets of Salvador gave me goosebumps exactly because I felt a sense of community that we as South Africans only glimpsed during the Rugby World Cup and African Cup of Nations chapoinship wins.
We are devided by race, class, language and ethnicity and this tends to make us huddle in our own little laagers. And political parties will continue to exploit that for as long as it will bring them short term gain. So, as we gear up for the election, be sure to watch out while the ANC relentlessly remind us of apartheid and the DA – more subtly – make some ¨Swart Gevaar¨noises.
I fear we will only become united when we have a new common enemy. And – like the poor Zimbabweans who voted Morgan Tsvangirai into office as their President at least twice now in opposition to Mugabe and his kleptocratic thugs – that common enemy might well emerge to be the governing party who will be elected with a handsome majority for a while yet – until all hell breaks loose and everyone wakes up as from a collective nightmare and we throw out the bums, blue lights and all.BACK TO TOP