Will proactive political citizens please stand up?

FOR the smug and insulated African National Congress (ANC) elite, few things are more satisfying than hearing white South Africans complain. Accusing the president of rape, or corruption, or declaring John Block guilty before judgment, is not just inaccurate, it reinforces the ANC’s position that public opinion is influenced by the media — from its perspective, one demographic’s obsession with fragmented aspersions is just another kind of prejudice.

Traditional complaints range from the rational to the conspiratorial, with the former getting less exposure. Those peddling half-truths are entirely responsible for their own condition: they complain about potholes, but they cannot name the minister of water affairs; they complain about Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s threats to journalists, but they don’t know she’s actually guilty of far worse (Travelgate); they complain about the courts, the criminal justice system and the police, but few would have read Judge Jeanette Traverso’s verdict obliterating the state’s case against murder accused Shrien Dewani.

This condition incorporates fear, guilt, racism, ignorance and frustration. Its proponents see themselves as victims of perpetual insult, dispossessed of participation, petrified of being accused of intolerance, begrudgingly conscious of political correctness — something they believe neuters frank discussions with other races. Essentially, they’ve disenfranchised themselves from political citizenry.

In the absence of political citizenry, blinkered racial solidarity has flourished; black people will still support the ANC despite being the largest casualties of violent crime because the white perspective is inaccessible, embittered by flawed intelligence or littered with casual slander. Removing this difference requires something with vast implications that strips the layers of ignorance and racial solidarity and undermines the racial divisions that state officials work so tirelessly to exploit.

Proactive political citizenry excludes using social media to express revulsion whenever South African Airways (SAA) chairwoman Dudu Myeni makes outrageous claims about her “successful participation in SAA’s transformation”. It excludes vomiting in wine bars whenever national police commissioner Riah Phiyega sends another nauseating text message. It is beyond the infantile humour of shower-head caricatures. It thrives on the theory that numbers do not lie; its foundations are available via a litany of post-1994 publications — from Jonathan Jansen to Herman Mashaba. It is calm reason whenever some attention-seeking upstart screams racism at the Franschhoek Literary Festival. It is unreactive to patronising, parliamentary clowning. But its most underrated virtue is that it is immune to collectivism, conceding nothing to the ANC’s desire to dictate race relations.

Its most complex element is distribution. How does one engage with facts without venturing into traditional complaint? How does one use responsible political citizenry to narrow the chasms of racial perspectives? Fortunately, this has already been done.

Despite its best intentions, the ANC should never have won the 2009 election. Ideally, many of its MPs should have been sacked the previous year and the management model of key institutions would have been scrapped. Were voters conscious of employment deprivation or economic growth, the ANC would have been shown to be romantic but incompetent, an organisation inebriated by extended celebrations that lacked vision, that made the error of prioritising “transformation” over economic foundation and, worse, failed to acknowledge the two were inextricably linked.

Whereas the traditional white whiner believes the ANC has since strengthened its position, the proactive political citizen perpetuates the darkness as revealing a gradual return to the fundamental architecture of political service.

We scrutinise the thuggery of blue-light cavalcades, not because we’re racist but because they are useless. We organise into constitutionally accepted bodies to observe political processes, not because we hate the ANC but because a culture of golden handshakes runs counter to progress. We are unimpressed by pleas for sympathy or compassion for those who serve because politicians are elected to perform to a standard, not infract tender legislation.

As we descend towards this convergence of economic near-paralysis, leadership immobility and a decline in investor confidence, the proactive political citizen applies opinion not to complaints, but to facts, and for this we are indebted to Eskom. Because it is only in this collective darkness, born of an undeniable truth, that everyone has an opportunity to see the light.

• Reader works for an energy investment and political advisory firm

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