Mzansi increasingly attests to a geographic space where a forced narrative of natural ‘angels and demons’, has come to define our discourse.
Campaigns have a specific intent, agenda and aim. It involves strategies and tactics that must be realised within a space of time for its overarching objectives to have maximum impact. A recent development in our discourse attests to a reality where some politicians regardless of questionable character are projected as angels and others despite any evidence of corruption and looting are painted as demons. Our discourse driven and led by a specific agenda categorises some with these frames. May we also add, the role of the media in this is central, and if we could add, the role of specific journalists is more prominent in this regard.
Former President Jacob Zuma a natural demon, for those who perpetuate this new doctrine of angels and demons. Current caretaker president Cyril Ramaphosa, who served the 5th administration as deputy president and is intrinsically part of the executive is exonerated and thus for some a natural angel.
This epoch defines Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan as a natural angel while the ANC’s Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte is made a natural demon. Mr. Mcebisi Jonas is portrayed as an angel, despite the fact that he is yet to explain the levelled claims of corruption in an ECDC past and a more recent Mandela Funeral money scandal. MKVMA Spokesperson Carl Niehaus, who had problems over ten years ago in his personal life for which no crime was committed or with him brought to a court, is viewed as natural demon until whatever he says is rejected.
The Commission on State Capture entertained witnesses that are portrayed as angels when those these witnesses mentioned are made out as demons. Former Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor over two days shared a meandering and conflated account with grave claims that cannot be supported by those whom she cites.
Not only is her story disputed by Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte, Lakela Kaunda and others, it is reduced to utter fabrications and in some instances blatant lies. Yet, Mentor is regarded as an angel notwithstanding the fact that she was made to account for her China trip which she initiated with the aid of Transnet.
Phumla Williams, another witness in a claim of prove of state capture, is considered an angel while Faith Muthambi who had subsequently no different to Mantashe and Duarte responded to the claims, remains regarded as a demon. Former Premier of North West Supra Mahumapelo is framed and removed from both premier and now ANC North West chairperson positions because of essentially a health crisis where no one died. He is made out as corrupt and a demon, when Gauteng Premier David Makhura with equal challenges in a turmoil protest-laden Gauteng and an unpardonable Esidimeni Life tragedy of 144 lives is celebrated as an angel.
The doctrine or heresy of angels and demons extends to every level and sphere of our society. We can observe the same of academic, clergy, business people, foundations etc. The crafted and ever pervasive belief system of natural angels and demons lives in SA. ENCA is regarded as an angel, while the now defunct and licence-robbed ANN7 that became AfroView was a natural demon. If you appeared on ENCA you were regarded as informed, astute, sincere, honest and clean – the angelic identity. By the same token if you had appeared on ANN7 you were dishonest, not qualified, insincere, necessarily a beneficiary of corruption and a part of the hokum of state capture.
The doctrine of demons and angels manifests also among the clergy. Dr. Allan Boesak is and remains for some a natural demon while Pastor Frank Chikane is made a natural angel. Anglican Archbishop Makgoba is made an angel when Pastor Vusi Dube, who leads the support of former president Zuma, is made a demon.
The same frame of angels and demons is used when some think and reminisce on a Treasury department in government. We are misled to believe that whoever was appointed by former minister Trevor Manuel and later Pravin Gordhan were angels; they were capable, competent, up to the task and necessarily had the interest of SA at heart. Equally so others who had been appointed, like a Des Van Rooyen and later Malusi Gigaba and SARS Commissioner Dan Moyane are incapable, questionable and agenda-driven to loot the treasury, rendering them demons.
Business people equally do not escape the angel and demon frames. Iqbal Surve of Sekunjalo, Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene with their diverse interests are natural demons, corrupt and should be questioned at every turn while their counterparts like Johan Rupert, Allan Knott Craig, Steven Koseff etc are portrayed as angels who have the interest of SA at heart.
Can we ever forget how the same doctrine did not spare to paint a recognised editor Steve Motale as a demon for simply doing what good editors do? Motale was made to stand alone in cloaks of a demon when Mondli Makhanya and others were made angels.
South Africa’s international trade partners do not escape the frame of angels and demons. Russia and China are viewed with utter suspicion when Europe and the US are considered sincere in their engagement of trade with SA.
Recently the fallacy of this angel and demon rhetoric was laid bare with a story that broke on a senior member of Parliament Vincent Smith from Gauteng, whom it is alleged had received unaccounted monies from a tender-laden Bosasa company. The company is owned we are told by the known Eastern Cape-based Watson family. In another season when Parliament all of a sudden realised its oversight role and some wanted to project themselves as worthy candidates for consideration in a factional contest of ANC organisational sense, Smith chaired the SABC parliamentary hearing where among others Dr Makhosi Khoza obtained fame.
Listening to Smith in that setting you could not help but see how he was presenting himself and his committee as a group of moralists ready to excise demons from the SABC. While Smith was parading as the paragon of morality he was helping himself to loans from a questionable company that remained in the news for its correctional services tender contract. We may only wonder how far back this relationship between Smith and Bosasa extends since we know that Smith was the chairperson of the correctional services portfolio and also visited Eugene De Kock in prison.
For those who arrogate the right to categorise others in frames of angels and demons, Smith was an angel. We are not sure what he is today.
One states this here less in gloating of the fall of someone for that would be an ad hominem argument, but to show the fallacy of framing ordinary people in cast iron enclaves of angels and demons with a political and economic interest as epicentre.
The legal and judiciary fraternities do not escape the angel and demon frames, we know it because Judge Hlope, Advocates Ngulwana, Paul Ngobeni and others are made out as demons when others are celebrated as angels.
Some foundations are necessarily angelic when others are naturally demonised.
What then does this mean for meaningful life in SA in this era?
Beyond the campaign to vilify and denigrate some while glorifying others, lay the reality of meaningful life. It has become too easy in SA to cast aspersions and force the one you have demonised to have the onus and burden of proving innocence. So pervasive is this sponsored campaign of demonising others that it does not escape the dead. We lived through a period where fellow comrades were denied attendance of funerals because they were claimed to be corrupt when no court has ever pronounced on such.
It then becomes important to ask who are these that accord themselves a right to define others as demons? Is there political and economic interest in the practice of the heresy of natural demons and natural angels? Yesterday, on ENCA an economist Lumkili Mondi claimed there are two of the six members of the ANC’s top six whose children worked for the Guptas. Mondi also linked Secretary General Ace Magashule and his deputy Jessie Duarte as Gupta-linked in corruption.
The practicing of this doctrine has seen to some being sidelined and therefore denied an economic functionality, a constitutional right all share in as equals. It has portrayed second generations of people denied access to live a meaningful life because the family gets tagged with the claims of demons, while others flourish because they are angelic.
As always, this is a political campaign and it is having its handlers, while it manifests in the media masked in independent opinions from journalists, in the frame of Max Du Preez, Mondli Makhanya, Ferial Haffajee and a much smaller version of a Ranjeni Munusamy, among others. These with the freedom and space afforded to publish in the Naspers owned newspapers and platforms have over time meticulously and purposefully given expression to the crafted notion of angels and demons in a South African population. They tell us daily of how good Ramaphosa is when they remind us how bad Zuma was. Theirs is to brow-beat us into the persuasion of an angel in Mahlamba Ndlopu.
It becomes important to ask how sustainable this crafted narrative is and how does it politically and economically benefit its handlers and those in the media who are the faces for it?
Maybe if we can rid SA from the orchestrated campaigns of painting people into angels and demons we may find our natural north and develop this society with a conviction where opposing views and approaches define a common destiny. The heresy of angels and demons polarises and destroys meaningful life. South Africa needs all its people, not categories of demons and angels, borne from myopic self-interest driven by the agenda of destroying others because you cannot stomach others who are equally made and entitled as you are.