Coming home after three weeks overseas, the stack of waiting newspapers provides a concentrated, composite picture of the country as it is now. It is not a pretty sight. Gone are the clouds of World Cup glory – instead, from every page of every paper, stare the bloated photographs, the cynical headlines, that tell the tale of pervasive sleaze and venality, arrogance and venom, that increasingly defines our political elite and nouveau riche today.
On almost every page, it seems, one reads of high officials and empowerment CEOs suspended for corruption or incompetence; captains of industry plea-bargaining their way out of price-fixing charges and charges of collusion; jostling for public attention alongside, or below, all too often is the astounded individual’s response: I am innocent, it is all a political plot, I am going to sue the bastards who dared to take me down, for millions.
Millions of taxpayer rands, that is. There seems to be little or no sense of shame, of responsibility, far less of accountability or good governance. Instead, it is snouts at the trough, snapping and snarling, that defines the news these days.
So, too, is the tenor of political debate debased and diminished. The leader of the largest trades union federation, Zweli Vavi, rants about a ‘predator state’ and ‘political hyenas’; the fattened-up Mini-Me’s of the ANC Youth League deploy a language of vitriol and spite and political agitation; the ruling party meanwhile sharpens its knives as it prepares to legislate against the open society guaranteed by our Constitution.
It requires more than a willing suspension of disbelief, these days, to believe that all is well in the Beloved Country.