My deeply felt discomfort and concern about this picture remains – Carl Niehaus

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I have received many replies on Facebook, both negative and positive. Some constructive, others downright abusive and insulting.

After careful consideration I have posted the following reply. I thought it may be useful to share it a bit wider:

“I have carefully considered all the responses that I have received – both the positive and the negative. Some of the critical ones were still constructive, and I thank those who engaged me in that manner.

For those who were simply abusive and destructive in their replies to me, I say abuse and invective is no argument, and it certainly does not remove the serious issue which I raised with genuinely concern. Actually it says more about you and your own biased inability to engage and do self-introspection, than anything about me,

After all is said and done, my deeply felt discomfort and concern about this picture remains. The further information that some of you sent about how and what the old lady in the photo has benefitted from our social welfare system is certainly relevant. BUT, my dear comrades, and this is the big BUT, it does not undo the concern that I raised about HOW we approach people to vote for us in the ANC.

If you read the original message that I posted together with the photo you will note that I did not say the old lady does not have an RDP house, or no electricity and does not receive an old age grant.

I was responding to the manner in which we every five years go to the people and engage them as if we are ‘royalty’ and that we are entitled to be voted for by “our people”. I have myself during the years that I was ANC Spokesperson used this phrase, but as the years of our democracy moved on – now counting 25 years – and we failed the majority of poor South Africans in so many ways; for us to continue to call our fellow South Africans “our people”, as if we own the people, is insidious at the very least, if not downright insulting and grossly arrogant.

After serious introspection I have decided that I will not use that phrase again. We MUST stop believing that we are entitled to the vote of “our people”, NO! we must earn the vote from the people of South Africa, who do not belong to anyone else but themselves. The “our people” attitude shows in photos like this one, and many other pictures when we are electioneering.

I have also recently commented about another Twitter posting by a concerned comrade (I include that post herewith). I also include another posting that talks to the perceived general prosperity of ANC politicians compared to the voters that have placed them/us in positions of power. Of course it is a generalisation, and as such it is not in every instance true, but comrades there is enough truth to it that it hurts and is seriously damaging to the image/brand of our Movement!

One of the people who replied to me, Kenny Barrel Nkosi, wrote to me: “Let’s not have fragile souls for nothing”… But my question is, have we who have benefitted (legally and legitimately, but also as so much information that is coming to the fore indicate illegally and not legitimately), become so desensitized, and emotionally and physically so molly-coddle in our material comforts and life-style excesses, that we can no longer see how far we have drifted away from our own erstwhile liberation commitments. I have to agree with Lawrance Tlhowe who responded to the media statement that Premier Mtshweni issued, that this “kind of response worsens the perceptions!”.

May I add that just over two weeks ago when we gathered in Durban for the January the 8th Statement, and celebrated 107 years of the ANC’s existence, restaurants and clubs were making a killing with exorbitant bills of tens of thousands of Rands having been run up for just an evening’s meal and drinks (nauseatingly some of these exorbitant bills were ‘proudly’ posted on social media by so-called comrades who wanted to show off), and advertisements were making the rounds on social media promising young women R 15 000 per person and more to join ANC comrades at lavish afterparties…

Then the next we day get into our luxury sedans and SUV’s and drive into the townships, hand out ANC T-shirts and ask the majority of voters who are poor (very often unemployed people) to again vote for us, so that we can stay in our well-salaried elected positions, and secure tenders and continue to party and conspicuously spend!

No my dear comrades the disconnect is too glaring, the gap between the ANC elite and leadership, and the poor majority who have up to now kept us in power with their votes have become a wide gaping chasm! It is a festering gaping wound!

Instead of becoming defensive, and attack comrades who raise these issues, all of us in the ANC (and I certainly include myself also in that collective ‘us’), have to subject ourselves to some very serious and honest introspection.

If the ANC wants to continue to be worthy of being called our Liberation Movement, and the leader of society, this certainly cannot be allowed to continue!”

Click here to see Carl Niehaus’s full Facebook post:

Carl Niehaus was actively involved in the NDZ17 Campaign. Niehaus is an ANC veteran with40 years of uninterrupted ANC membership, and a former member of the NEC of the ANC, ANC MP, He also served as the SA Ambassador to The Netherlands. He is currently a member of the NEC of MKMVA, and the National Spokesperson of MKMVA. Carl contributed to this article in his personal capacity.