Defend Truth


Durban attacks: These are dangerous times we are living through


Dr Imraan Buccus is a senior research associate at the Auwal Socio-economic Research Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at Durban University of Technology.

Uniformed men claiming to be uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veterans openly attacked migrants in the streets of Durban again this past week. It is incredible that the state allows this to happen and that this direct and open attack on democratic values is not a major national issue.

First published  by Daily Maverick 168

In military terms, MK was arguably a failure. But large numbers of courageous young people fled apartheid to join “the people’s army” and it was a very important symbol of resistance for the millions who remained at home. As we all know, MK was sheltered in the Front Line States, and many members of MK married into local communities.

It is desperately sad that the name of an army of resistance, an army sheltered in other African states, an army that was allied to progressive deals is now being used to legitimate a collapse into authoritarianism, public thuggery and despicable forms of chauvinism. It is just as sad that the name of an army that once stood for freedom is now being used to support Jacob Zuma, a notorious kleptocrat who wreaked havoc on our country, setting its progress back by decades.

The word from people on the streets is quite clear in terms of what is actually going on in Durban.

There is an ethnic aspect to the support for Zuma, and there have been some unsuccessful attempts to arouse ethnic sentiments against migrants and Indians. But with the pro-Zuma forces rallying behind Ace Magashule, and backed by a range of shady non-Zulu characters such as Carl Niehaus and Andile Mngxitama, it would be more than a little silly to say that what is going on is a purely ethnic phenomenon.

The heart of the matter is that a predatory political class with no access to capital outside its relation to the state, and no professional qualifications, has been displaced from its access to accumulating wealth via the state. For this class, which is multi-ethnic and multi-racial, the alternative to kleptocracy is irrelevance, and for some poverty.

The forces that once backed Zuma, and now hope that Magashule will return them to influence and power, have no coherent ideological project.

There is no real political project beyond restoring their access to the wealth that can be diverted from the state. However, to restore their capacity to loot from the state they need to win control of the ANC.

Winning control of the ANC is mostly a matter of buying votes and controlling the bureaucracy that sets up and regulates branches but some sort of ideological cover is also required to legitimate kleptocratic elites. Magashule is a master of the dark arts of branch manipulation but with money drying up, and President Cyril Ramaphosa being a very rich man with very rich friends, the kleptocrats have lost some of their capacity to buy votes. As a result it is now urgently necessary to drive an ideological project.

The Radical Economic Transformation (RET) line was always ridiculous. Allowing a politically connected elite to loot the state can only do serious damage to society and to the majority of its citizens. But it had some success until massive popular anger at the wholesale looting of funding allocated to the Covid crisis resulted in a decisive turn against corruption.

The new strategy, following the right-wing demagogues elsewhere in the world, is to try to rally nationalist sentiment behind an attempt to blame migrants for a deep and worsening social crisis. If the kleptocrats can follow the likes of Donald Trump and persuade the public that they are the ones who truly care about the “people”, and are willing to stand up to their “enemies”, they hope to be able to emulate the initial electoral success of Trump.

These are dangerous times. People of principle need to take clear positions against an open, deliberate and violent attempt to corrode democracy from below. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick ‘n Pay Smartshoppers at these Pick ‘n Pay stores.


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  • Lyn Elliott says:

    I really love waking up to your news and you company!! Thanks and keep it up please. Happy festive season.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    We talk and espouse Ubuntu and this romanticised (false) concept of solidarity with our African brothers and sisters in the rest of Africa and yet we behave with such hostility and ingratitude towards them in this country! The only solidarity that SA believes in is to be loyal to the point of stupidity with the old, corrupt and inhumane liberation movements to the detriment of our neighbouring countries. Just think Zimbabwe!Foreigners are not the cause of the problem in this country and if anything, enrich it. Sure there is a criminal element, but that goes for any society. The real problem lies with this inept, corrupt, self-serving and parasitic government that has been in power for 26 years. So much promise and whilst it started off well, the years of that thieving, deceitful and rapacious Zuma and his bloodsucking predatory cronies have left this country bankrupt and a wasteland. It is so easy and disgraceful to blame foreigners for our problems whilst ignoring the real scumbags and scoundrels in our midst, who are still walking free and enjoying the high life with the proceeds of their grand theft.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    The irony of the Trump analogy is that here we have a person of enormous (apparently but not definitely proven) wealth, pretending to be the ‘champion’ of the ‘working’ class. AND… the fools actually buy into that BS! While real ‘wealthy’ people like Gates are giving away sizeable portions of their wealth, here we one who is exploiting the ‘masses’ with massive fundraising schemes to pursue bogus/fake claims of election fraud ! His entire career is filled with episodes of defrauding the ‘system’ to aggrandise his fake ‘stature’ ! Every time he has been ‘found out’ …he has settled out of court…and including non-disclosure agreements to boot !

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