Sunday, November 01, 2009

A whirlwind of hate speech ...

President Jacob Zuma's remarks in his party's online mouthpiece, ANC Today, on why South Africans should not fear debating issues, have come at a time when this important democratic principle appears to be on the wane within the ranks of his own party.

ANC - VIP's of Violence

Zuma is correct that open and robust debate is important in a democracy, because the suppression of ideas and the free flow of information has often led to the birth of dictatorships and the collapse of vibrant democratic institutions in other countries.

While we share Zuma's sentiments on the importance of the diversity of views,
we are, however, uncomfortable that the president's lecture appears to be mainly directed at the ANC's critics and not at those party members who are guilty of intolerant behaviour towards different and dissenting voices.

Public pronouncements by leaders of the party's aligned structures such as the ANC Youth League and the Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans Association suggest that they either do not share Zuma's sentiments or they are simply hellbent on undermining the democratic values enshrined in the constitution and the Bill of Rights.

South Africans have, in recent weeks, been treated to some of the most shocking incidents of hate speech directed at those with whom the youth league and veterans do not agree.

It was fire and brimstone in the Free State this week as a senior youth league leader delivered an extremely disturbing ("Kill Jansen") speech in which he incited violence against the rector of the University of the Free State, Professor Jonathan Jansen.

The Free State incident came hardly a week after a senior veterans association leader, Kebby Maphatsoe, suggested that party veteran Kader Asmal should go to the next cemetery and die after Asmal dared criticise some senior party leaders in a speech delivered at an occasion to observe press freedom.

How disappointing it is that Zuma has not raised a finger against those responsible for such inflammatory talk which fundamentally negates the values and principles of the South African constitution of which Zuma himself is chief custodian.

The language of militancy that has crept into the ANC lexicon since its Polokwane conference has become the order of the day and Zuma has, sadly, not been seen to be dealing with this emerging tendency.

The maturity of constructive and robust debate has been replaced by reckless and inflammatory statements from individuals such as Julius Malema who, according to Zuma this week, has the hallmarks of a future ANC president. This must have had ANC leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki turning in their graves.

Zuma must act before the oxygen that sustains robust and democratic debate is consumed by some in his own party.- Sunday Times Editorial

1 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

How do you know if Zuma is lying? He opens his mouth to speak. People - don't get sucked in by this wanna-be president. He has a forked tongue and so do all of his fellow-tribesman. Everytime you doubt this think Piet Retief.