So if you are wondering whether it is futile‚ in the face of an uncaring state‚ a runaway presidency and the ghastly tentacles of the Guptas – to sign a petition‚ march on Parliament‚ or merely send an email to your MP‚ consider the dire situation faced by 400 000 soldiers in Dunkirk.
And‚ more pertinently‚ how they were rescued from the jaws of looming death.
Indeed on the eve of parliament’s ninth vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma‚ almost one for every year of his disastrous misrule of the nation‚ there’s a lot more heat than light barrelling toward us.
Clashing armies of protesters will encircle Parliament on Tuesday; the conflicted Speaker of Parliament‚ Baleka Mbete wails to the Sunday Times that ‘You wouldn’t want my job’ which no one forced her to take; and ANC MP’s are besieged to put country before party‚ which will be a first for many of them.
In all the swirl and looming conflict it is easy to lose sight of the essential issue at stake on Tuesday.
It is not about whether the ballot is open or secret. Nor‚ fascinating though it will be to watch if indeed it happens‚ is it about how many ANC MP’s‚ if any‚ disobey the party diktat and vote their consciences. It is actually all about the fitness for continuing in office of Jacob G. Zuma. Everything else constitutes a weapon of mass distraction.
And‚ if any MP or long suffering citizen of our ailing Republic needed any reminder of the long charge sheet he should face at the bar of Parliament‚ never mind in the criminal courts‚ a weekend editorial in City Press provided a prompt. Or rather 10 of them.
In that newspaper’s bill of goods on “Number One” the list starts with “irretrievably corrupt” and ran through‚ much as Zuma has done‚ the Full Monty of his predations and his enabling of a predatory state in place of a democratic state.
In my final speech as a Member of Parliament in February 2009‚ after 20 years in office there‚ I ended my remarks by noting that I would voluntarily surrender the title “M.P.” for a title I would wear with pride “Citizen of South Africa.”
However‚ it was unimaginable back then‚ with Kgalema Motlanthe presiding as a caretaker president or bookend between the end of the Mbeki presidency and the commencement of Zuma’s rule‚ just how much damage JZ would inflict on his citizens and country in the eight years which followed.
A Hollywood movie would have been hard pressed to have invented a pantomime villain of such sleazy brazenness.
But strangely enough‚ there is a new film just released here‚ which provides us citizens with a sense of inspiration and a reminder of just what a determined civil society can achieve‚ in the teeth of the most ferocious and fearsome odds.
There are so many reasons to go and catch the movie “Dunkirk” – from the splendid visuals‚ the harrowing story of 400 000 allied soldiers entrapped on the forlorn beaches of the French coast‚ the gritty acting and the haunting score.
Indeed‚ the very concept of the “Dunkirk spirit” of resilience in the face of extreme adversity is captured afresh in this brilliant film.
But there is something beyond the big screen magic and escapism into a bygone age of ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ as Winston Churchill described the evacuation at Dunkirk. This will provide every South African‚ right here and now‚ with a reminder of what single acts of endeavour can actually achieve.
So if you are wondering whether it is futile‚ in the face of an uncaring state‚ a runaway presidency and the ghastly tentacles of the Guptas – to sign a petition‚ march on Parliament‚ or merely send an email to your MP‚ consider the dire situation faced by those 400 000 soldiers. And‚ more pertinently‚ how they were rescued from the jaws of looming death.
Much of the film is a reminder that beyond the fitful attempts of the British navy to rescue the stranded forces‚ it was an armada of ‘little ships’‚ 850 private boats that sailed‚ many under civilian command‚ and rescued the bulk of the trapped soldiers on the beaches.
Some of the weekend sailors didn’t even wait for the command to set sail‚ they simply headed into danger to go and rescue their own.
Without the rescue‚ it is doubtful if Britain would have retrieved its army and been able to withstand a proposed German invasion of the UK.
South Africa is not besieged Britain in 1940. And Jacob Zuma and his cronies are hardly to be equated with the Nazis.
But like the troops stranded on Dunkirk‚ we are being encircled by a pincer movement – state corruption on the one side and the rapid destruction of our push back mechanisms against it.
In this battle‚ the very survival and the future of our democratic republic depend.
Every South African‚ with his voice‚ her vote‚ and their petitions and letters and from numberless acts large and small‚ becomes our ‘little ships’. And in their diversity and ever growing number our fate can be determined. Our republic can be saved.
We might have no Churchill to give our South African lion its roar.
But always remember what he said after Dunkirk: “Never surrender.”
- Featured in The Times