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Why we must all become insurgent citizens

A culture of political capitalism (Part 2): South Africans must refuse to accept that corruption, stealing and tender fraud is the norm.
If you occupy a privileged position, you would do well to remember that inaction and silence means approval. Image: Shutterstock

It is during the toughest of times that the real character of a person is revealed. In downturns, as we are currently experiencing, the rapacious political elite’s naturalised corruption and their mob-rule capitalism activities are the enemy to South Africa’s democracy.

This ugly phenomenon has revealed the kind of leaders we have: those concerned with amassing wealth by any means necessary, including resorting to using political rhetoric that divides more than it unites – apportioning blame to white minority capital, the private sector or phantom counter-revolutionary forces that want to see this government fail, instead of being accountable for their actions.

If democracy is to serve the citizens, build bridges over the aspects that still divide us, create economic opportunities for all and result in a thriving society, realising this goal cannot be left to day-to-day politics – let alone the current ruling elite who are minority; a faction of leaders claiming to be carrying out the will of the people.

For these reasons and those I outlined in Part 1 (see link below), South Africans must refuse to accept that these leaders represent the best of us or that corruption, stealing and tender fraud is the norm.

Read: A culture of political capitalism: the unbearableness of ANC corruption

Furthermore, we must reject a declining ruling party that seeks to become irrelevant through ideology and has no interest in taking the country forward.

Beyond strengthening the few institutions that can limit the abuse of power and executive overreach by political leaders, the social role of citizens to critique and be a voice of resistance against a greedy ruling elite is essential.

The solution to the limitless corruption, divisive politics and the waning economic and social wellbeing of society requires a shift in how South Africans think about their role as citizens and how we challenge leaders whose abuse of power persistently chips away at our democracy.

Most of you will no doubt ask: ‘How can I contribute towards changing the status quo, besides by voting?’

Here’s how …

Julian Brown’s book, South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens: On Dissent and the Possibility of Politics (Zed Books, 2015), an extremely useful compendium of protests in post-apartheid South Africa, provides some insights.

It discusses how people in communities that are often sidelined from the economy and excluded from basic service delivery use an insurgent form of expression to challenge the norms and practices that have become established and tolerable. Through protests, they confront authorities and ‘force the state to account for its actions on the community’s own terms’.

You might wonder why I am making this suggestion. The lesson here is that insurgent actions of ordinary citizens can unsettle authorities, defy how power operates and prompt leaders to address the social struggles they face.

Furthermore, the disruptions caused by these insurgent actions offer a glimmer of hope and the possibility of power, responsibility and roles being distributed in such a way that a more equitable society is built.

Upending the top-down approach

Let me explain. Communities otherwise seen as powerless use their agency as individuals and as a collective to march or protest against authorities to make their demands known, including identifying for themselves what their struggles are (such as a lack of water, infrastructure or health facilities). This in turn informs authorities of the kind of demands/solutions they seek. In this way, solutions are not top-down but emerge from the ground up.

The protests we often look down on or deem a nuisance cannot be ignored, and in fact offer insights into how to make the authorities pay attention.

The ‘Zuma must fall’ march of 2017 demonstrated this. If a society is to mobilise regularly – as we have seen in France, Spain and now Mali – politicians may eventually have to give in to the people’s will.

How does this help?

It challenges us to open ourselves to see the ways in which we are all in some sense insurgent citizens, or at least ought to be, in fighting and uprooting the culture of political capitalism, rapacious corruption and a political elite who undermine and threaten our democracy.

Notably, to open oneself need not mean abandoning one’s identity and beliefs.

You may still be male/female, young/old, straight/LGBTQ, black/white/Indian/mixed race and so on – but it is when we come together that we recognise our collective sense of responsibility to each other and the country around us.

By becoming South Africa’s insurgent citizens we can protest against the deluded, self-interested politicians who have no desire to make democracy work and instead use it to make themselves, their friends and their families obscenely rich from state resources meant for the public.

We have no choice against this kind of political leadership.

We cannot be apathetic or indifferent, nor can we wish this ruling elite away.

We have to take a stand and attend to this threat to our democracy.

If you occupy a privileged position, it might be tempting to think that becoming a citizen who participates in protests against corruption and the abuse of state resources is quaint and of no concern.

You would do well to remember that inaction and silence means approval, and that cynicism eventually becomes acceptance.


The pandemic has changed the world and emigrating to another country as a way of dealing with the uncertainties wrought by the current reality may no longer be a viable option. Most countries are now facing the challenge of rebuilding their economies and creating jobs, and while some will recover more quickly than others, most are going to be looking inward and prioritising their domestic needs and people.

The task before us, I believe, is to build a society that is founded on social justice with strong institutions and democracy. After all, we share a common humanity and we all have doubts, fears, and uncertainty about the future of South Africa.

We also have the same dreams, needs, desires and wishes for a stable and thriving economy that serves the majority and not a few.

If we are to make the country work for all, we must begin to learn ways of using insurgent forms of expression to challenge a political leadership that is reckless and is failing to secure South Africa’s future.

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Voetsek ANC. You have done enough damage.

Rise up on what and do what? Doing the right thing start with small staff in our houses, our own spaces then it transcends to the work and public space. In SA we condone lawlessness of land invasions, illegal electricity and water connections with an excuse that people are poor and we also even use the excuse of apartheid government planning to be the cause of all this lawlessness!
We are just a hopeless country of lawlessness and of great corruption in every level.

Exactly-Rise up like in Zimbabwe ?? Or Zambia. ANC voters are incapable of an objective opinion or choice. Like Zim. The result will be the same. Every time the DA wants do implement same sanity the ANC and EFF play the race card.

While I agree that those who are completely apathetic about the country’s situation is part of the problem, ultimately the real problem is with the electorate. As long as the ANC is continuously re-elected nothing will change. Another problem we have is the fact that those voters who seem to turn away from the ANC seem to be heading to the EFF.

Thus in my opinion even if the ANC falls below 50% in all probability the ruling coalition will be between the ANC and EFF. So unfortunately I do not the major structural reforms our economy needs being implemented anytime soon. While stopping corruption is very important even if it was completely eradicated tomorrow the long term decline of the economy is inevitable. The big hindrances stopping FDI and economic growth is government policies and rhetoric.

Well what can i do about government corruption?
THE ONLY THING! That will save/help SA is a coup!

Don’t pay yr tax.
Don’t support big bussiness.
Go back to cash and dealing with the small cash run family businesses. Starve the government.
Stop buying new cars. Don’t buy any new properties.don’t go to restrants.. Eat at home. Continue buying yr cigs and booze on the black market so government doesn’t get that big sin tax. Stop enabling yr abuser.

Meaningless platitudes, along the lines of “we must all stand together.” The author doesn’t understand the fundamental nature of capitalism, which is built on the notion that the individual is the primary role player. While the individual may collaborate with others, it is not for some woolly reason of “social solidarity”, it is to make profit.

Mamokgethi. Your frustration with the performance of government is understandable. We all share it. However, your remedy would be largely ineffectual. No amount of insurgency on the part of citizens will help the situation. This is because we have chosen the wrong economic model for our economy. The only way to unleash the economic potential of SA is steer the country toward a free market system. In South Africa, too many black people view capitalism with disdain. They erroneously equate it with the apartheid system. The apartheid system sought to exclude black people from meaningful participation in the economy. Therefore, it is actually the antithesis of a free market system.

Writing excellent articles for the converted has limited effect.

Perhaps Molokgethi Molopyane can inform us on how to get these messages before the voters, especially the rural voters.

We have repeatedly seen how communities protest in the streets and then vote for the same party again.

Where is the voter education?

Can you believe it, the board of Brand SA, the entity who is the custodian for the image of SA, ‘tried to silence CEO Makhubela with handshake deal’ to cover up graft allegations.

Typical ANC.

First Apartheid, now racist Black corruptheid, what next? To repulsive for words for a country that should be in the top 10. Potentially great country with shocking politicians (past and present) = failed state.

The weakness with this article is that the writer appears to assume that the ANC is here “until Jesus comes” and, if only good people shout loud enough, they will listen to reason.

As the NCCC’s oburacy in the face of public opinion, facts and court challenges has shown, this is false.

President Ramaphosa has made it clear that, like his predecessor, he regards ANC unity as more important than the welfare of the country, its citizens or its economy. This unity is required, not for policy implementation — held BACK by the internal logjam — but in order to plunder the country’s coffers. The ANC will continue to rely upon racism, patronage and plundering until it is voted out of office.

People who are concerned about the future of the country need to recognise that the electorate needs to be educated on the power of the vote. Nine million registered voters ABSTAINED in 2019, compare with ten million votes for the ANC; voting them out is not as far-fetched as the commentariate would have us believe.

This will take a massive amount of voter education. Apart from opposition political parties, there are NGOs that are doing the ANC-captured IEC’s job and educating voters. Rather than fruitless and wasteful effort, concerned Southafricans (and its all of our futures at stake) should give these of their time and donations.

Lets be clear:

Political capitalism is a euphemism for corruption.

The electorate will vote ANC/EFF for at least another 30 years. They don’t vote based on the economy.

The only protest that can potentially shake the government is a public and corporate tax revolt since that cuts off the supply of funding for corruption.

To understand the nature of the world we live in read the books by Ayn Rand, a Russian emigre.

Very helpful to students at universities where the src has been hijacked by socialists and communists.

The writer states that the only way to make the country work is by “ learning ways of using insurgent forms of expression to challenge a leadership that is reckless and failing to secure South Africa’s future”… mean like the EFF???? Whilst I would like to agree, I can’t condone this.
When you have to try and motivate a majority to do the right thing…it’s like rolling a rock uphill sadly. And we never learn from our mistakes somehow…. First Apartheid, now cleptogate – when your government sets out to steal from its citizens, it’s cause for concern, wether it’s taxes,freedom or food!

This concept of “insurgency” is another way of saying, stand up for your rights. Stop accepting sub standard products and/ or services. Do not simply “shrug” it off in Ayn Rand speak and accept the unacceptable…

I would expand in this to develop an outlook and a broad set of tools that form part of what has been called “Guerrilla marketing”. Very useful when set out to get a business going with little or no capital or resources.

Form an “On my street” committee. Get to know everybody who lives in your neighbourhood. See what talents, skills and resources everybody has. Categorise them into contact databases and local apps, when a job needs to be done or a product is needed, match your local connections to the work or output first.

Pay down locally first, before giving anything to defunct municipalities or inefficient, dirty or and/or distant producers.

Start a non monetary organic energy exchange- organic energies incorporate fertility, nutrition and health. Utilise the resources for generating fertility in the soil as the basis for valuing effort and outputs. Receive these resources or outputs instead of cash, if that suits- or cash in if you really have to!

Essentially these base resources are local abundances and are needed to build community energy reserves of water, compost, methane and food- the essential order is branches first to allow airflow, leaves for insulation, manures for organic mass, vegetable wastes to kick-start fermentation, topsoils for micro organism integration and interaction and grasses for shelter and absorption.

The very clever will also include paper and cardboard for the bases, to extend seasons and absorb more water to the roots of the plants that will grow once the array has decomposed and formed a natural, fertility rich bed…

Begin a humanure project. With some basic adjustments and processes, it is a cinch to convert human waste into organic compost. Encourage people to stop putting their waste into perfectly potable water and instead divert it to greening the environment and growing more fruit trees. Pay people for their poop and soon enough we might all be doing it!

Divert water resources from drains and gutters to storage tanks and gardens. Install solar arrays in townhouse and eco estates, sell the surpluses back to the grid.

There are so many ways to be a guerrilla marketeer in this insurgent 4th Industrial revolution- the above are my favoured examples. In essence, I encourage my fraternity to create positive energy with enthusiasm and integrity. This is the antidote to corruption, greed and destruction and the path to abundance, nutrition and good health!

End of comments.



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