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27 April 2017 07:25 (South Africa)
South Africa

TRAINSPOTTER—SONA2017: The EFF offers no quarter, and vows to hold ‘the executive accountable’

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa
The EFF prepares for the SONA in Cape Town 2016. (REUTERS).

South Africa by the numbers: Four hundred and forty-one soldiers protecting parliament for Zuma's big speech. Ninety-four dead mental health patients protected by no one. We’re being governed into an abyss, while being securitised into oblivion. And given that there is one (previously) large red reason for all of the guns in Cape Town, we thought it would be pertinent to ask what the EFF are going to do about it. Will they disrupt SONA2017? Will they hit Zuma’s newfangled outdoor ‘People’s Assembly’? Will they instead hold a pick-up soccer match on Signal Hill? By RICHARD POPLAK.

With half his cabinet assassinated by an obscure Quebecois separatist wheelchair-bound death squad called Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents, with all of his wives trying to feed him arsenic-laced vetkoek for every meal, with the SaveSA campaign threatening to cause a countrywide plague of narcolepsy, and with our borders facing constant encroachment from a rogue zombie herd of poached rhino, President Jacob Zuma had no choice to call in the SA National Defence Force to ensure the safety of his annual drone-a-thon.

Until two years ago, the State of the Nation Address was an occasion for the African National Congress to gather in Cape Town and congratulate itself for being the African National Congress. Those days are over. When the Economic Freedom Fighters gathered in the National Assembly for their first SONA, back in 2015, things famously went sideways. The cellular phone signal was jammed; a group of bouncers kicked all 25 EFFers into the warm, moonlight-bathed eve; fisticuffs occurred; blood was spilled. Last year, same again—except with a jacked up security force, more nastiness in the precinct, and a worse speech.

This year, there are rumours of real danger, with great emphasis on the word “rumours”. As one false flag planter told News24, “This won’t just be teargas; this could mean sharp point ammunition. There’s serious division in the ruling party and there’s been a push to mobilise as many groups together so that they can disrupt things.” This kind of crap can be self-fulfilling, and so, while there were 200 cops on the ground 12 months ago, there are at least as many this year, accompanied by 441 troops, all of whom are apparently willing to use “sharp-point ammunition” and other tools of the trade.

Because “threats”.

But see, anyone who vaguely understands Zuma—an ex-intelligence hack himself—knew that following the 2014 elections, he would start beefing up his reliance on the security cluster. This cohort is supposedly spearheaded by the ingrate David Mahlobo, which means that Zuma is the real captain of head cracking in this country. He and his faction know that the opposition and the press are becoming genuine impediments to the chance of the ANC pissing it up at SONA every year until Jesus shows up. Thus, we find ourselves in the middle of a military campaign.

*

Because the signal to noise ration at this year’s event had been so deafening, I wanted to know what the EFF were going to do about all this nonsense. And so I rang HQ, and got spokesperson Mbuyeseni Ndlozi on the Bat-phone.

“Zuma had best be advised not to show up if he doesn’t want to held accountable for breaking his oath of office,” growled Ndlozi.

Yes, but what did this mean? What were they planning? Another disruption?

Ndlozi began yelling at me: “Why are you calling it a disruption? Are you part of the liberal press that sees legitimate action as disruption? The disruption here is Zuma. We are not in parliament illegitimately. He is. He is the one who is in contempt of the Constitution. Therefore nothing he does can be considered legitimate.”

I tried to ask another question.

“They can even bring the whole army,” spat Ndlozi. “They can’t stop the EFF. We will hold the executive accountable for breaking his oath of office. I mean, the army? That’s something else. Yet again, Zuma is deploying the SANDF to another arm of the state, which is unconstitutional.”

This was true: Section 205 (3) now joined the rest of the Constitution in being used as ass-wipe at Nkandla.

In other words, SONA2017 is going to be a grim reminder of the dysfunction and dissonance in South African politics. Zuma, had he any shame, would have stepped down in the wake of the rulings against him in the Constitutional Court last year. But he clings to power by relying on the brute tactics of a strongman, and by rolling back the liberties and the legalities entrenched in our foundational document.

But Ndlozi didn’t imply that tomorrow night was going to be Zuma’s swansong. Nor did he seem to be thrilled by the idea of a Zuma-less ANC governing what’s left of this country.

“That’s why we have called this year The Year of the Branch,” he said. “We’ve showed you that we can lead a march, and fill a stadium. What’s left is the ballot, my brother. Look at last week’s by-election in Ward 12, an ANC stronghold. The ANC dropped to 31 percent. We got 24 percent. If we work hard at that level, no one is gonna win [the national elections] in 2019.”

Maybe that means we aren’t all going to die tomorrow night? Or is he wearing a flak jacket under his overalls?

“Nah. I’m not scared. But maybe you should be scared. You’ll see what they will do to the press. You in the press, you’re also citizens of this countries. Perhaps it’s time to join in, to be an activist.”

Ulp.

So back to war in the first week of February. This has become a grim ritual. We switch on the TV, wait for our democracy to mushroom cloud into oblivion, and gorge on our platters of arsenic-laced vetkoek.  DM

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa

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