SA is a nation in full scream


By: Independent Media

The Scream, the iconic 1893 painting by Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch, shows the agonised face of a man contorted in a scream. The painting captures a moment of pure madness when the artist saw clouds turning blood-red during a sunset, and sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

South Africa’s dusk, over the past two weeks, has been a prolonged moment of such madness. A nation in full scream.

The yell of recent xenophobic attacks, the unanswered cries of South Africa’s women and the echo of a moribund economy, are the very antithesis of the “New Dawn” promise.

So, too, are the political gimmicks in the courts and the ongoing attacks on the public protector.

If anything, these are clear signals that the “New Dawn” is but a fanciful, mythical sunrise.

Nonetheless, fanatics of this fiction have embarked on an elaborate battle to sustain an illusory reality.

We must not expect the craft of the “New Dawn” to be easily dislodged.

The investments made in it are simply too titanic.

Reaction from Ramaphosa supporters to xenophobia, the “CR17” leaks and possible revelation of a contaminated “pre-paid” judiciary, have been both frantic and inane.

Fantastical, farcical denialism, hypocrisy and absurd rationalisations rise with mortifying abandon.

Some media houses and analysts have been at pains to suggest that the tragic xenophobic horrors, that have unfolded in our cities, were orchestrated and primed to coincide with the World Economic Forum, held in Cape Town.

This was planned to embarrass President Cyril Ramaphosa, we are told.

The everyday problems of poverty, joblessness and hopelessness are given little or no currency, as possible causes for this epidemic.

This psychosis prevents us from engaging meaningfully with real life, everyday socio-economic crises and challenges.

It could plunge the nation into a state of emergency.

But those afflicted are unlikely to see, let alone acknowledge, this disorder.

Despite there being no sign of a second coming, the “Save the New Dawn” crusaders are on a real mission to preserve the lie.

One moment of madness has been the drama around laying criminal charges against the public protector.

Headlines have screamed how the Office of the Public Protector illegally obtained information on the bank transactions contained in Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign.

Ramaphosa’s lawyers had hoped that if they could show that Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane had unlawfully obtained financial intelligence about the president’s campaign funding, they would have powerful grounds to seek the review of her CR17 campaign report.

When the Financial Intelligence Centre indicated that it had legally made the information available to the public protector, as a part of broader efforts to combat corruption, racketeering and money laundering, the storyline quickly changed.

From “unlawful leaking” of information to the “unlawful usage” of information.

The mooted press conference by the Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng, and fellow judge presidents, on allegations levelled against the judiciary, is an unnecessary charade.

No one, no matter how honourable or godly, can make the claim that the judiciary is not corrupt.

The only way to dispel what is referred to as “scurrilous claims of corruption” is to unseal the impugned bank transactions linked to Ramaphosa’s campaign.

The truth cannot be sealed.

Seemingly the “right to know” has been replaced by the “right not to know” under the Ramaphosa administration.

The rays of the “New Dawn” are madly opaque, rather than mythically translucent. The search for truth has been suspended.

The once-upon-a-time crusaders of public good – media, civil society and academia – are holding on to the myth of a new age for dear life.

This is abnormal and despairing behaviour. It is madness, especially in the face of social disintegration.

They are like the passers-by in Munch’s The Scream, who happily walk across the same bridge as the screaming man, either blissfully unaware or deliberately shutting out his distress.

Madness is, indeed, all around us.

* Professor Seepe is an academic, author and political analyst, and Heller is a writer and socio-political commentator.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.