By: Thami ka Plaatjie
Justice Raymond Zondo and Mavuso Masimang’s abortive response to Lindiwe Sisulu’s opinion piece
“What are you that thunder so loud that you cannot be heard. “
When a group of peasant prisoners arrived on Robben Island from the Eastern Cape in 1962, they burst into a tumult of song asking laconically:
Yeyani na lentshukumo
(What commotion is this
in the ranks of the oppressors?)
It behoves us to rephrase the song and ask, sixty years later, what commotion is this, in the ranks of the Black ruling elite?
Evidently, the commotion is occasioned by the opinion piece that ANC NEC member Lindiwe Sisulu penned in which she raises a number of pertinent questions about the efficacy and instrumentality of the constitution.
Sisulu has thrown the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons by throwing the gauntlet on the eve of the anniversary of the ANC. She has dared to muster the temerity of questioning the “miracle constitution” and its ability to co-exist with and to be indifferent to the “sea of poverty.”
Angry natives have come out of their bivouacked hideout, yielding machetes, baying for her blood. None dare to engage the issues that she raises, instead, Minister Mondli Gungubele argues that because she is sworn to uphold the constitution, therefore, by implication, she is sworn to both silence and secrecy. Minister Gungubele seems to import that this constitution cannot be revisited and re-examined as it is authored by the Sons of God and possesses the will of the Father.
Sisulu is asking why is that this constitution is mute in the face of such abject poverty and denigration of the black people.
She questions its ornamental status as though it is some work of “art“ that is constantly admired hanging on the wall with no force and effect.
The poor look at it with disdain and indifference whereas the rich use it as an armoury that protects their privileged status.
All the known Natives, House Niggers and talk show clowns have come out of the woodwork with sweating armpits, spitting epithets of threats, willing to do the bidding of the master.
They are threatening the agony of hell and political damnation on Sisulu. Incoherent rantings and screeching megaphones of some social commentators are best left unanswered. They are at best an act of amusement in the absence of Trevor Noah.
These Natives have become so agitated and incensed as to canvass the aid of the Head Negro, who is a Political Judge, the Honourable Justice Raymond Zondo to throw in his machete too.
Zondo defied convention by acting as a politically-hired gun, leading a rabid lynching mob. In movies, his conduct would be viewed as a sign of nouveaumania that is creeping into the discipline of jurisprudence.
We have just survived Mogoeng Mogoeng who is a religious zealot, and now have to contend with a Zondo who can be easily relied upon to enter the stage of political polemics.
Chinua Achebe has told us that “if you see a toad in broad daylight, you must know that something is after its life.” Surely, something is after these natives who are running halter-and-skelter, emitting fumes of rage.
What is so sacrilegious and sacrosanct about this constitution that it cannot be questioned? Has it been written by God? Is it a treasonable and treacherous crime to dissent and to question long-held beliefs?
Sisulu has opened a new battleground of ideas by questioning the instrumentality of the constitution. This debate must rage and not be muzzled.
On the other hand, Justice Zondo and his fellow traveller Mavuso Msimang want to legislate conformity and broker no dissent such that they must even squelch with their pounding feet.
Enter the era of democratic and constitutional dictatorship where everything can be questioned, save the instrument of white power called the “Miracle Constitution.”
Justice Zondo’s hurried press conference was aimed at instructing the president on what to do with Sisulu. Since when do Judges play that role?
Is it not true that this constitution is informed by and faithful to the European Magna Carter? Is it not true that this constitution presides over the most unequal society in the world, where more than 30 million Africans live in grinding poverty?
Is it not true that this constitution upholds the Roman-Dutch Law against African customary law? Is it not true that this constitution provides for the protection of minority rights as against individual rights?
Is it not true that this very constitution protects land theft through the Right of Conquest?
Is it not true that Section 235 of the constitution allows for the existence of segregated apartheid white communities? Is it not true that African kings, monarchs and chiefs are passive onlookers in the affairs of their people?
These correct and similar sentiments were recently expressed by the ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula in Parliament. He even argued that the interpreters of the Constitution are 11 unelected judges who account to themselves. Was he censured? Hell no!
The DA, not wanting to be left behind, invited us to a spectacle of unexamined prejudices when they asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to issue Sisulu with a missive that she should retract or face the consequences. It’s strange how in recent times we have found a common course with the right-wing white suprematist DA.
In fact, we have become so indistinguishable from them in both political outlook and ideological orientation such that we are kindred bedfellows. Some sections of the ANC have become the Lower Houghton branch of the DA given their neo-liberal utterances and political gerrymandering.
Justice Zondo issued a pale, insipid, anaemic and stale statement accusing Sisulu of insulting the judiciary. It was not long ago when Minister Fikile Mbalula stated that the “Zondo Commission is a place where people go to urinate.”
That was a direct affront and an insult on the commission, yet the Samsonic Head Negro, Justice Zondo, looked the other way round. A place where people urinate is a lavatory, and judging by their bewildered agitation, their conduct can best be characterised as lavatorial.
One wonders if Judge John Hlophe or even Dikgang Moseneke would have allowed themselves to be political spokespersons of the powers that be.
Evidently, we are unfortunate in the choice of the pious men of the rope at the top echelon of our esteemed court. This is an example of affirmative action gone rogue.
Julius Malema issued a blistering attack on both Justice Zondo and the Constitutional Court on the matter of the so-called urgent basis when dealing with Jacob Zuma’s refusal to appear before the Commission. He was blistering calling that lot “ incompetent and useless.” Both Zondo and the Constitutional court kept slavish silence.
Mavuso Msimang perceives or even interprets Sisulu’s statement of co-opted leaders who wine and dine on caviar as a breach of protocol. Doesn’t the very constitution advocate for freedom of expression?
What are the limits of free speech if certain topics are wrapped in the holy grail? But anyway, we are nonplussed by Msimang as he has always been on the side of the powerful elite readily available to scream in their echo, a classic case of henchmen syndrome.
Msimang’s rejoinder warrants some engaging. He argues that by virtue of being part of both the NEC and the Executive, Lindiwe Sisulu is complicit in the failures of government. Because she is in the NEC and parliament, she must cease to think critically, save to echo the voices of the white masters. This is the view advanced Msimang.
No dissenting voices must be expressed as all must read from the same hymn book, he seems to import.
“The logic of blaming the government’s failure to effectively address the plight of the poor on the country’s Constitution is a trifle obscure,” he laments. So this means that the Constitution is a disinterested piece of paper that has no bearing on the plight of the poor? The government works within a framework called the constitution.
Msimang adds: “As is known, it is the executive arm, and not the legislature or judiciary, that carries the mandate and responsibility for poverty alleviation.” This reasoning is jaundiced. Radical transformative action aimed at redressing the centuries of oppression such as the transfer of land to the poor are hamstrung by the Constitution.
The sunset clauses are in the Constitution and not in the Ministerial Handbook. “For starters, it is the government, of which Sisulu has been an integral part for more than two decades, that has caused not only continuing but escalating poverty during the democratic era.” Whereas there is some truism to this fact, Sisulu’s role is elevated to that of a Herculean heroine who must have eradicated poverty, with the stroke of a pen. Msimang was himself part of the government. Does that imply that he is complicit and instrumental in occasioning a “sea of poverty”?
Sisulu is self-critical as a member of both the ANC and the Chair of its Social Transformation Committee. She is raising a debate and is not calling for the end of mankind.
Msimang quarrels with Sisulu’s call for the TRC on economic justice and asks if this call is a resolution of the ANC conference that has not been given effect. Such calls are in the public space and it is not prescriptive that every call for justice must, of necessity, emanate from the ANC conference.
The crime of dumb insolence can be laid against Msimang. Desktop activists are usually summoned when the master’s interests are in peril and they waste no time to sharpen their pens in defence.
It is now common cause that most of our leaders are no longer in the ranks of the oppressed. That is why they are oblivious and indifferent to the “sea of poverty”.
They see nothing wrong with the ever-increasing gulf of poverty and hazard no argument in either direction. Things must be left as they are, we are advised, lest we upset the master.
The status quo must be maintained at all costs, albeit in the glaring “sea of poverty”. The actions of Justice Zondo amount to unwarranted censure and a break with jurisprudence tradition where Judges do not meddle in politics.
By re-examining the worth and value of the constitution towards our people, by implication, Sisulu is asking for a renewed debate on Codesa and its outcomes twenty-seven years later. That revisitation is timely. No amount of threats and censure must muzzle that voice of dissent. Let’s bring back politics to the realm of our people’s lives.
In politics, you are either reviled or reverend. Lindiwe Sisulu has rattled the foundations of a skewed establishment and its dignified occupants are scrawling for cover.
The woman sang a song in 1960 on the eve of the Sharpeville showdown:
(Woman of Afrika
Wear your war armoury.
Our nation is gone
Things have gotten worse
Whether they like it or not? Whether they will it or not? We will fight for Africa!)