Why do we even bother to keep inhaling this irritating oxygen which only prolongs our life, why do we insist on exhaling this annoying carbon dioxide which allows plants to prolong their life? Why not leap into the void for no reason and thus demonstrate that no reason, nothing but a void, exists anywhere? Also, why write blog posts?
The trouble with being confronted with absolute futility and impotence and the inevitable victory of all that is meaningless (and yet somehow, in that meaningless, evil) is that it’s all in the mind, you know. If you look away, and resolutely allow yourself not to think about the issue at hand, or else translate the issue at hand into that which can be assimilated within a familiar narrative provided by the forces of futility and impotence – that makes it all better, like the loving mother sweeping up an infant bitten by a jumbo puff-adder and kissing it better on the suppurating fatal wound.
It all began with the announcement that South Africa’s armed forces had sustained yet another defeat. So far, nothing particularly unusual. However, the defeat happened in the Central African Republic, a country which most South Africans would have difficulty finding on a map despite the rather helpful name of the nation. What were they doing there in the first place, then?
Apparently, we didn’t need to know. To be more precise, we did not ask, when President Zuma announced that we were deploying troops to the Central African Republic, how long they would be there, or what the implications of their mission were, or (subsequently) how that mission was proceeding. We have, in fact, become inured to the notion that when there is some petty squabble somewhere in an African country, the South African sheriff is expected to ride into town and command everyone to lay down their guns and shake hands.
Except that in this case, there was no sheriff. The sheriff was, apparently, sitting safe in Paris, and he had sent all his deputies to Mali in an attempt to crush the Tuareg rebellion against the military dictatorship there. (An action which seems to have failed, since the French troops eventually aligned themselves with the Tuareg rebels in order to survive.) The sheriff had therefore asked South Africa to send a posse to the Central African Republic to intimidate the locals into being nice to each other. How that was to happen was not specified, since sending a posse is not usually the way to calm the locals down – witness Vietnam in 1961 and Afghanistan in 1979, not to mention Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and Somalia in 2006 and – oh, you can probably fill in plenty of territories for yourself, all the way down to the Marikana massacre.
South Africa had in 2007 sent a small military training team to the Central African Republic, in an attempt to stabilize a country after its latest military coup by trying to introduce some professionalism into the military. This is only possible, however, if a) the military wants to be professionalized, b) the political forces in power wish to professionalise the military, c) the political opposition has enough faith in the non-military political establishment not to make use of the military to seize power. None of these factors existed in this instance, so the project was a laudable but completely futile and meaningless one. (Perhaps, had both South Africa and France been resolved to bring these conditions about, this could have been accomplished, but it seems very clear that nobody wanted to do any such thing because all three conditions would have endangered the perpetual dominion of the pro-French dictator with whom South Africa had signed the deal.)
Sending 400 soldiers into the country under these conditions in order to block a rebellion which had already taken over most of the country was entirely absurd. It was, essentially, providing the rebels with much-needed potential hostages. Granted, the rebels initially stopped acting and eventually signed a deal with the dictator. However, once the rebels inspected the situation they saw that, far from being “special forces” (troops trained to live off the land under highly hostile circumstances and with considerable understanding of guerrilla warfare) the forces sent out were paratroops – light infantry lacking even soft transport, apart from a couple of fiberglass jeeps, and deprived of all heavy weapons. What was more, Zuma had (no doubt to save money, and perhaps to be wholly consistent with all his other manoeuvres) sent off only half as many troops as he had promised to send.
Once the rebels realized that the President had no intention of keeping his word in 2013 any more than he had done so for the previous decade, there was absolutely nothing standing in their way except a national army which would run away at the first sound of gunfire, and an understrength company of South Africans five thousand kilometers away from potential reinforcements at the end of a wholly unreliable supply line depending on occasionally rented transport aircraft flying in from air force bases which South Africa could easily be denied access to. As a result, they marched into the capital city, kicked the President across the frontier, and shot every South African who got in their way – 13 dead, 27 wounded, a very convenient 20% of the entire force. (The few French in the town had already pulled back to the city’s airfield as a prelude to evacuation, and were left alone; it was the job of the South Africans to die covering the French withdrawal, drawing rebel fire, rather in the way that the French themselves died covering the British withdrawal to Dunkirk – how cleverly these Gallic gunmen learn perfidy through example!)
The South African press is of course utterly incapable of addressing any such action on any sane level. They know that something has gone wrong, but it violates the key norms of South African journalism on almost as many levels as it fulfils them. Yes, this is a stuff-up by President Zuma and his incompetent cabal, but the stuff-up was called for by Western imperialism, whom the South African press defends at all costs. Yes, this is a military disaster, but it is not a disaster of poor military performance, discipline or leadership – it cannot be blamed on the incapable of black people to fight (not in the least because it was what the South African press used to call “black-on-black violence”). Nor can it be squeezed with difficulty into the mythological entity which the South African press calles “The Arms Deal” with the same air of absolutely unquestionable answering of all questions with which Der Stűrmer used to refer to “The Jewish Peril”.
The best which has been done has been to identify a few shabby South African businesspeople and politicians who have attempted unsuccessfully to make money in the Central African Republic and to claim, without any evidence, that this was somehow the reason why troops were sent to the Central African Republic – that the intervention in 2013 was made to save investments lost in 2009. By doing this, the press manages to avoid mentioning the actual political incompetence and colonial subordination of the Zuma administration and thus avoid criticizing the forces which sponsor the press. This ices and cherries the shit-cake which we are having to eat in a country which is now plainly as devoid of military and diplomatic leadership as it has long been devoid of intelligence agencies.
Against the background of all this useless ugly, it seems a considerable fall from significance to mention the acquittal of the police officers charged with the murder of Andries Tatane which happened so soon after the Central African Republic catastrophe. And yet it is not, because Tatane’s murder was very much in the consciousness of South Africans and may be seen quite clearly as a precursor – one of many, of course – to the Marikana massacre itself.
Tatane was seized by police while he was ranting at them in rebellion against their efforts to suppress a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. They savagely beat him to the ground, aiming their shotguns charged with plastic projectiles at him so as to intimidate him into being passive while they continued to beat the stuffing out of him. He continued to resist even while lying bloody and bruised in the street, so two of the policemen fired their shotguns at a range of about thirty centimeters, using projectiles which can maim people at a range fifty times greater. One of the blunt plastic cylinders tore Tatane’s heart apart and he died on the spot. The whole episode was captured on video footage which was shown around the world, but particularly in South Africa, where the majority of the populace was horrified. (The professional demonstrators of the far Left chose not to make an issue of the event, however, since Tatane was a local and not a member of any organization identifiable with the far Left – so it goes.)
There was, however, no organization to pursue the matter to the bitter end, so the provision of justice for Tatane’s killers was left to the official structures – the police, the independent police investigations directorate which was in process of being stripped of its independence, and such well-meaning but utterly incompetent and ideologically blinkered allies as the Human Rights Commission. The consequence has been predictable catastrophe. No attempt seems to have been made to pursue the matter through official police channels, by identifying all police officers present (which would have been easy, since the available forces were written down at the local Public Order Police base) and then charging them all with defeating the ends of justice (automatic dismissal from the force and loss of pension) unless they testified against the killers and confessed their own part in the case (which might lead to dismissal but not necessarily loss of pension). This wasn’t done because the police always cover up everything they do, even in a case in which they have been videotaped shitting on the national flag, constitution and great seal of office. Nobody in high political office chose to cut through the coverup.
Nor, it would seem, did anybody order the public prosecutor’s office to do anything effectual. Instead, all the investigators seem to have behaved with all the competence of a group of clowns whose shoelaces are tied together performing on a surface greased with soap and olive oil. They tumbled about and eventually arrested seven policemen who were solemnly declared to be the ones responsible for Tatane’s death even though only two people had pulled the trigger and only one fired the shotgun which penetrated the protestor’s vitals. The witnesses which the investigators had dredged up declared that they had been tortured into making false accusations against the police. (Yeah, right, that is an absolutely commonplace event in South Africa.) They retracted their testimony, and instead of sending them down for perjury as he should have, the magistrate simply beamed at the retracting witnesses with an air of “Good boy! Well done! Here’s a bone!”.
Lacking witnesses, the investigators suddenly found that they had nothing. There was video footage, but they had not used it This was partly because the footage, although it showed sundry police officers beating Tatane without cause and two of them shooting him at point-blank range with lethal weapons, was of poor quality. Perhaps it could have been enhanced? But several of the police officers were wearing riot helmets so that you could not see their faces, and were not wearing other identifying masks so that you would have to ask the people visible in the footage who they were. And, alas, those people were nowhere to be found, or had already testified that they were unreliable witnesses and been let off the hook by the magistrate.
So the magistrate breathed a sigh of relief and let the accused out of the courtroom free as birds, and maybe freer. He added a substantial smear against Andries Tatane on his own account – that Tatane, by being rude to the police, had actually brought his own death on himself, so in his opinion the whole trial was a waste of time. (At this point the magistrate should have been dragged out of the courtroom and necklaced in the nearest soccer stadium, but nobody has the energy to do such things any more.) It’s worth pointing out, by the way, that despite the unfitness of the magistrate to hold any judicial office whatsoever, the verdict itself was not a miscarriage of justice – we can’t say that guilty men walked free, because the prosecutors had failed to show that any of the police in the dock had anything at all to do with the death of Andries Tatane. For all we know, they had been flown in from Port Nolloth specifically to function as fall-guys.
So the police, when backed by the ruling class, have absolute impunity for whatever they do, and there is nothing we can do about it. Phew, it is quite a relief to have that sorted out.
After that, it is almost trivial to note the trial in which the money behind Oscar Pistorius was allowed to overrule public opinion and ensure that Pistorius will be a free man with no stain on his character until he has been found innocent by a properly constituted court of puppets of money. The court fell just short of declaring that the name of Reeva Steenkamp would be henceforth declared unmentionable in public. Some may say that this shows that our society sanctions the murder of women. The Creator feels rather that our society sanctions that rich people may do whatever they please. Which we already knew, so what’s the big deal, apart from the need to stick a million severed heads on sharpened poles against the background of the flames and ashes of the establishment’s loathsome constructions?