Standing up for justice must be based on consistent values


There is a verse of the Quran that has inspired my activism for social justice: “Stand firmly for justice, even if it might be against yourself”. This kind of consistent morality in standing up for justice is missing in South African society today, writes Mphutlane wa Bofelo.

Most people, particularly government spin-doctors, media people and social commentators, seem to judge the validity of an issue more on the basis of who raised it,band against whom, rather than on the values we should be subscribing to as a society in search of social justice.

A case in point is the responses to EFF leader Julius Malema’s assertion, in his response to the State of the Nation address, that the ANC government murdered workers in Marikana. It does not make sense to argue that it is un-parliamentary for Julius Malema and the EFF to claim that the ANC government murdered workers at Marikana. It does not make sense to say it is irrelevant to raise this in response to the State of the Nation address.

In a country that portrays its democracy as anchored on the culture of respect and protection of human rights and civil liberties, parliament and the State of the Nation are relevant platforms for anyone concerned with raising the issue of lethal force used by the police in dealing with protests and strikes in South Africa. After all, this was not the state’s first act of violence in response to protests and strikes. Anyone who claims to stand for justice is obliged, therefore, to raise the issue.

Very often when ANC politicians and government officials make reference to the services offered by the state or report on their performance they say “The ANC-led government has done x, y, z.” This is not unusual. All over the world governments are credited or blamed for the activities of it state apparatuses, including the army. The government of the day and the party leading that government gets credit and carries ultimate responsibility for the performance and activities of all state apparatuses and all institutions involved in all spheres and tiers of government. Even at the height of the apartheid era, the activities of the police, the army, the government bureaucracy, local council etc were attributed to the National Party government. It would be an absurd, twisted and disjointed kind of logic to say that the National Party-led apartheid government killed Solomon Mahlangu and Stephen Bantu Biko and is responsible for the Sharpeville Massacre and the massacre of 16 June, 1976, and in the same breath argue that it is incorrect to say that the ANC government murdered Andries Tatane and the workers at Marikana.

At issue at the Farlam Commission on the events of Marikana is whether there was evidence that the police were warranted to use brutal force against the Marikana miners or whether this was simply a barbaric act of revenge for the alleged killing of police by the striking workers.

It is fact and not fiction that the police murdered the workers at Marikana, although the jury is not yet out on whether this was in self-defense or not. To raise this issue in parliament and in response to the State of the Nation is more than appropriate because the president is the commander-in-chief, and the political principals of the South African Police Services are the police commissioner, the minister of police services, the president of South Africa, and ultimately the parliament and the cabinet.

I still need to be convinced that there are any valid reasons for deeming Malema’s pronouncements in the National Assembly as un-paliamentary. I have no affiliations with the EFF but standing up for justice must be based on consistent values.

Mphutlane wa Bofelo [supplied]Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a South African poet, essayist and cultural worker.


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