Power and People

Philip M Bam writes:

South Africa is in trouble and to my mind much of it has to do with how power is being handled by government and those who have people power on their side. The Chapman’s Peak debacle is one such manifestation of the handling of power gone wrong. The threats of torching a clinic in Du Noon is an example of how people power can be misused. The confrontation between community organizations and the City about plans to occupy Rondebosch Common says a lot about how our leaders are using the power they have. While the constitution gives the people of South Africa the right to protest, those against whose actions you wish to protest dictates the terms and often prescribes a shaky platform for your protest just because they have the power to do so. The violent service delivery protests throughout our country is to a large degree a manifestation of the frustration of people who perceive themselves as being powerless against a growing big government power paradigm. This sense of powerlessness will increasingly become public and be expressed in various forms that might not be comfortable and will affect all of us. Real rolling mass action can’t be very far away. It looks as if the powers-that-be can’t see that our own Tahrir Square is coming. The manner in which the power wielding Carlisle handled the Chapman’s Peak issue, brought out a mass of people from all walks of life, black and white standing together against arrogant power. Their needs might be different but the target of their anger remain abuse of power.


Sequence extracted from filmmaker Kurt Orderson's Youtube video. Police disrupt peaceful marchers on their way to attend a three day summit at Rondebosch Common. Among the arrested is Filmmaker Kurt Orderson.

Recent events in the Middle East have shown that the power of the gun and suppression of dissent is vastly diminished when the nation rise up and use people power. Nothing can withstand the power of the Tsunami of the poor. It is coming to our doorstep if we all don’t learn how to handle our power. Those who wield economic power need to understand that the time is coming when people will rather go without food than give in to economic colonization and subjugation. The time is coming when people will rather “die on their feet than live on their knees”. Those who pull the labour power strings need to use it in such a way that we don’t bring the economy to a stand still akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. On the other hand those who hold the purse strings of the economy need to consider very carefully whether the greed of “chasing the dollar” is helping to create a stable social environment or fomenting a sense of economic powerlessness. Corrupt politicians and government officials who delay service delivery while dipping their grubby hands into our tax cookie jar and filling their dirty pockets need to think, if they can, about the fast dawning day when the people shall rise up and say enough is enough.

The sad thing about South Africa is that we have a semblance of democracy, we have a beautiful country, we have the potential of creating a glorious future for our children, that is being spoilt by the abuse of power in its various forms. Whatever democracy there is, is being subverted, not by anarchist or terrorist but by those who don’t know how to deal with power in our political chambers and government administrations alike. The beautiful country is being destroyed piece by piece by those who hold power over decision-making about our cultural and environmental heritage. It appears that they often don’t know the wisdom of choosing between the right way and the right of way. Our politicians tend to forget that power is only lent for a short while. The power to make laws, and to implement laws must always work to the betterment of our nation. The fact that a law is made does not mean that is always a good law. Sometimes laws are made to take away the right to know, as an example. Sometimes laws are made by those who abuse the gift of power to suppress dissent. The trick is to be perceptive because as things stand at the moment, the temporary power of the powerful is creating havoc. Even Juju Dilema is experiencing the force of that power which he used so recklessly himself. Unfortunately it is difficult to exonerate even the champions of so-called democracy, as they also demonstrate that once in power, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The message to all who have been lent the gift of power is to use it wisely, sparingly and with thoughtfulness. Use the power you have to uplift this nation. Use the power to build a nation of good people. Use the power in such a way that the nation can buy into the laws you make. Use your power with wisdom.

Philip M Bam

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