Ninety years ago, a very crafty politician took advantage of a people in economic distress and stirred up their nationalism to levels that made them believe their problems were other human beings.
He made them believe that the unusually high prices of basic foodstuffs, their financial woes and the prevailing negative mood in the country were deliberately created by another group of people who hated them. And that he, the politician, had a solution that could get rid of the problem his people were facing: get rid of the people causing their distress and also take over the world to assert their natural superiority over every other human being.
That politician was Adolf Hitler and his solution led to World War II.
Right now, South Africans are facing conditions not entirely different from those faced by Germans almost a century ago. Fuel prices are at an all-time high and food prices go up daily. The economy is shedding jobs and every second report on state entities is about graft. Billions of rands are being wasted or stolen by politicians who have seen it’s possible to get away with theft of public funds on a large scale. To an ordinary South African, life couldn’t get worse.
There is no Hitler stirring up emotions and galvanising people based on their differences, but another kind of enemy is lurking among us. There’s a hankering for “the good old days”, and some opportunists are organising people along those lines. Social media is awash with rhetorical slogans purporting to show what the ruling party has done wrong to groups of people.
In Limpopo, there are preparations for the launch of what is referred to as the Gazankulu Liberation Congress. The organisers have painted a picture of a ruling party that has deliberately destroyed all the institutions that used to exist in the former homeland of Gazankulu. Their claim: Tsonga people are not being looked after.
In North West, at the height of the protests to get rid of the then premier, Supra Mahumapelo, two months ago, there was the constant refrain of “things were better when Lucas Mangope still ruled us”.
Again, social media was flooded with quotes by the former homeland leader warning the Tswana people of the terrible suffering ANC rule would bring. It’s only a matter of time before a party to “liberate” the Tswana people is launched there.
In KwaZulu-Natal, plans to launch a party to “advance the vision of the former state president Jacob Zuma” have not been denied by the man whose name is being used to galvanise people in a divisive manner.
With next year’s general election looming, expect more parties to be launched to “protect” the interests of specific groups: coloureds, Pedis, whites, Ndebeles, you name them. There is a little Hitler for every group.
The ruling party and the official opposition are so inwardly focused that they cannot reassure South Africans that the economy is bad everywhere. Trump won the White House on the back of a bad economy, promising to make “America great again”.
South Africa has no “great” in its past and all citizens must guard against a little Hitler telling them “the good old days” can be brought back along tribal or colour lines.