We are burying our better nature under the rule of the mob

05 July 2015 - 02:00 By Barney Mthombothi

'When freedom comes," a despairing Aggrey Klaaste wrote some years ago, "I will take my family and emigrate to Beirut." It was the sort of remark that made you sit up or rub your eyes to clear the cobwebs. Beirut at the time was a byword for civil strife. It was seeing the last embers of a civil war that had claimed lives of thousands.Klaaste, a gem of a soul and a terrific writer to boot, was filled with despair at what was happening in South Africa in the '80s, at the height of the insurrection.story_article_left1With a state of emergency in force, townships were in flames and under military occupation. Schooling had ground to a halt and pupils swapped books for rocks and hand grenades. They were the foot soldiers of the struggle. The young lions were on the prowl.Klaaste's nightmare, thankfully, didn't come to pass. We dodged the bullet. But it seems we're still no further from the crosshairs that he warned about.Some of the generation that enforced the boycotts and strikes are now prowling the corridors of power. Others are listlessly walking the streets, eking out a meagre living or unemployed. The setting is now different but the practice or behaviour has seen little change. Habits cultivated in youth die hard.We now have a wonderful constitution, but it's as if it was drafted for some other place or era. We're rebelling not only against the centrepiece of our creation - the embodiment of our values - but against our better nature.To be vile and violent is not normal behaviour.The idea seems to be taking hold that freedom is the right to be obnoxious if you feel like it.Throw your toys out of the cot, break things up or make life miserable for others if you can't get what you want. Mobocracy is a terrible word, but that's what we have. It's rule by the mob.How many strikes or protests, for instance, have been settled, not because a cordial agreement has been reached, but because the other side has been threatened or even physically beaten into submission?story_article_right2It's no surprise that those in power rarely intervene or speak up against such vandalism. They often set the tone and example.This week's taxi blockade of buses in Mamelodi, for instance, is outright thuggery and should not in any way be tolerated. But so, too, is Gwede Mantashe's vulgar agitation against the judiciary. Or the government's imbecilic performance with regard to the Omar al-Bashir court judgment.President Jacob Zuma chooses which laws to enforce, ignore or even flout. Recommendations of the Marikana report may be implemented, whereas the public protector's Nkandla report was disdainfully brushed aside.When lawmakers turn into serial lawbreakers, disorder becomes the norm. Lawlessness becomes the law.Jeremy Cronin some years ago tossed a delicious phrase into our vocabulary: the zanufication of the ANC. It was meant to be an indictment of the organisation under Thabo Mbeki.Today, the ANC is an uglier monster than it was then. But Cronin is sitting comfortably in the belly of the beast. I guess we all have to take care of our stomachs.Julius Nyerere once told Nelson Mandela that it was perhaps South Africa's good fortune that it was the last country in Africa to gain its freedom. It would be able to learn from others' mistakes, and be a beacon in Africa.story_article_left3That message initially seemed to be taken to heart. Mandela, for instance, publicly scolded the Nigerians in very undiplomatic terms for the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni activist. Mbeki announced to all and sundry that the African renaissance was upon us, and worked tirelessly for it.Those now seem like scenes from a bygone era. This week, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took to social media to berate the Burundi government for its intention to go ahead with elections against the expressed wishes of the AU. But the same Dlamini-Zuma stoutly defended the South African government's outrageous defiance of a court order against Bashir two weeks ago. She can't pick and choose which principles to support simply because they happen to be in line with her own agenda.It is such cavalier disregard for the law and good governance that have encouraged lawlessness and murderous regimes in many parts of Africa. Bashir, who she seems to have staked her reputation on, has been in power for 26 murderous years.And it seems only death will remove Dlamini-Zuma's current boss, Robert Mugabe, from power. With Mugabe at the helm of the AU, the zanufication of Africa is complete.An organisation that gives succour to murderers disqualifies itself from sitting in judgment of others. And that's the sewer in which South Africa now swims.We have a blueprint for an orderly, even prosperous, society. But we've chosen to trample on it.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.