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By William Saunderson-Meyer


SA hurtling towards anarchy while government flutters eyelids

The past week has seen sickening levels of union violence on the part of nurses and healthcare workers.

A fter three months of dithering, after much consultation with the party’s tripartite allies and – who knows? – perhaps the local Russian ambassador, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday reshuffled his Cabinet.

And what a damp squib it’s been. Despite the addition of two new departments, it remains short of talent and ability.

It’s a Cabinet so lacking in basic competencies that it would struggle to oversee the governance of a peaceful democracy that’s bounding ahead economically.

Unfortunately, that’s not the present South African reality.

ALSO READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Ramaphosa recycling incompetence like others recycle waste

Instead, this hopeless lot will have to concentrate their meagre skills on steering a tired, divided and violent nation under intense economic and social pressure to next year’s general election with the minimum of drama.

In this regard, the retention of Police Minister Bheki Cele is arguably the biggest mistake Ramaphosa has made.

The five years that Cele has been in charge of the law enforcement portfolio have been disastrous.

Violent crime is soaring and, most worrying of all, the government’s absolute refusal to deploy the police against mob violence has encouraged a spirit of lawless impunity that is edging towards anarchy.

In July 2021, the SA Police Service (Saps) sat on its hands for four days while looters ran riot.

At least 360 people were killed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, with economic damage exceeding R70 billion and two million job losses. It was a seminal moment.

The Ramaphosa government blinked and it’s been fluttering its eyelids nonstop ever since.

The Saps has withdrawn from the fray.

There are no consequences to mob violence and students, unionists and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have taken note.

The past week has seen sickening levels of union violence on the part of nurses and healthcare workers.

The national department of health has described the actions of the strikers as “tantamount to attempted murder”.

Yet the Saps has mostly avoided getting involved. And Cele has been absent during the chaos.

But, as always, the ANC and its alliance partners, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, will swear they abhor violence.

READ: Cabinet reshuffle shows Ramaphosa still puts ANC politics before needs of SA

So, too, do the healthcare and nursing unions. So, too, the EFF “soldiers” who display photographs on social media of themselves “combat-ready”.

This week, the EFF defended its Mpumalanga leader and member of the provincial legislature posing with a semiautomatic rifle and the caption “by all means necessary or possible, we are ready”.

This should not be construed, they said, as having anything to do with the national shutdown it has called for 20 March.

The shutdown, to call for the resignation of Ramaphosa, is the next likely test of Saps’ ability, or inclination, to protect citizens.

EFF leader Julius Malema warned of “no school, no university, no factory, no bus, no taxi, no trucks, no trains” moving on that day.

“Like Sharpeville, we are not scared. Let the state come with its power, we will come with our mass power,” said Malema.

Both the healthcare disruption and the EFF’s planned national shutdown cloak themselves in spurious legality.

The EFF says that it has a “constitutional right” to protest, conveniently ignoring that others have a right to work, to shop, to travel unhindered.

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The health sector strikers are gaming the appeals process. The strike has repeatedly been ruled illegal.

Each time the health union appeals the finding and, under the cover of the appeal process, proceeds with the supposedly interdicted strike.

If constitutional protections are easily circumvented and law enforcement is close to nonexistent, daily life becomes dangerous.

It’s the ordinary citizens who are most vulnerable, most abused and most preyed upon.

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