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Screenshot 2019 12 19 at 06.05.10

Lorenzo A Davids

I have never felt this nervous about our future. Thirty years ago, on February 2, 1990, the oppressive Nationalist Party government finally announced the unbanning of the liberation movements and the pending release of former president Nelson Mandela.

Today, the depressing awareness of “it was not supposed to be like this” dominates my thoughts.

The fragile fabric of inclusiveness within which our democracy was so carefully wrapped in 1994 is tearing and no one appears to be making any effort at sewing it back together again.

The most worrying aspect of this is that our politicians believe that they are both capable of fixing this and have the time to do so.

I believe they have neither.


“The fragile fabric of inclusiveness within which our democracy was so carefully wrapped in 1994 is tearing and no one appears to be making any effort at sewing it back together again,” writes Lorenzo Davids. Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The intransigence we experience from the president is interpreted as him “playing the long game” against his party enemies.

The truth is that the ANC is so fractured that it no longer has our collective national prosperity at heart, but rather chooses to wage factional battles for control of the country’s diminishing resources.

Its great democratic history has been caught up in ideological factionalism, which is turning Africa’s oldest political movement into a tragicomedy. On other levels, the same trends emerge. The conservative right wing is abandoning the DA as a centre-right party, jumping ship to the Freedom Front Plus and other right-wing formations.

The re-emergence of an apartheid-era narrative to the mainstream of our political existence and its growing popularity among white voters is an alarming insight into the political narratives within the DA which, like the governing party, is becoming another tragicomedy. The fights within the ANC and the DA are about the same issue: it is an ideological fight about who controls the narrative and in both parties it appears as if a negative nationalism is winning the debate.

What the electorate of 2020 observes is a political class obsessed with their own internal ideological fights and with little regard for the hardship, death and mayhem the electorate experiences each day.

The tragicomedy of our politics extends to the Bench with the rumoured dysfunctionality of the Cape Bench coming under the spotlight.

Allegations that the political leanings of court officials are influencing the assignments of cases and the revelations of the intimate household details of the Judge President should worry all who believe that the dispensing of justice, and not the serialised drama of love, hate and family brawls, should be the main business of the courts.

The inability of the Western Cape government and the national Department of Home Affairs to solve the refugee crisis at the Central Methodist Church is a growing tragedy. What started out as a refugee crisis has now essentially turned into a hostage crisis – the phrase no one wants to use. It appears that every government department is too scared to be the lead agent in solving this crisis. SA Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen had his integrity and hard work dragged through the mud in his attempts to address this matter.

When the alleged murderers of Meghan Cremer and Michaela Williams, some of whom have prior convictions and pending cases for various crimes including assault and murder, can wink and smile in court, it further dehumanises this deeply-held belief of a caring, human-valuing democracy.

From political infighting to a dysfunctional civic life, our democracy is being held to ransom by the worst in all of us. We are a better people than what the racists, the corrupt ideologues, the bigots and the murderers want us to think we are.

In 1994, we abandoned decades of racism and centuries of colonial exploitation to become the world’s bravest new people.

We stood up and embraced a braver, bolder narrative of freedom. It is important that we do not allow our politicians to persuade us to again define ourselves by an ideology of fear of the other. We said no to that in 1994.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

Cape Argus