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Is the fall of Limpopo a sign of things to come?: iLIVE

19 January 2012 - 16:36 By Fedupguy, posted on article comments

Who would have thought that, in the centenary year of the sinking of the Titanic and ANC celebrations, one of the first great images in the media would be of to be toppled Limpopo Province?

Once again, we have the stories of poor people scrambling over the hulk of a humbled province. We hear from the dancers and the crew – even from grim-faced Cassell, who must be kicking himself for having brought so much woe on others and on himself.

But if the Titanic’s (Limpopo) demise is a warning against human presumption – the fantasy that we could rule the country and engineer perfect safety for the rich and self-indulgent ANC cronies, as well as for the hungry poor people, what does the forthcoming death of a great Limpopo province in calm South African waters tell us?

We all assume that these cronies are as solid as the corrupt politicians on a looted land that they resemble.

They have populations on the scale of shanty towns, serviced by shopping malls and diverse entertainment.

Some people dream of living all year round in such corrupt provinces. And, until now, the greatest risk to overseas tourists seemed to be that they would catch a stomach infection.

All of the modern, familiar risks have been anticipated and the technical resources available to spot changes in the political weather, ships at close quarters and map the surface of the corrupt water both below and ahead should guarantee the free and safe passage of Limpopo over the most turbulent waters in the deepest and darkest of mists. But what guarantee is there against human South African folly?

If a Cassell  and Co want to trust to a notion that he can scrape his way around the wrong side of the SA Finance Department, or wing it over shallow water as blithely as a fat Juju on his first bike jumping the lights, then what real protection is there for the thousands of Limpopo revellers and sleeping passengers in his charge?

One mistake, or crazed notion later and the whole world wakes to astonishing footage of a Limpopo province lying on its side and listens to the shocking stories of people scrambling for lifeboats, forming human chains to guide people in the dark – some of them bravely staying on to the very end, some not making it off at all.

What is so compelling about those pictures is that they belong to another time.

People felt the same when they looked at the (virtual) pictures of the Limpopo province.

They believed – as we have believed more confidently – that the seas were safe to take the loot of a lifetime on.

The sinking of Limpopo is an awesome rebuke to a world that thought itself modern and in charge of ANC politics.

How much more worrying should it be for our generation to see the Limpopo province lying on its side? And to know that solving the questions raised by the physical vulnerability of South Africa has not answered the key question at all – that of how people are to be made safe in this country.

For weather, miss-management and corruption are not the only threats when a man in charge of a stable SA colossus on calm waters can bring it to grief.

The money-loss toll so far is not that small. That seems a miracle. And we learn from the accounts of those who thought they were finished just how people behave when they face the end.

As the people in hijacked planes and the Twin Towers did, they phoned Tswane to have contact with those they loved (ANC?). We will not get the same scrutiny, or analysis, of how people reacted in the face of more routine corruption dangers.

But death in public finance is not routine and even “caught red handed” accidents are still rare now.

It is just particularly ironic when a province is brought down by no perceptible cause other than folly. It matters to us for practical, familiar reasons, because of the numbers of people from here who take such loot, with the surest sense that they will enjoy themselves and return home intact, scott free, as they nearly always do.

But who could look at an image as disturbing as the toppled Limpopo province and not feel a queasy sense that we’ve all been wrong about what is dependable.

That is the question the Titanic raised, too. And the fates seem almost to be sniggering at us on the 100th year’s ANC anniversary.