Gwede Mantashe is the man we’ve always seen as being between a rock and a very hard place. And yet sometimes being the fall guy for the Alliance can also really help you out. Because while sometimes you are everyone’s enemy, at other times you’re able to call on a wide range of allies. These could be some of those times.
Mantashe delivered the Violet Seboni Memorial Lecture on Friday. Seboni was Cosatu’s deputy president when she died in a car crash during last year’s election campaign. But Mantashe may not be entirely innocent when he used this lecture to hit out at (who else) Julius Malema. He spoke about how the values we must promote are those of “modesty and hard work”. But here’s the killer: “Life is not about being in business.” Take that, young Julius. The beauty of this technique is that Mantashe is engaging in what the Australians call dog-whistling. You hear what you want to hear. For many, including the Young Lions, this will be a speech about how the youth should be moulded. For the cynics, and that does include us, it’s a clear message to those ANC members who put business above doing good.
So if you’re Siphiwe Nyanda, this would have hurt. And there are plenty of others who will feel the acute sting of this speech.
One of the slightly odder moments of Mantashe’s speech was the long quotation of Thabo Mbeki. The two are not the best of friends. But Mantashe used a quote from Mbeki’s 2006 Nelson Mandela Lecture to explain how the ANC had taken over a system where whites were basically involved in “monetary accrual” above all else. Then that system corrupted the revolution, to the point where accrual of “bling” is now the dominant aim in society.
He also had plenty to say about the Alliance; about how bickering will only please its enemies; about how unity is the paramount thing. But he gave Cosatu plenty of space too; he was its turf, after all. Unions must make sure “that they nudge the ruling party to the left if it moves rightward”, because “if they don’t, no one else will do it”. Zwelinzima Vavi looked happy at that one.
Then the worrying stuff: it started easily enough, with a dig at the right wing “growing more confident; it’s becoming willing to take chances”, but he then moved on to “it’s using a quasi-transformed judiciary” to its own ends. And he spoke about “the allocation of judges to hear racially sensitive cases”. Oh dear, Gwede, please, not the counter-revolutionary judges thing again. Anyway, he didn’t give details, but this is obviously about the two judgments against the “shoot the boer” song. The two judges were white. And yes, as we’ve said before, we wouldn’t have picked them to hear these cases either, because it’s just a bad idea. But still, we get worried when the secretary-general of the ruling party starts to speak at all about the allocation of judges.
But the overall message from this lecture, is that while for just about all of this year it’s seemed as if the corrupt business people were winning the battle for the soul of the ANC, the fight-back is now under way in earnest. Mantashe has decided which side he’s on. And we’re very pleased with that.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)