Time to Be Introspective

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Growing intolerance that borders on hatred is no longer a looming threat but is very real and will likely trigger a political crisis in our country. Indeed, we are living through turbulent times where one cannot with a degree of certainty predict the morrow. The danger thereof is that there seems not to be a calming force or personality that could tame the situation for the better. What one sees is individuals that say one thing in public while fuelling and stoking the fires of division where and when it suits them. Some of those who were destined to lead us out of the morass of hopelessness and stagnation are bogged down in internecine fights that are driven by self-interest and elevation and not the general good of the people. They have not accepted the status quo and are itching for change. The first casualty in this battle of the giants is the truth and the messengers of truth. The media as always has borne much of the brunt for the political fall-out currently gripping the country. As the saying goes, it is the grass that suffers when two elephants fight. True, there has been oversight on the part of the media in terms of dissemination of certain information. In some instances, the media may have exercised poor judgement in the way they have presented news or gone about reporting on certain issues. Yet, in the process of placing the entire blame squarely at the doors of the media, the real culprits are being let off the hook. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that the media has no hand in fomenting and fuelling the current political tension that has besieged the country. If anything, it is those fighting for political offices and power that must bear responsibility for the seemingly explosive political situation that has engulfed the country. They are the main cause of division in the country. They are peddling partisan political interests very much to the detriment of the nation’s interest and without due regard for cohesion and unity of the nation state. At times, they are using the gullible to swallow their raw propaganda at the expense of truth. Unfortunately, it is the ordinary people that are often caught in the crossfire and who in the end become real losers. Often, issues of a bread and butter nature such as the grievances on shebeens or the war veterans’ demands get hijacked by larger political interests and are used as tools in the propaganda wars. But guess who becomes the scapegoats – the media. The same people are quick to point fingers at the media. They will not accept responsibility for something that is of their own making. Perhaps, some of these individuals can learn something or two from the words of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who recently told his colleagues in the leadership of the African National Congress that “The National Executive Committee of the {NEC} was not elected at our national conference in 2002 nor did the masses of our people vote for the ANC in 2004 and 2006, to mandate us to engage in meaningless and destructive fights for leadership in the ANC and government. “The NEC was elected at the National Conference, and the ANC in our general and local elections to serve the people of South Africa and not to give anyone among us the possibility to pursue selfish agendas, targeting personal elevation and reward”. Addressing his colleagues on the problems and challenges facing the ANC, Mbeki did not throw his net wide open in search of “enemies” elsewhere. He looked into the ANC closet and without blinking touched on the raw nerve that is the cause of the problems facing his organisation and country. In other words, he first looked for the “enemy” from within. We must do the same. We must have the courage to look inside ourselves before looking outside, even if the truth sometimes hurts, and be able to say we are not helping the situation. The Swapo Congress of 2004 was the turning point in the war of nerves that has come to characterise the current political situation in the country. It is fine for leaders to call for caution and restraint from members of the public when airing their views through the media. That is the right thing to do. But when do leaders restrain themselves? The current political impasse and resultant tension in the country is rooted in the 2004 and the highly awaited Swapo Congress of 2007 and our political leaders have a duty to lower the political temperatures rather than engage in the blame game. While the 2004 Congress is now a piece of history, it keeps reverberating across the political spectrum for better or for worse. There are those who thought the 2004 Swapo Congress would close the chapter of political rivalry at the helm in this giant party that once was the oasis of solidarity, mutual trust and friendship. It has not. Instead, an unchecked and robust campaign is underway out of the public eye and that is what contributes to the harsh rhetoric on the airwaves and general tension. If we may, we also call upon these individuals to act with restraint and caution while trying to position themselves for the historic 2007 congress. After all, it takes two to tango.