As political events have hurtled around the news cycle this last week, pundits and the press have tried to analyse and understand what is going on, sounding like those manic men behind the microphone at the race track.
But this is more like a marathon, because everyone is playing a very long game.
The longest game belongs to the man with the longest reach. Eight-sided chess. The Octopus in Chief – who has been moving his pawns on various boards for years. (I am referring here to the highly remunerated Executive variety rather than the Chequered Strategy type).
Parliament/Speaker of the House? ANC Chairwoman – check.
NPA? Shaun Shabir Abrahams – check.
SABC? Manipulated Minister Faith Mathumbi and catastrophic COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng – check.
Private Investments? Guptas – check.
SARS? Tom Moyane – check.
Hawks? Eskom? Mining? Nuclear? SAA? etc etc – check, check, Check.
Courts? Whoa! ANC Whip? Whoa! Public Protector? Whoa!
The Dark Prince of Delay and Deflection still has many moves left to make, but they are now moves of defence not offence. He is obviously feeling the pressure – but like a cornered octopus, he will squirt ink and sand in our eyes, camouflage himself, and squeeze through the narrowest of cracks.
His game now – Find the Safe Exit. But he may have waited too long.
The second longest game is the DA’s, the Iron Man Marathon. Relentlessly, at times desperately, and often seemingly hopelessly, they have sweated on until the finish line seems close, the day when Dada steps into the dock is approaching.
And IF they get the court to rule that he has to pay for his own legal costs, and IF the courts also rule that he must personally pay for the costs of his fraud trial when it finally lands where it belongs (in front of a judge), then the DA has a pincer movement waiting. Jiving Jake could be legally lanced at the same time as he finds his pockets empty – twice disempowered. And the DA will have finally got a result for 10 years of dogged uphill sweating.
Meanwhile their longest race is still yet to be won. From 1.7% of the vote in 1994 to 27% of the vote in 2016 is a cross-cultural, non-racial growth that no-one could have predicted – but they have yet to win the championship. National power.
The ANC’s game has completely changed; it used be soccer now it is tug of war. For a start they now find that they are no longer one big team. Rather they find that they are a competitive and fractious league, and all the different teams are pulling in every direction. Pravin and his Save South Africa supporters are pulling one way. The Youth League is grovelling in the mud behind their Mercedes. The Women’s League is dusting out the Smolyana skeletons from their closets. Cosatu is no longer a team but rather an amoeba that keeps splitting itself in two. The Past is fighting the Present, the Top is fighting the Bottom, and the Provinces are warring between themselves. And somehow they have to find the stamina not only to run the country, (as opposed to running it into the ground), but plan for the most difficult election in their history – which is now just two-and-a-half years away.
Who will be the captain? Who will play in what positions? Who will be new? What will be the strategy? If there is an ANC think tank somewhere, it is a very hot and sweaty sauna where they all whip each other with birch branches of theory before plunging into the freezing cold water of reality.
Julius and Floyd are playing a game of follow the leader – we don’t know where they are going, but they lead with such confidence that their party trails along happily. They are like colourful cheerleaders – bright costumes, fantastic chants and routines, high kicks, hijinks ; but none of us knows what their real game is. Radicals generally get headlines, not head offices.
Meanwhile the Hawks hover, Eskom weeps, SAA plunges, the SABC hallucinates – all of them playing their own games, and making every day a race day, politically speaking.
And so we watch with bated breath to see if the referees and linesmen (our courts and our investigative media) have the stamina to last out this marathon match. Let us hope so – because otherwise we won’t just be commentating on the seventh race of the day; we will be fleeing from a stampede that takes much of the crowd over the cliff. DM