‘Our tolerance of illegality, lawlessness and glamourisation of the crooked has come back to bite us’

MOSIBUDI MANGENA

WHILE those of us who are in the Defend our Democracy Campaign are firm on the primacy of the Constitution and the importance of all of us being equal before the law, it is becoming clearer that the undermining of these principles has been allowed to go on for too long without challenge. Our tolerance of illegality, lawlessness and glamourisation of the crooked over many years has come back to bite us.

For many years, people in the taxi industry have been doing all sorts of illegal things, from small things, such as traffic infringements right up to murder, with no or no visible consequences.

We have been seeing civilians wearing military fatigue in the streets, at political rallies and funerals and did nothing about it. It is illegal for civilians to wear military uniforms. This means that we have been observing people breaking the law in our presence and at formal political events and did nothing about it.

Political parties have brazenly organized events and rallies that are contrary to lockdown regulations and whilst the police are present at such illegal marches or rallies, nothing really happens. The police and other law enforcement agencies are depicted as toothless and useless entities.

In fact, in many instances police appear to be emasculated and bereft of any legitimacy, dignity and authority. People do not seem to respect them or take them seriously.

But even more egregious is the turning of court appearances of alleged looters of state resources into festivals of sycophantic hero-worshipping of the accused. Every court appearance is used as an occasion to organize huge throngs of people to protest and sing defiance songs against authority and the law.

In South Africa, looters of state resources are feted like rock stars. No doubt, there are many in our society who admire them and subliminally or otherwise, wish they could be like them.

Ordinary people have no access to state resources, but the malls and businesses are within their reach. So, they loot every shop that they can find as the police stand by and watch. The police watch just as they have watched the taxi people do as they pleased, civilians wearing military uniforms and political parties organizing illegal rallies or matches during a pandemic.

The looting of shops by the masses is no different from the looting of state resources in our State-Owned Enterprises, municipalities and government departments. Looting is looting. We have glamorized it and some people engage in it without shame.

Obviously, there are other factors involved in the present looting phenomenon. There is the pain that our people are going through abject poverty and unemployment. This is further exacerbated by the punishing Covid-19 lockdown measures.

You also have the creation of a parallel pseudo-state that was created to function and in some ways, subvert the de jure one. That is the state-operated by the Guptas and their allies in the governing party. It is now being mooted by those in authority that rogue elements in state apparatus are planning and stoking the fires of rebellion. Apparently, the pseudo-state is now asserting itself more strongly. 

Those of us in the Defend Our Democracy Campaign and many other compatriots in different walks of life who are now aghast at the looting that is taking place in our country, should look back at our complacency in the past. We observed law-breaking and glamourisation of malfeasance in our society and did nothing. Slowly but surely, we have become a nation of looters, crooks and thieves.

As we condemn the current looting of businesses by the masses, we should simultaneously vow to confront every kind of lawlessness that rears its ugly head in our country.

Our condemnation of lawlessness must be shrill and loud.

Mosibudi Mangena

15/07/2021 

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