Phillip Dexter on the ANC's assault on our common national consciousness
The Caster Semenya homecoming hijacking by the ANC was much more than an impromptu attempt at hogging the limelight. It was an attempt to steal a march on appropriating our common national consciousness, to take success and wrap it in ANC colours.
As long as South Africans continue to vote along tribal and racial lines, the ANC will continue to hold sway over the electorate.
This is worrying, because our common national consciousness belongs to none of us and all of us simultaneously. It is the fabric of our identity as a nation and is forged by national icons and ordinary people alike over the period of many years. And the ANC now want to annex it.
Since the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Australia, sport has united South Africans. When rain washed away our hopes of beating England in our first attempt at a semi-final, leaving us 22 runs to get off 1 ball, it was very hard to not feel the injustice as a nation, and the pride of seeing the world commiserate with us as our players took a lap of honour.
Even before we had a new national flag, our national identity was being forged at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We celebrated with Elana Meyer and our men's tennis doubles team of Wayne Ferreira and Pietie Norval as they claimed silver medals.
But sport really started to unite us in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and we all remember the moment; seeing Madiba don a number 6 shirt. This image inspired a sense of nationhood in a new South Africa and our subsequent successes have flowed from that very special moment.
This did not go unnoticed by the world. As you read this, a major Hollywood film about this subject, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, is currently in post-production, having been shot in South Africa.
So what's changed since our glory days of World and African championship success?
The answer is simple; where sport (and national public holidays, for that matter) used to unite us, it is now being used to divide the people of South Africa, and a divided South Africa will always be controlled by the now increasingly chauvinistic ANC.
Julius Malema's neat, but simplistic separation of the people of South Africa into parochial stereotypes is typical of a strategy of "divide and conquer". You're either an athletics fan (black) or a rugby fan (white). You are either with us (black), or against us (white). What Julius Malema conveniently chose to ignore is the fact that all South Africans, regardless of race or political affiliation, supported Caster Semanya. It is the one issue on which all South Africans united. This was an all too rare moment of post Polokwane unity among all South Africans. But for the revisionist sleight of hand by Julius Malema, it proved to be a missed opportunity to come together as a nation.
Malema's playbook is not new. It is well worth noting that his rhetoric has alarming echoes of Joseph Goebbels circa 1936. His paranoia of "the white media" is reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda minister whipping the German nation up into a frenzy of anti-Semitism.
"The Big Lie", the theory that the people will believe a lie if audacious enough, and if repeated often enough, was first cynically practised by the Nazis. Julius Malema is the latest in a long line of populist leaders to use this tool. His insistence on the looming threat of white people destabilising the revolution taps into the fears of black South Africans. Remember George Orwell's "Animal Farm"? Remember how the caveat to all of Squealer's speeches would always tap into the animals fear of the farmer returning? This is exactly the methodology behind Julius Malema's public utterances.
It is of grave concern that the ANC have not disciplined Julius Malema for his hate speech. By logical extension, this means that the top leadership of the ruling party grant him their tacit approval to stoke the fires of division.
Julius Malema is the only person in South Africa who is allowed to engage in borderline hate speech because it serves the ruling party. Imagine if a white politician welcomed a triumphant South African rugby team home from their successful Tri-Nations campaign and asked "where are all the black people? If it were a soccer team coming home, there would be more black people here". Charges of hate speech would be filed so fast that it would make even Usain Bolt say "wow, that was quick".
As long as South Africans continue to vote along tribal and racial lines, the ANC will continue to hold sway over the electorate. Instead of speaking to the fears of the electorate, the Congress of the People have chosen to speak to their hope and aspirations. We hope to build a South Africa in which all her people have a common destiny.
While we may have come from a divided past, we have seen the power of a united South Africa. After all, is there really anything more inspiring than 60 000 people singing our new National Anthem in unison, the stadium awash with thousands of flags? It is only by uniting that we can defeat the challenges of poverty, unemployment, disease and crime. Perhaps the ruling party pays lip service to this, all the while keeping the masses in poverty and ignorance for the foreseeable future, while holding history to account and not taking any responsibility for the present. It would seem so, given the failure to hold Malema to account.
Phillip Dexter MP is the Head of Communications for the Congress of the People. This article first appeared in Afrikaans in Rapport newspaper.