Defend Truth


The Fallacy of ‘Unity in Action’


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

There is no desire to find common ground since the two groupings within the ANC are diametrically opposed to each other. Unity in Action is a bald-faced lie that is being perpetuated by Zuma and his ilk under the pretext that all will be well.

This week we await what ought to be the pinnacle of our political calendar. The State of the Nation Address (Sona) is meant to be a dignified occasion where the progress and failures of the past year are acknowledged and the state’s new plans for the coming year are announced. What can we expect, and how should we respond?

The ANC celebrations on January the 8th was Comrade Jacob Zuma’s first salvo in 2017. Sona will be his second (but his first as President of the Republic). In the Sona President Zuma will talk about radical economic transformation, helping the poorest of the poor and the need for industry projects to drive job creation and economic development. “White monopoly capital” will be portrayed as the villain failing the youth and poorest of the poor in South Africa. Land ownership and redistribution will feature prominently. The Mantra of the January statement was “Unity in Action”. Together we can do more!

But when listening to this, we should not be fooled. A zero sum game where the victor takes all is the only solution for Zuma. By definition, a zero sum game means “a contest in which one person’s loss is equal to the other person’s gain”. Zuma must gain it all, in order to survive his dismal legacy as our Commander in Chief and President of the ANC. He cannot protect his legacy and avoid prosecution, unless he ensures that his succession plan is water-tight. For this reason, he needs access to all of the state machinery and resources.

There is therefore going to be no Unity in Action. There is no desire to find common ground since the two groupings within the ANC are diametrically opposed to each other. Unity in Action is a bald-faced lie that is being perpetuated by Zuma and his ilk under the pretext that all will be well. It is a fallacy used to deflect attention away from the all-out war currently under way within our ruling party.

Unity in Action in the ANC for this year 2017, is a non-starter. It is simply bullshit. In his philosophical treatise On bullshit, Harry Frankfurt (one of my much loved modern day philosophers) notes:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognise bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So, the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.”

Frankfurt goes further:

When we characterise talk as ‘hot air’ we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapour. His speech is empty, without substance or content. His use of language, accordingly, does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve. No more information is communicated than if the speaker had merely exhaled.”

So, when we listen to the 2017 Sona, we must have a clear understanding of the “hot air” the President will be speaking in Parliament.

In the January 8th statement, President Zuma dared to invoke a great statesman, Oliver Tambo, without shame, to illustrate what Unity in Action means in the ANC. He referred us to the 1969 Morogoro Conference in order to demonstrate that the ANC has faced trials and tribulations like this before. He used this history to claim that now (like at the Morogoro conference), the ANC has the capacity to emerge better and more united than ever. What he failed to mention, is that in the run-up to Morogoro, Comrade Oliver Tambo as president and Comrade Duma Nokwe as secretary both resigned from their respective positions in order to participate as equals amongst their National Executive Committee (NEC) counterparts. In other words, Tambo and Nokwe were mature enough to know that there was a problem with their ANC leadership. They realised that in order to correct the problem, they had to forgo their positions of power. Another significant decision of Morogoro was that they also agreed that the then NEC should be reduced to a mere nine people (“better few, but better”). Yet despite flouting the Constitution, and the resulting calls for his resignation or recall, no such maturity will be forthcoming from Zuma, the top six officials, or the current NEC (most of whom are not convinced that there is any problem in the movement). They do not see themselves nor the branches, regions or provinces of the ANC as having a problem.

There is a real battle being waged within the ANC which will continue unabated. It all reminds me of Tolkien’s masterpiece, post-World War ll, Lord of the Rings. The dark forces of Mordor, under Zuma’s leadership are advancing and they are destroying all in their wake. The Premier League is breeding the necessary nazguls, orcs, trolls and uru-khai soldiers to intimidate and destroy us all. They have the entire security cluster in their armoury: Nhleko from SAPS; Nhlemeza from the Hawks; Abrahams from the NPA; as well as Jiba; Mrwebi; Mdluli, and so many more (not to mention all the spies among us). The all-seeing eye, from State Security Agency is ever present and so Middle Earth (Gauteng) is under attack. Their war chest is provided for by the ill-gotten fortunes of certain families and the full might of the state apparatus. Outstanding charges, Constitutional Court rulings and many suspicious financial transactions are the crux of a need for this all-out war.

In a battle for his survival, Zuma will use Sona to communicate to us, the nation, that “I will do it my way, for I have much to lose”. With a cabinet reshuffle in the offing, through which Zuma will make it clear that “I will deal with those that dare to oppose me in the executive”, and with such a move gain further control of the state resources for his battles. The communists will be out (at best), and if not, at worse, thrown to the periphery ministries. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be brought into the executive in order to smooth her path to the West Wing of the Union building. As for the million dollar question surrounding Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s fate, he too will be a casualty of this war.

Meanwhile the forces for good will desperately keep trying to keep an offensive alive. The last time they made a stand against Zuma in Polokwane, the alliance did not hold, and mistrust remains. The Save South Africa people, together with numerous civil society formations, are all joining the fellowship. The Rogue Unit people, the Financial Intelligence Centre, Robert Mcbride, Gwede Mantashe, the veterans, the Helen Suzman foundation, all are in this war. This war is going to get very ugly, and while it is commendable to hear that voices of reason such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Kgalema Motlanthe and so many more, talk of unity, listening to the people, of the need for the ANC to self-correct, and for adherence to the Constitution of both the ANC and the Republic; their words are falling on deaf ears.

The war cry from Mordor stinks of populism. “Treasury is an obstacle towards radical economic transformation,” they will scream. “Treasury is out to protect ‘white monopoly capital’ at all costs and at the expense of the poor and marginalised in our society.”

Seriously, is this all you’ve got, Mordor? Is that your deflection from a Premier League that lines its pockets (and those of their families)? Is that your deflection from palatial abodes in the form of Nkandla? Is that your deflection from the raping of our country through mining rights from coal to gold and platinum, to a select few? Is that your deflection from becoming billionaires in the midst of poverty in a short period of merely 15 years?

Zuma and his ilk want us to believe that white monopoly capital is the villain, and that radical economic transformation is our only saviour. But we see this for what it is: Bullshit!

This line of argument has all the elements that Frankfurt identified about “bullshit”: deceptive misrepresentation; short of lying; pretentious word or deed; misrepresentation… of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes. These are the lies we are being fed in the name of Unity in Action. No doubt, white monopoly capital must take a hard look and do some serious introspection with regards to their concrete contribution over the last 22 years, because paying taxes and small contributions through CSI simply does not cut it in a country such as ours with the three cardinal challenges still a mega problem: That of poverty, unemployment and inequality. More can be done but we all know this is not the panacea of our problems in Mzansi.

And so it has come to pass that the battle of the Pelennor Fields will ensue in Mzansi. The battle is the largest and most important event of the war in Tolkien’s novel. For us, it is the ANC National Elective Conference, to be hosted in Gauteng in December 2017.

Will the “Forces of Good”, made up of earthlings, elves, dwarfs and hobbits prevail and see the dark tower, the black gate and the towers of the teeth all fall and be destroyed or will the “Forces of Darkness” prevail? Your guess is as good as mine but one thing I can say for certain: Unity in Action for the forces of good, would be a great trajectory towards the recovery of our country and the ANC, but alas, for the forces of darkness it remains bullshit. It is a strategy the forces of darkness can ill afford if they are to be successful in December 2017. DM


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