Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane 11 November 2014

Dear Irvin Jim, let’s talk frankly

The ANC does not really need you, Irvin Jim, so these latest developments on the political landscape have really not come as a surprise. One can only hope your convictions stand you in good stead from here on out.

Being as forthright as you are was always going to cost you. It therefore comes as no surprise that you have been expelled from the federation. Your defence of Zwelinzima Vavi’s shenanigans and going to court to embarrass the federation in its haste to get rid of him has cost you dearly. It is a pity that, as a latter-day political casualty, you have taken 350,000 workers with you into the political wilderness.

Such acts of political brinkmanship are few and far between in our one-dimensional political landscape. Very few would be brave enough to consider an alternative. All who have tried anything similar have simply come crawling back to the bosom of the moribund alliance. This must be what informs your now-we-are-in-now-we-are-out approach to this matter.

Frankly, once you took the brazen decision not to vote for the ANC in the recent elections, you pretty much expelled yourself from the federation that you know is sweet to the ruling party. A federation that is loath to utter a word of criticism to the ANC was always going to react this way to your electoral snub. After all, its president sits in the NEC of the ANC, and therefore is part of decisions you have labelled pretty much reactionary.

So, frankly, I wonder what you were saying for three hours in defence of your position on the night of the long knives. Whatever you said seems only to have fuelled the determination to finally expel you. Your lengthy epistle probably only fanned the flames you lit when your congress committed the cardinal sin of turning your back on the movement when it most needed you, in the face of yet another threat from within its ranks. You know how unforgiving our movement can be.

Look, please forgive those whose imaginations ran wild, linking you to the EFF in the midst of its electoral aim at the ANC recently. You do know that in the movement, once you even think of criticising the order of the black, green and gold you are labelled a Nazi – never mind calling the sacred NDP a cut-and-past of DA policy. That, my friend, is treasonous.

I’m sorry to pile all this upfront. But there is no other way to show you how you have shot yourself in the foot. Julius will tell you, just as I can, that it is rather cold outside the comforting bosom of the alliance. I suppose you know this, since you spoke for three hours solid begging not to be expelled. I can’t imagine why else you would bother. Surely your special congress was clear enough – the ANC are the sort of friends you no longer wish to keep? Frankly, that is okay. None of us should be forced to stick with friends we no longer like. It’s too much pretence.

A favourite Malema-ism of mine is his analogy of the ANC as Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding a donkey. I presume you are an atheist, but you may recall the Biblical ecstasy with which Jesus was welcomed in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I am told that the donkey he was riding, because it was wearing oogklaps, was under the mistaken impression the adulation was for itself, not for Jesus, so it duly came back alone the following week and could not understand why it was ignored. Juju might reckon your forced cessasion from the federation will have the same effect.

I am sure he did not mean to call you a donkey or to elevate the ANC to the position of Jesus. But the analogy still works. (To be fair, I don’t really agree with him: although this same analogy could be applied to his six-percent self.)

But let’s get on with it, and talk frankly. The ANC does not really need you. If they did, they would have prevented their allies from expelling you. The reasons are clear: you have been too noisy about the party’s weakness and have been saying unpalatable things like ‘corruption cannot carry on’ in the name of workers. These are not sentiments the movement is known to tolerate.

You have insulted the one document that President Zuma sees as his legacy. Look, the reality is that since the Constitution itself there has never been a document that has seen as many consensuses as the NDP. It is one thing that Zuma can go into the sunset having achieved, no matter how much you may despise him; no matter how much you may hate his guts. Your spurious criticism of the document months after it was adopted by the ANC and all political parties in the land has not helped your case. You were sleeping at the wheel and allowed a document that you so fundamentally despise to be adopted by the ANC’s national congress in Mangaung. You failed your workers because when you were well aware of the pending adoption of this document you went on a slumber and hoped you would wake up months later, in time to cause problems. I don’t understand your logic, quite frankly. Why did you bother the sleeping dogs?

One of the biggest criticisms of our country’s policy landscape by the much-needed foreign investors (otherwise often labelled by your revolutionary self as white monopoly capital) is the fact that there is policy uncertainty in our economy. The ANC, with all its weaknesses in this regard, went out of its way to publicise its policies before and after its policy conference in 2012, inviting all and sundry to comment on its intended policy positions ahead of Mangaung. If you were NUM, I would say maybe they did this while you were underneath some mining shaft somewhere, where you only emerged after the congress. But I am sure none of your metals were blocking your view or perspective on this – you simply failed your workers through inertia, through inaction.

One of the things that truly annoy me is the tendency for comrades to throw the DA about and think they have said something quite revolutionary. I wish I had the time to debunk this often-repeated myth that the NDP is a cut-and-paste of DA policies. But that would be too much free education that I have no time for, to a man of your high pedigree and intellect. You know your own myths when you perpetuate them. But in any case, for a document that is 450 pages long ( I hope you bothered to read the whole thing) why should a major political party such as the DA not have parts of such a document reflect their views? They do represent some South Africans, don’t they? After all, the NDP is not the Freedom Charter, nor Umrabolo, but a document that is meant to underpin national consensus. Why is the Constitution not referred to as a cut-and-paste of DA policies? After all, it is considered one of the most liberal constitutions in the world. Come off it now, Jim. Even if you have come late to the debate, you have to give us more than the anecdotal to make us take a second look at a document that has united everyone other than you revolutionary self.

When all is said and done, your expulsion is a good thing for South Africa. It is time that the alliance faces its demons, and maybe that is the only hope for political realignment in South Africa. With all I have said, I hope you don’t understand me to be saying that you should sob and cry and crawl back to the bosom of the movement. I am only puzzled by the blowing hot and cold that your three-hour grovelling at the feet of the movement implies. Now that, like Juju, you have been forced to have the courage of your convictions, I can only wish you luck as you prepare to launch the so-called United Front. All the other fronts before it from PAC, IFP, UDM, COPE, EFF, and AGANG have not succeeded to make any dent in the ANC’s overall political hegemony. They have only managed to secure a seat or two in Parliament for their leaders and joined the periphery of patronage.

With a head start of 350,000 troops behind you, I am sure you will have better luck. After all, you are the revolutionary Jim coming to Joburg. And as they say, cometh the man, cometh the hour. Good luck to you, and good luck to all the workers whose future is hitched to your wagon of chance.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM



Absence Of Presence

Zapiro 8 hours ago

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine