FW de Klerk, Media24 book award, Timol inquest, Nattrass and all that TRC Hypocrisy

NEWS that FW de Klerk had decided to cancel a US trip amidst an outcry over his statements earlier this year, was greeted with relief in some quarters. Apparently the former politician hastened to avoid embarrassing his American Bar Association hosts ‘in the current charged racial climate.’

This after a group of local attorneys including Lukhanyo Calata, the son of slain anti-apartheid activist Fort Calata, and members of The Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (Pabasa), condemned the ABA for providing De Klerk with a platform ‘to speak on racism’.

The cancellation comes after protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, and one can only wonder at the double standards at work here, involving academics and members of the legal profession, those who are quick off the bat, when it comes to soundbites, but resoundingly fail on the detail, when it comes to the hard task of preserving our Constitutional dispensation and especially the contents and spirit of our Preamble back at home.

As I write this, there are several similar stories involving police brutality, apartheid denial, racism and the rule of law. And all impacting upon freedom and the boundaries of acceptable discourse.

A sorry state of affairs which may lead one to believe that our nation’s Preamble really begins, ‘ignoring the injustices of the past’ before moving on to an ironic statement:  ‘South Africa belongs to some of the more well-heeled and connected people who happen to live here in possession of legal aid.’

First up, there is the blarney over lack of representation and diversity at this years Media24 book awards. Bare in mind that this is an annual event which has come and gone each year for some decades, without the slightest peep of discontent from the black literary world, not to mention the academic black caucus.

It is not all that surprising, given the general myopia at work, that relatives of Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol and Neil Aggett “just a few of the families of activists killed during apartheid” are still forced to question, under a black majority government, why it is, that President Cyril Ramaphosa ‘hasn’t acted on their call to investigate the suppression of cases from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’

I have only to refer to my own dismal experience, the failure of the High Court to deliver justice last year in a matter affecting the status of the TRC final report, to point out that we have anything but the rule of law in this country, a sham democracy if ever there was one, where the default is 1994-denial, and where persons such as myself are denied any defence against racism.

Instead of an evidence-based legal system consistent with our Constitution, we have an extremely costly opinion-based boondoggle, one which unevenly dispenses justice to those who can afford it, while maintaining apartheid-era race privileges that hark back to the days of colonialism, and whither academic freedom and the institutions, whose ivy league temples equally provide sustenance to the system?

If necessary readers may follow my detailing of the capture of the justice system by ANC membership, in several posts published here. But still wonder at the temerity of those on the bench and silks allied to the justice system, who have time and again moved to squash open debate, while failing to render any remedy, — the Kobus Faasen fiasco in which Media24 escaped censure for referring to persons of color as ‘Bushmen’, springs to mind.

Remarkable since Faasen like myself was a pro se ‘self-represented’ litigant. If anyone needs to know, the system is designed to circumvent pro se litigation, all that the other more well-heeled party need do is to introduce a legal confusion, a complex side-bar issue, Mr Elephant said something in Bull vs Shite 1820, for the process to become derailed.

The result of the miscarriage of justice, in which the perpetrators of apartheid walk Scot free, despite being condemned by the TRC, and lacking amnesty is a massive public deflection. Whether it be the deflections of the FW de Klerk foundation or the bizarre extra-curricular academic argument occurring on the nations campuses, sparked by the latest student hiccough, the Nicoli Nattrass saga.

The outcome is invariably lack of due process, short circuiting of open debate, and the closure of the public mind. “Next year, we’ll be living in the new South Africa”, we used to tell ourselves. Next year, indeed.

1989 Peace March: apartheid revisionism or memory playing tricks?

FOR  Desmond Tutu, the 1989 Peace March was a “tipping point”, for Allan Boesak, it “wasn’t about getting permission, it was about marching for peace come what may”. Those who were in the front of the 30 000 gathering which became the last “illegal march” under apartheid, at least in the minds of the majority of people who were there — a supreme act of defiance against the regime of FW de Klerk — appear to contradict today’s revisionists who at once focus on the failure of the government to suppress the march as evidence of the president’s noble intentions (which had yet to manifest in tangible policy) while writing off an act of insurrection by Cape Town’s Mayor at the time, Gordon Oliver.

Oliver is a Unitarian and thus his views are not readily given the kind of credit they deserve, at least so far as the Anglican Church is concerned. I attended today’s commemorative event hosted by St George’s Cathedral and was swept up in the highly emotional interfaith service which appeared to unite various strands of the Abrahamic tradition. From a Call to Prayer by Yusef Ganief which utilised the supreme acoustics of the venue, to the closing hymnal of Birkat Khohanim — a Judaic paeon to Peace sung by Jessica Thorn — the whole event struck a raw nerve. I was simply and elegantly brought to tender tears by the Cape Cultural Collective, this after a candid speech by the Cape Flats’ Cheryl Carolus who surely embodies the youthful rebellion of the time?

It is easy to forget the kind of political will which exemplified itself in People’s Power and which made the United Democratic Front (UDF) such a revolutionary force in South Africa. One can always slip into neat semantics of the kind which gets people Nobel Peace Prizes and forget the fortitude and determination which marked the crowd of “students, business people, domestic workers, civic and political activists; of every race, faith, age and class”, some of whom had witnessed the Purple Rain debacle ten days earlier and the chaotic start of a defiance campaign spurred on by the problematic all-white election — a velvet revolution was also occurring in Eastern Europe (which would result in the End of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall).