Lessons from US and Europe can fuel SA's resistance

03 April 2017 - 10:45 By The Times Editorial
ape businesses are in favour of closing down on Friday in protest against the sacking of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
ape businesses are in favour of closing down on Friday in protest against the sacking of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan

Welcome to "Black Monday". The occasion has been declared in a campaign launched on social media by a group characterising themselves as "ordinary concerned citizens of this nation". It asks people to wear black today as the country faces its political crisis.

There was some kickback - the pejorative use of "black" is understandably problematic in the complex South African context - but the sentiment behind the campaign cannot be argued with.

It is simply this: having listened to President Jacob Zuma administer the last rites to a democratic South Africa in his late-night announcement last Thursday, we should don our funeral garb.

  • Split in the ANC has deepened‚ says veteranPoet and political activist Wally Serote says its concerned group of former leaders of the ruling party must join foundations who are mobilising citizens to address problems faced by the ANC. 

Black Monday follows the plea on Friday by fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan for citizens to "organise" - a word commonly used in the political context by former US president Barack Obama - in response to the Gupta-isation of our democracy.

It's a message repeated in a slim but riveting volume, On Tyranny, published just more than a month ago by the US historian Timothy Snyder in response to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Snyder writes 20 short essays advising fellow citizens how to go about resisting Trump, drawing many of his lessons from mid-20th century European history.

  • Zuma no confidence vote: Mbete says she’ll do it by the book Is this the final countdown for President Jacob Zuma’s presidency? A year after the Constitutional Court found he had broken his oath of office, he is engaged in a desperate rearguard action to ensure he survives his term. 

"Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience," he says.

Several of Snyder's injunctions bear mentioning: Defend institutions. Beware the one-party state. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Be wary of paramilitaries. Believe in truth. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. Be a patriot. Be as courageous as you can.

As things stand, citizens, we're on our own. Zuma won't go and the ANC doesn't have the courage to make him go. As Gordhan, Obama, Snyder and many others have correctly said, it is time for each of us to stand up and speak out.