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The RET faction is licking its wounds – but brace you...

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The RET faction is licking its wounds – but brace yourselves for the fightback


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.

The Radical Economic Transformation faction inside the ANC has been remarkably quiet of late. In the absence of a credible fightback on the legal front and a dismal fightback on the political front, what does this leave open to the faction? Well, chaos — create crisis upon crisis for the president and his cohorts.

Observing how the day unfolded on Friday 13 November outside the courthouse in Mangaung where ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule was appearing, I could not help but notice something rather odd. Where were the obvious Radical Economic Transformation (RET) types and why did they not seize this opportunistic moment to also make their voices heard?

Here I’m referring to the big man himself — Jacob Zuma, as well as “Mama Action” Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen, Kebby Maphatsoe, to name but a few. Could it be that all is not well in the RET camp? That they are not all on the same page?

I mean, if ever there was a moment to declare war on or retaliate against those that seemingly are plotting against you and have deliberately targeted you, it would have been then, but alas. 

Or are they all too busy with their own legal representatives and getting ready for their inevitable day in court? Whether they are all singing from the same hymn sheet or not, it still begs the question, what is their endgame? 

We know that legally, they are mostly screwed, because whether they want to shout their innocence from stages and platforms — or indeed from the rooftops — they all have cases to answer, as heard at the Zondo Commission, and answer they will, even if it takes a long time. 

After all, we know that the wheels of justice can turn slowly and that we will afford them all the necessary rights and obligations as determined by our law.   

And like their mentor Jacob Zuma has taught them, they will be exploiting and sucking the legal system dry in order to delay their actual day in court. But this tactic is okay, as the commitment of the NPA and the Hawks remains steadfast from where I’m sitting, and we must never forget what the real aim is here.

Contrary to the RET types wanting us all to believe that there is a political plot to oust them from the ANC, the reality is far more simple: society is demanding that justice be done and to hold those wrongdoers and participants in illegal State Capture to account for their sins. 

Not a complicated mission at all… far from the madding crowd in Mangaung and their popular notions of political point-scoring and political settling of scores.

No, if you are indeed innocent and these charges are trumped up, then a court of law will find you not guilty — but let me warn you right now, soon the RET types are going to want to cast aspersions on our independent judiciary, attempting to suggest somehow that certain judges are part of the ploy to take them out. 

Suspension and expulsion from the ANC must be on the cards. We cannot act inappropriately because we yearn for some false unity in the organisation. Failure to act decisively, politically, will result in disaster for the CR camp because inasmuch as a political takeover is highly improbable, it cannot be said to be impossible. 

We will not fall for this trick, just like we are not falling for the demand for Justice Raymond Zondo’s recusal. So if their legal battles are all but lost, that leaves us with only one other solution — a political one. 

Hence, the much anticipated national general council of the ANC. The discussion documents have been circulated in the past few days in preparation thereof, and I’m sure the RET types are working feverishly behind the scenes to set the tone for this meeting; a tone that in their estimation must be anti-Cyril Ramaphosa. 

They will fail in this endeavour; of this I am certain.

Why do I say this? Well, let’s take stock of who exactly these RET types are. 

The so-called Premier League, as we knew them prior to the Nasrec conference of the ANC, is no longer, in no small part due to the betrayal of one of their own, DD Mabuza.

In addition to this, Sihle Zikalala from KZN has come to the intelligent and correct decision that he cannot compromise his own political future by showing ongoing support for Zuma (whom we all know has nothing more to offer politically) and second, to not allow his province to ever again be treated with such disdain as was the case at Nasrec.

You see, an impression had been created that the whole Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma matter was informed by narrow Zulu nationalism not in keeping with the ANC’s non-racial policies. It started with 100% Zulu at the 2007 Polokwane conference already. Hence, Zikalala will not take his province down this road again.

Supra Mahumapelo is a shadow of his former self in his home province of North West. The “big man” politics is not working for him there any more and the same, I might add, applies to Ace Magashule in the Free State. His absence from the direct levers of power in his province is evident with the emergence of a strong anti-Ace sentiment and group. 

The overwhelming support in the NEC of the ANC towards the president is also evident, and dare I forecast that the same NEC is going to request that the SG step aside for no other reason than to protect the integrity of the ANC brand — not that they will be actively participating in factional politics, of course. 

Come the 8 January celebrations, Ace will not be in the top six line up, but his deputy Jessie Duarte will have control of the reins. So, in the absence of a credible fightback on the legal front and a dismal fightback on the political front, what does this leave open to the RET faction? Well, chaos! Create crisis upon crisis for the president and his cohorts.

First, you start with a smear campaign: CR is a puppet of white monopoly capital; he is in their pockets; captains of industry are now the new beneficiaries (much like the Guptas were), according to them.

Second, they plan to frighten our people by declaring a crisis: the Reserve Bank has not been nationalised; land has not been redistributed to the people; the structure of the economy remains in white hands… and so much more, while never sharing any information that will point to the various steps taken by Ramaphosa’s government to facilitate and resolve some of these matters. 

Misinformation is key on all fronts, as are pseudo veterans running amok and putting a flame to the xenophobic tinder in certain parts of the country. 

Expect more of these sinister acts. We can only hope that our intelligence services will be up to the task of protecting the sovereignty of the state and be proactive in this regard.

So, what is the political response from the CR people? What is it that they are doing to halt these miscreants from succeeding? I know and agree that CR cannot get involved in the legal matters, because that can be misconstrued as interference (and we wouldn’t want to give them the same ammunition that was used against Thabo Mbeki, though that turned out to be completely untrue as per a court of law).

That leaves CR and his people with a political strategy. 

The defiance we saw in Mangaung and the blatant violation of the ANC constitution with some utterances, does mean that disciplinary action can and must be instituted against those members. 

Burning T-shirts and defacing the image of the president of the ANC in public might be allowed under the provisions of our Constitution (freedom of speech), but it nevertheless brought the organisation into disrepute. 

Suspension and expulsion from the ANC must be on the cards. We cannot act inappropriately because we yearn for some false unity in the organisation. Failure to act decisively, politically, will result in disaster for the CR camp because inasmuch as a political takeover is highly improbable, it cannot be said to be impossible. 

Politics, after all, is exactly that — politics. With the emergency Covid-19 grant coming to an end in January — and unemployment rising exponentially, the poor, suffering from hunger and service delivery failing the majority of our people, the RET faction has a lot of ammunition to whip up a tsunami that might just be sufficient to pull them over the line come 2022.

In fact, I’m certain that’s what they are banking on, hence the populist rhetoric.

You might play the long game, Mr President, but it seems your foot soldiers cannot see clearly through the fog of war and that, my friend, can be detrimental to us all. DM


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  • A great piece that sums up the reality of the factional battles in the ANC and which poses a mortal danger to SA. CR has to win through and hope that the NPA, Hawks, SIU, ASU and SARS are up to the task. SA has to finally drain this putrid swamp that is poisoning our nation ie jail these thieves and recover all proceeds from corruption and state capture.

  • Alternatively…

    During the Clinton vs Bush campaign in the USA in 1992, James Carville coined the expression, “It’s the economy stupid.”
    Since 1994, South Africa has been beset/overwhelmed with rhetoric and plans – and they have all/mostly used the same mantra – “create employment.”
    We could say SA has had a number of “expressions” to appease the masses voting for the incumbents: Radical Economic Transformation, White Minority Capital, RDP, NDP, BLM and the favourite Create Employment – ad nauseum
    What actually happened when the new order took over in this country was to employ as many people as possible, until SOEs/municipalities bulged at the seams with workers who did not do much except drain the fiscus. Unions have fought tirelessly to the point where public sector wages are higher than the world average and the drain on the public purse means there are limited funds to carry out any projects or infrastructure development.
    SAA had the largest number of employees per aircraft than the rest of the world. Look at it now.
    And here we sit at a record 30% unemployment.
    Twenty-six years of rhetoric and plans have failed to deliver on these promises – so methinks we need a new mantra:

    Radical Thinking Transformation.

    We do have the intellectual capital in South Africa who have proven their capabilities, but they are not part of the elite. Take Mark Barnes for example, he sorted the SAPO to profitability then left thanks to political interference from these elite, and SAPO is again in a mess.
    As long as RET thinkers are in charge, we will not dig ourselves out of this hole. They are so scared of their voters, alliance partners and the red army, that they are moribund incapable of doing what is necessary.
    Corruption has taken over this elite right down the line to lower levels of government. Still the big fish stay out of jail.
    Blaming the past or Covid just will not cut it anymore – the man at the top hangs on by patronage and political favours and maybe only an electorate that sees through all of the nonsense will give them a wake-up call.
    But what do these voters do? – Burn trains, buses, schools and generally break things. I do not see much positive construction or building going on.
    Alternatively, the IMF comes in with strong leadership.

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