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The death of intellectualism in South Africa

By Cde Udo W. Froese
The historic role of accusations, counter accusations, finger pointing, propaganda campaigns and attempts at character assassination packaged as intellectual analysis have intensified.

And, if all fails, the last resort then is assassination of informed opponents of those, who dictate public thinking in South Africa.

They are viewed as a threat to a strategised course and quickly labelled as being 'conspiratorial theorists' and 'mad outsiders', as 'spin doctors'. Then they are marginalised out of the public domain.

Author and journalist, Barry Sergeant, quotes in his book on the murdered mining tycoon, Brett Kebble, "The Kebble Collusion", Arthur Schopenhauer, who once said, "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Once, former president Thabo Mbeki had been recalled by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), a space opened for open criticism and robust public debate of the ANC and its leadership. Those same 'intellectuals' said about Mbeki, "he speaks above the heads of everyone".

That newly opened space was however promptly filled and closed by a self-appointed, mischievous pseudo-academic, exclusive elite, dictating their well-paid, same sold, same old, predictable analysis. Instead of building a national participatory debate and incorporating the broad indigenous African majority and their daily concerns, they proved to be one-sided parrots, who can merely regurgitate propaganda. Not only have they discredited themselves and those, who aspire to be professional academics, but killed the democratic public debate.

They are all tied to their institutions, representing the policies of those institutions. The national democratic debate was therefore, never allowed to be born. In fact, there were no articles, no public outcry and no complaints in any of the news bulletins and current affairs programmes about the establishment of media monopoly and its crass silencing of the national public debate.

Like all democratic countries throughout the world, South Africa and Namibia need free and open-minded intellectualism, not tied to institutions, who pay them. It would mean that whatever such 'intellectuals' utter, would have to be checked by following the trail of the money. Always remember, he who pays the piper, calls the tune.

If South Africa's democracy wants to survive, it needs the national public debate, preferably without any of those paidup mischievous 'armchair academic intellectuals', who have nothing to add, but to give credence to the daily news and current affairs. The Southern African region would wilt away without real independent intellectuals, as their space would always be filled by opportunistic propagandists, attempting to mislead the uninformed public.

The mind of an intellectual should refrain from any form of participation in the execution of a propagandistic course. It should rather be investigative and add real substance to research and fact. What has happened to real intellectual debate and analysis of the likes of Anton Lebede (ANC), Robert Sobukwe (PAC), Johnny Makathini (ANC), Mzala Nxumalo (ANC and SACP), Abraham Tiro, Steve Biko (BCM), the Kenyan Ngungi aa Thiongo, Ghana's former president Kwame Nkrumah, Ruth First (SACP and ANC) and James Thaele (ANC)? The aforementioned demonstrate that this continent, including South Africa once had solid intellectuals, who were a shining light to their people.

Today, the self-appointed "intellectuals" are subjective, repetitive and predictive. This has turned particularly South Africa into an intellectual desert. A new generation of intellectuals needs to be coming up to assure a healthy, balanced and democratic debate. They need to overcome the branding and labelling of those selfappointed and institutionalised 'intellectuals', who would obviously try to destroy them.

Since 1994, when Thabo Mbeki became deputy president to Nelson Mandela, the national democratic debate suffered marginalisation. 'Objectivity' of the media and the institutionalised intellectuals disappeared. Since then, no logical clarity how 'intellectualism' is interpreted and viewed exists.

Thabo Mbeki's inner circle and the media hailed him as an 'intellectual'. Those who dared criticising him, were exposed to his wrath, attacking his critics viciously, leaving no stone unturned until the critical one had seriously been moved out of the system.

This however changed since the ANC's Polokwane Conference. But, the 'intellectuals' remain dissatisfied and joined the cacophony of the media in their focus on bringing the incumbent down next month at the ANC's Mangaung Conference. The open space for debate was abused and filled with a form of hate-propaganda. It is disappointing that there is no intellectual analysis that can put the current situation in South Africa into a realistic and factual perspective.


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