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Bell Pottinger rebooted: Counter-revolution cloaked in revolutionary garb


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.

A spectre is haunting South Africa, the spectre of bullsh*t pseudo-ideology. People who want us to believe they are the new champions of the poor. Except that these same people spent the last nine years sitting in their cesspit of theft, corruption and looting from the poor.

There is a supposedly new, what I call pseudo-ideology and/or narrative making the rounds from our fightback faction. I call it Bell Pottinger rebooted.

I will let you be the judge – it goes something like this:

Cyril Ramaphosa is the incarnation of white monopoly capital and hence represents only white interests. This is why he subscribes uncritically to a neo-liberal capitalist ethic which is anti-poor. This is also why he insists on the breaking up of Eskom into three parts, so that one by one it can be privatised. And, of course, it will be his white buddies that benefit from such a move.

In short, they argue, the patronage lines under CR have simply shifted into white hands, presumably away from their black hands and hence, according to them, the poor.

They boldly state that the left will not stand for this. Radical economic transformation must be the order of the day and, you guessed it, they are the left. What utter rubbish.

Allow me to tell you of the left, which I respect, though do not always agree with. Langa Zita, Vishwas Satgar, Mazibuko Jara, Patrick Bond, Dale McKinley, to mention but a few. Real Marxists and true left political activists to the core. These are comrades who engage genuinely and fight for the very poor in our country. They constantly fight against a neo-liberal agenda. They will tell you that it is not Cyril Ramaphosa who’s implementing such an agenda — no, it is the last six consecutive Parliaments that have voted for such a neo-liberal economic agenda. And they took their cue from the governing party, the ANC, all those years.

The ANC has, since the start of our democracy, been actively pursuing a capitalist agenda with social democracy as its vehicle and this resulted in us experiencing seven unbroken years of growth in post-apartheid South Africa under Thabo Mbeki. We were able to put some savings in the kitty of our fiscus and roll out the most comprehensive social security system for our most vulnerable.

This was significantly derailed once your Jacob Zuma came to power in 2007. It is you who stole from the poor, it is you who allowed State Capture and the Gupta family to run amok in our country. It is you who were actively corrupt at local, provincial and national government level. It is you who robbed our people blind to the tune of, some say, R1-trillion, and you want our people to fall for this bullsh*t narrative again.

It comes as no surprise to me because you have always treated our people as if they are idiots. Pawns that you think you can move around on the political chessboard. What the fightback crowd is doing is an old routine.

I need not remind you how Zuma came to power and succeeded in winning the ANC presidency in Polokwane in 2007. Reactionary forces backing Zuma stated clearly that Thabo Mbeki represented the interests of whites and of capital. That his GEAR policy and the so-called class of 1996 were responsible for our decline and that it was anti-poor. Hence, Mbeki must be taken out. And out he was, just eight months before the general election in 2008.

Today, these sinister forces want a replay of that strategy. But it will not work this time around – because our people are not stupid, nor are ANC branch members. You want us to genuinely believe that you are the new champions of the poor. You know, it could have worked were it not for the fact that these last nine years you were sitting in your cesspit of theft, corruption and looting from the very poor.

So, yes. A spectre is haunting South Africa, the spectre of bullsh*t pseudo-ideology. Counter-revolution cloaked in revolutionary garb.

So, what’s the plan of these revolutionary looters?

Let me warn the true left that your revolutionary approach is being raped by this unprincipled and corrupt “fightback” faction and you should not allow it. I am certain they are devising a plan to destabilise the country so as to shed a bad light on the president and his administration.

How? Well, if you think six days of strike action at SAA was serious, let’s think about a six-day strike at Eskom and the country in the dark. It will be disastrous. Not only for us as citizens, but also for the economy. They will attempt to give us a taster just before Christmas with an emergency shutdown that will take everyone by surprise and will take 48 hours to fix. That will be the first salvo across the bows.

In fact, next year will be the year of strike action across all industries, so best we all get ready. Do you, Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Ramaphosa have any contingency plans in place for the eventual blackout? I don’t think you should take this eventuality lightly; they will shut us down. After all, at SAA it was merely 944 workers that had to go. In the case of Eskom, it is 1,600 redundant workers who must be shown the road.

It is not going to be easy. Ready yourselves for the worse. NUM and Numsa are coming out guns blazing, and as we have seen countless times over the last 25 years, they do not serve the interests of our people, only their paid-up members. In other words, they don’t care about shutting us all down, as long as they protect their workers.

As for the fightback people, they will do all they can to stay away from the prison gates. The arrest of Bongani Bongo and the 10 officials in the Eastern Cape for the toilet fraud and corruption saga have them shaking in their boots. They will try to brazen it out, but they know the end is nigh. The NPA and the Hawks are slowly but surely executing their duties and it does not sit well with these pseudo-ideologues. They aim to wrestle power away from CR as soon as possible and put a halt to all this madness.

Unfortunately, the horse has bolted, the direction the country is interested in is forward, not a repeat of the last nine years with the same narratives that got us here in the first place.

As the US philosopher Harry Frankfurt tells us, “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, or attracted much-sustained inquiry.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory.”

Well, therein ends this lesson, but in your case revolutionary looters, we can see your bullshit a mile away and we will not be taken in by it. DM


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