OPINION | Do not let criminality become the norm

PREMIUM

The greatest threat to our country is the fact that the extraordinary, the outrageous, the crooked, may end up being viewed as the norm.
Crime used to be top of the agenda in South Africa. It was the main issue of debate on talk radio; the main headline in daily newspapers and the subject of special investigations on television programmes.
It hasn’t gone away. Murders, rapes, robberies and hijackings are still the order of the day in large chunks of Cape Town, Joburg and other parts of the country. But these incidents are no longer in the headlines.
Crime has become normalised in our society. Those who are killed, maimed and raped suffer alone, ignored by us. They cry alone. What is horrific is now normalised.
Last week we were reminded again about how good men and women in the ANC rationalised outrageous behaviour by their leader and thus normalised incredibly abnormal actions.
Trevor Manuel and others heard in 2011 how Fikile Mbalula was told of his promotion to a full ministry by one of the Gupta brothers.
These ANC leaders knew that this was wrong, yet they rationalised this behaviour and normalised it. Zuma was not censured.
The extraordinary situation where an unelected family ran the state of South Africa through manipulation of the president, his family and his cronies was then normalised.
And so at home affairs the Guptas’ visa troubles were swiftly ironed out. It was normal that, unlike the rest of us, they did not stand in a queue.
Two minions were dispatched to India to ensure that the Guptas’ workers received preferential treatment.
At Eskom they were given breaks no one else got. At the mineral resources ministry a whole minister was appointed by Zuma to serve their interests even to the extent of negotiating for them with Glencore.
Having accepted that the Guptas run the country, we sat and watched as things we should never accept became normal South African practice. The lights often go out because the utility that is Eskom was cutting deals with the Guptas.
The outrage about load shedding that one used to hear on talk radio and in newspapers is gone. We are now abused and accepting of the abuse. It is now normal.
The fact that most of our policing is now done by private security companies is now normal. Where are the police?
They take statements at police stations. The police have become recorders of crime for the insurance industry.
The water in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) is largely dirty and undrinkable. The municipality has its priorities right.
Instead of fixing the water problem it changed the name of the town. That should fix it! The absurd is normalised.
We hear that Dudu Myeni was in possession of NPA dockets and showed them to executives at Bosasa. That is extraordinary. That is shocking. Yet, nothing happens to her.
She glides from opportunity to opportunity with no prospect of being held accountable. It is now the norm that there is one law for us ordinary human beings, and another law for the Dudu Myenis of this world.
What is to be done? The Zuma years took us to the abyss.
We saw what it’s like when rampant corruption and lawlessness is allowed loose across the land. The Zuma years showed us what the road to nowhere looks like.
The reason why we pulled back is because key parts of civil society stood up and said no.
Community activists stood up against Zuma’s attempts at land grabs through, for example, the Traditional Courts Bill.
The NGO sector exposed malfeasance at the SABC and other state institutions. The media exposed the rot again and again. Business, for long in a fearful slumber, started speaking up against state capture.
These actors rebelled against allowing the truly abnormal to become part of the fabric of our society. They refused to allow corruption, nepotism and criminality to become the norm.
The problems our society faces have not gone away with Zuma’s departure. The criminal networks of the past few years are active and want to take us back to the Zuma years.
And so civil society actors cannot afford to let their guard down. This is no time to become complacent.
It is no time to become self-satisfied. The only positive thing to come out of the Zuma years is that we were reminded of our activism and our voices.
Many ordinary South Africans used their voices to great effect.
Don’t stop now. Don’t let the outrageous become normal. Rage against the corrosion of our values and the stealing of our country...

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