SPARING NO-ONE: Mamphela Ramphele addresses the Mining Indaba on Wednesday, criticising all major players. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

SHOULD Dr Mamphela Ramphele get to establish a political party, South Africa will be so much the poorer for it.

Political partyism in this country has contributed so much to a diminishing intellect and a disappearing sense of logic — more than what 300 years of colonialism could have ever dreamt of.

It has created what could be understood by the term "tribalism".

In the process of grabbing land, colonialists cut across nationalities, "defined" borders and enclosed several nationalities of the indigenous people into one area meant to constitute a country they wanted to establish. After overt colonialism, whoever won elections channelled all accruing benefits to only those of his own nationality.

Then there would be resentment by other nationalities, followed by violence and inevitably civil war. Because indigenous people were not recognised as nationalities but as "tribes", this phenomenon came to be known as tribalism.

In the new South Africa the nationalities are political parties. A political party that wins an election becomes the country. Its supporters become the first-class citizens. Anyone criticising it is seen as unpatriotic and is made to feel he does not belong.

The electorate that brought the ruling party to power develops resentment to any "opposition" party and becomes impervious to any ideas coming from someone associated with being an "opposition". Dr Ramphele is likely to invite resentment from the grassroots electorate.

The whiff of sanity in the country has been maintained by independent thinkers, unattached NGOs, the judiciary and any other thing outside a "political party". As a political party leader/member, her thoughts may be packaged into the "political-capital" category — that is, not aimed at improving the welfare of the country but to promote a party agenda.

The country’s problem is not the "ruling party". It is the majority of citizens who assign the status of "ruling party" to a political party by means of their vote. The problem is citizens who do not understand that their responsibility is to elect the best people to run the affairs of the country for the benefit of all. Instead they see themselves as part of a political party tribe with an obligation to vote only for their tribe whatever it does, right or wrong. Of course, others belong to the tribe for material gain.

Another weak spot in our make-up is the media, which worries more about turmoil in the ruling party than about the school drop-out rate. It is their mind-set which is driving the country down the tubes. The solution lies in changing such a mind-set.

All (true) patriots, including the media, should urge each one of us to find their inner strength, nurture it and leverage it to find means to effect their own personal growth and well-being. Act in a manner that strengthens others around you, and then strong communities capable of taking care of themselves will emerge and we will be a forward-looking country — not an ANC-gazing country.

The more Rampheles in the independent-thinking sphere the better the future of this country. Progressive countries draw inspiration from their intellectuals — not those that destroy intellectual acumen with party political biases and stereotyping. Independent thinkers are well positioned to influence and kindle proper and logical thinking among citizens.

Once citizens are empowered to think independently and logically, they will be able to make better choices about who should run their affairs. But more importantly, they will be able to assess the performance of those they have chosen objectively rather than on the sentiment of some abstract historical victories.

Dr Kenosi Mosalakae

Houghton