OPINION: Maybe there’s a reason why the tension surrounding the national shutdown on Monday and the blasphemous utterances by someone who cares nothing for the feelings of especially Christians, found a fertile breeding ground, writes Lance Fredericks.
WELL, well, well, wasn’t this past Monday a rather nerve-racking day?
There I was, tucked into a foetal position under my bed, with my thumb stuck into my gob, quivering like a chihuahua on a caffeine kick, expecting all hell to break loose, and in the end the day passed without any major incidents – well, it was peaceful under my bed anyway.
That’s when the funny memes, video clips and gifs started circulating on social media. I decided, after watching two videos which were more than enough for me, that once South Africans start passing jokes around, they must be comfortable that the crisis has been averted.
But has it though?
The national shutdown, remember, only came about because South Africans were getting an extremely raw deal as far as service delivery – the very basic services – are concerned.
South Africans have been fed up about this for a long time, and it seems that a group decided to ride the wave of this dissatisfaction and boost their own popularity in the process.
It was also interesting to read an article on our newspaper’s website where the ANC “commended South Africans who did not join the EFF-led national shutdown on Monday, saying no party could impose its own programme on the rest of the public.”
I say “interesting” because the ANC, in 2017 attempted to pass a law that would have given the government greater control over the appointment of judges; a move that was widely criticised as an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Then again, that same party, in 2019 was accused of trying to restrict free speech and freedom of the press, proposing a controversial amendment to the country’s hate speech laws that some critics saw as an attempt to stifle political opposition and criticism of the government.
All I am saying is that in politics it seems that memories are short.
Here’s an example of how short: Last week we learned that it would cost R14 billion to fix our provincial roads. The good news is that none of that huge sum should be needed in Kimberley. I say this because in April 2021 a promise was made, from a pretty high office, that no potholes, water leaks or sewage spills would be visible in the streets of Kimberley by the end of that year.
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Now, in the wake of this appalling track record, a red menace arises and threatens to unpick the stitches holding our fragile democracy together.
People jumped onto social media to condemn, criticise and threaten. No way were law-abiding South Africans – rate-payers, taxpayers and citizens alike – going to allow anarchy.
I had a conversation with a friend on Monday evening, we joked about the fact that it took one shutdown to end load shedding.
We laughed, joked and teased for a while. Then we started speculating – jokingly, of course – what if the rabble-rousers in their scarlet headgear was actually a creation of the ruling party, set up to be a distraction to take the country’s focus off the monumental failings of government over the past few decades?
We tried to scare each other. My friend asked, “What if the leader of the ‘redheads’ is just a distraction used by those already in power to rake in support from people who would otherwise not even consider voting for or supporting the ruling party?”
I was not to be outdone and fired back, “What if creating the ‘demon’ of a rogue party, toting anarchy as its tool of choice, was the plan all along?”
I used the term ‘demon’ selectively because earlier in the day I had been speaking to someone else who was furious at the verbal attacks the leader of the ‘red rabble’ had directed at someone she cared about very deeply.
During his party’s fifth birthday celebrations in 2018, the party’s leader was heard to say, “The ruling party claimed that they would rule until Jesus comes back,” he scoffed. Then added, “They said the ANC will go when Jesus comes. Jesus has arrived … That Jesus is the EFF!”
Then, ahead of Monday’s shutdown this same party leader told his followers as their heads bobbed in agreement, “We are not religious. We can’t wait for Jesus to come. We are Jesus ourselves!”
One can understand why Christians were more than a little upset. In fact the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) put out a strongly worded condemnation.
“The ACDP would instruct Mr Malema to understand that not being religious is no excuse for being blasphemous,” the statement read. “To equate yourself with Christ Jesus, is to declare that you are Divine and this is where the line must be drawn,” they continued.
And they were not done.
“The ACDP notes that this is not the first time Mr Malema has courted controversy, by drawing in the Church. He is also known to have said, ‘We don’t need a silly cross to save our people’,” the statement added.
Now, while everyone is upset, allow me to bring some perspective.
Julius Malema made the comment “We don’t need a silly cross to save our people” during a rally in April 2015.
The statement was in reference to a controversy at the time after a pastor known as “Prophet Mboro” claimed to have gone to heaven and captured images of heaven with his smartphone, announcing that he would sell the pictures for R5 000 each to fund the building of a church.
For my part, I doubt the good minister’s claims. But if people in the church feel free to make a circus of it with wild, ridiculous claims, how can they then be upset if outsiders enjoy the circus too?
Had the good “prophet” spent his energy trying to explain the character of the God he claims to serve and explain the significance of the cross – that the cruel instrument of torture proved that the One hanging on it, though He had all power, would rather die than use that power to harm even His enemies – maybe fewer darts would be hurled by those on the outside at the faith he professes.
Also, perhaps anyone “not needing a silly cross” may, unlike the One on the cross, be prepared to use his might and power a bit more robustly.
I guess what I’m saying is that the tension surrounding the shutdown on Monday and the blasphemous utterances by someone who cares nothing for the feelings of especially Christians, found a fertile breeding ground in a government that seems to have lost its will to serve its people and followers of a faith who are, due to a lack of integrity and humility, misrepresenting that faith.
And with fingers pointing in all directions and everyone blaming everyone else for the mess in which we find ourselves, maybe we should consider what Marcus Aurelius said back in the first century.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”