Let's Think

Is South Africa drifting into anarchy?

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While most of the political news attention is captured by the perceived “big” political issues like leadership battles, at ground zero, live is drifting into anarchy for many ordinary citizens.

And, one the worse sides of this story are that often it is the most vulnerable members of society who become the victims – at times paying with their lives – for this state of affairs when the most basic of services fail.

For me the penny dropped last week when a more than an hour and a half journey by bus and train had to be undertaken. For the first time in a while I could spend some time reading a hard copy of a local Cape Town newspaper.

What gripped me was an article about how patients living in the city’s most dangerous areas in emergencies on average have to wait for two hours for paramedics to reach them.

Paramedics are not allowed to travel to any one of the city’s so-called ‘red zone’ areas without a police escort. This is because paramedics in their ambulances have become soft targets of robbers, who are often armed.

It, on average, takes an hour for the escort to arrive before the ambulance can depart to the scene of the emergency.

According to the particular report there have been 32 attacks on paramedics so far, this year, and some 26 of them had to take stress leave as a result of the situation.

In some red zones neighbourhood watches, including Nyanga and Gugulethu, now have members of their safety forum committees first visit a patient’s home to establish if an emergency call was not hoax before paramedics could request a police escort.

At this level socio-economic conditions, factors like rapid urbanisation, and high levels of unemployment are probably contributing to the state of affairs.

Signs at other levels   

It is, however, not only at this most basic level that signs of creeping anarchy are becoming visible. At political management level, the slaying of political leaders – which have become a very regular occurrence across the country – often seems to have more to do with criminality, and corruption, than with political factionalism.

Last week, for example, police in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro said they suspected the killing of an African National Congress local official was related rather to tenders than politics per se.  
Thando Xakaxa, the party's deputy branch chairperson for Ward 25 in Zwide in Port Elizabeth, was shot dead when returning for a prayer meeting.

In KwaZulu-Natal the ANC fired eThekwini regional secretary Bheki Ntuli’s bodyguards following a “disturbing” video which circulated on social media on Thursday. The video featured two men brandishing guns and an AK-47, and bragging that they are going to kill someone.

Why, were they in possession an illegal AK-47and how did they get hold of it. More importantly, if it was not for the video on social media, would anything been done about it, and how many others are around?

And, during a media briefing hours before the video emerged, KZN secretary Super Zuma said that the political killings were not necessarily a result of battles within the ruling party, but that a “sponsored” third force could be behind them.

Rot from the head

South African society, however, on the front of law enforcement are probably dealing with a classic case of a fish rotting from the head down. How can one expect law enforcement  lower own the line to function properly when for instance the State Security Agency’s (SSA’s) covert support unit – set up to fight terrorism and organised crime – is allegedly being used to target President Jacob Zuma’s political opponents in the ANC ahead of the party’s elective conference in December.

It is being alleged that foreign currency worth R17-million that was stolen from the spy agency’s headquarters in December 2015 was used to fund the illegal intelligence activities conducted by the covert unit.

And it also came to light last week that the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Robert McBride, in a letter to the director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA,) give details of several high-profile crime suspects who are managing to evade the law due to possible deliberate inactivity by the NPA.

We think

South Africa is much closer to anarchy on the front of law and order, and wider, than may commentators realise, we think.

And, we think Super Zuma is correct when he says “let’s broaden our thinking and not just leave it here with the ANC.”

However, it is highly irresponsible to make the suggestion ln the context of avoiding accepting go-responsibility, and blaming on an imaginary “third force.”

But then, at least he did go as far as his leader, President Jacob Zuma, who blamed his party dismal performance in the Western Cape on witchcraft‚ witches practice their craft in different ways” – a remark we do not think is worthy of comment and an implied insult to his own, especially urban supporters.

by Piet Coetzer

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