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SA cannot sustain momentum - Boesak
2010-09-02

Photo: Stephen Collett

South Africa finds it increasingly difficult to live up to the challenges facing it as a nation because of its failure to meet its democratic ideals and possibilities, peace and lack of self-belief.

This was according to renowned cleric and former political activist, Dr Allan Boesak, who recently delivered the CR Swart Memorial Lecture, the oldest memorial lecture at the University of the Free State (UFS). His lecture was on the topic Creating moments, sustaining momentum.

He said South Africa had plenty of opportunities to show the whole world what was possible if all the people of this country joined hands and worked together to build a truly united society. However, he said, the country somehow invariably contrived to find its way out of these wonderful possibilities.

He cited events of historical significance like Codesa, the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the first democratic president of South Africa, the assassination of South African Communist Party leader, Chris Hani; and the rugby and soccer world cups.
To drive his point home about this dismal failure of the country to “sustain momentum”, he alluded to the current public servants’ strike that is gradually crippling public service.

“The public servants’ strike was neither unexpected nor is it completely unjustifiable. Most of us have understanding for the frustration of teachers and health workers. Their demands resonate with most of us, and I think that it is scandalous of SACP fat cats to tell workers to “stop crying like babies,” he said.

He also added to the criticism of the much-maligned decision of the government to spend billions of taxpayers’ money to purchase weapons when there was “no discernible military threat” to the country. He said the greatest threat to the security of the country was poverty, inequality and social cohesion.

“As for the argument that arms sales bring in foreign exchange – how can we be instrumental in killing the poor elsewhere with the intention of feeding our poor, and then our ill-gained profits feed only the already well-fed?” he asked.
“Can we see the hopeless contradiction, the total impossibility of being both the apostle of peace and a merchant of death?”

He also lambasted the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy of the government which he said benefited only those connected to the political aristocracy.

“It couples with the unashamed, in-your-face display of wealth by the privileged elite in this country, the crass materialism of the so-called “bling generation”, and the casual carelessness with which promises to the poor are given and treated. It is only the public symptom of the deep-seated scorn our political elites feel for the poor,” he said.

He said the government’s disdain to the poor was “setting fire to our future”.

“The anger of people on the ground can no longer be denied or ignored, and little by little, the leadership articulating and directing this anger is being estranged from politically elected leadership, and even more disturbing, from our democratic processes,” he said.

He concluded that the country’s difficulty in dealing with race and racism was putting the reconciliation process kick-started by Mandela just over a decade ago, under a threat.