Mhambi has been redeployed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What should South Africa's intellectuals do?

Xolela Mangcu today writes about the role of intellectuals in current South Africa. To him, they have three choices, emigration, loyalty to the party and making themselves heard.

Now let me get back to the relationship between the intellectual on the one hand, and the party and the nation on the other. While it is relatively easy for intellectuals to opt out of party belonging, it is virtually impossible for intellectuals to define themselves out of the nation — unless they do one of three things.

ALBERT Hirschman described these three things as exit, loyalty and voice. The intellectual can divest himself or herself of national belonging through exit, which is often through emigration.

However, there are those intellectuals who remain behind but express their national loyalty through what Thandika Mkandawire calls “incantation of the thought of the leader”. And then there are those who also remain behind but do not belong to the party. They do not belong to the party because their insistence on critical autonomy soon runs up against the protocols and strictures of the party.

For example, it strikes me that the bankruptcy of the political party as an instrument of democracy and nation building has never been more exposed than it is in our country right now.

Wheres the good people?
To Xolela the choice is stark, and would require more good people to speak up.

An idea that has received little attention is the role of prominent personalities or civic notables from the progressive movement itself in speaking up for the values of the constitution. In short, a rebellion against the thuggery that often comes shrouded in the name of party and nation.

That would require good men and women to speak out more often than they have done over the past decade. The alternative is certain ruination.

In the last few days some have already spoken out. Lets hope this number grows.

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