Defend Truth


The brand of politics practised by Ace Magashule’s supporters is one of chaos


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.

How does the so-called radical economic transformation group backing Ace Magashule hope to pull off taking control of the ANC, and hence the country? Through chaos. It must create a complete sense of panic and hopelessness throughout the country, and begin to spew its RET rhetoric to garner support from the masses of our people.

As I have predicted, we are threatened with shutdowns and general ill-discipline from rented crowds (“RET forces”) claiming to be ANC members. They claim they will bring the country to a standstill until the decision of the ANC NEC is revisited or indeed revised — preferably, I suppose, rescinded in its totality on the stepping aside of Secretary-General Ace Magashule.

The strategy and tactics remind me of the Hollywood movie, “Our Brand is Chaos”. In it, two political strategists, professional spin doctors and adversaries, go head to head to see which of their respective candidates will win the hearts and minds of the people and get elected president of the country.

Well, here at home we have Ace versus Cyril Ramaphosa and the question on everyone’s mind is, which grouping will win the hearts and minds of the South African people as we move towards the all-important elective conference of the ruling party in December 2022?

But before we come to this movie, the “Balance of Forces” document of the ANC, authored by Joel Netshitenzhe and a few others, gives an accurate synopsis of the state of play. Allow me some indulgence.

The document says “a state that in 1994 represented the interests of a minority has been transformed, in terms of both form and content. This democratic state draws its legitimacy from the basic law of the land. But such legitimacy is also won in the crucible of actual practice: by the extent to which it is effective in devising and implementing policies of change; by the conduct of the political leadership; and by the professionalism and responsiveness of the bureaucracy. 

“In other words, legitimacy has to be continually earned. Many developments which suggest that the legitimacy of the polity and the state may be fraying bear scrutiny:

“Popular protest has been part of South Africa’s body politic for many years in the post-1994 period. The levels of poverty and inequality will certainly inflame passions, even as progress is made to deal with the challenges. This is the flammable social tinder that the democratic state has to manage, through practical action and by continuously infusing the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.”

This is precisely the flammable tinder Ace and his cohorts would want to exploit going forward, hence the threat of multiple shutdowns. The document continues:

“Civil society in South Africa has historically been among the most vocal and active. From community to sector-based organisations, these have added to the legitimacy of the system as they provide a platform for pursuing specific aspirations. However, in the recent period, major trends have included: a weakening of worker organisations (through poor organisation, divisions and even violent competition); campaigns bringing together a wide variety of interests to challenge government policy; organisational meltdown in civic structures; and a weakening of progressive engagement among women as well as youth and students.”

Passions of the youth and students are also going to become fair play for the RET forces in pursuing their brand of chaos.

“Even with regard to concrete instances of corruption at any level of government, the sense that there is clear intent and serious action to deal with these matters does give confidence to society about the ethical foundations of the state.

“Related to the above is the very question of the capacity of state institutions to meet their mandates. When the general impression referred to above can be directly linked to poor capacity within state agencies — which is also a consequence of high turnover in the management echelons, poor decision-making that suggests patronage and cover-ups, and appointments that defy any rational logic — the state as a whole starts progressively to lose the confidence of the people.

“The hope that prevents South Africa’s social tinder from catching fire can thus dissipate. It is precisely this state of affairs that emboldens forces opposed to transformation to seek to challenge the very legality and legitimacy of the system and to disrupt its stability. 

“They find courage also from the fact that self-declared ‘revolutionary’ elements are adventurously seeking to set the social tinder alight and to assail the legality and legitimacy of the system. A cocktail of forces of the right and the self-declared ‘left’ thus find alignment of tactical objectives. EFF comes to mind, not to mention ATM & BLF.”

Now, back to the above-mentioned movie. As I observe these developments, I’m reminded of one candidate emphatically promising the electorate that he will never turn to the IMF to get the country out of its economic woes and yet, soon after the announcement of his victory, he signed the necessary papers with the IMF and thus indebted his country and its people for generations to come. 

This would be Ace Magashule and his ilk, I put it to you. With all this talk of pro-poor and radical economic transformation, his populist self — which he cannot discard — will betray the people in the end.

The other candidate who seeks a social compact with all role players in the country to find lasting solutions, however, did not do enough to win the majority vote.

Now, how did the Ace group manage to pull this off? Well, through chaos. They must create a complete sense of panic and hopelessness throughout the country and begin to spew their RET rhetoric to garner support from the masses of our people.

They must demonstrate the non-delivery of basic services, the poor state of the economy, the poor state of the police and the “corrupt” judiciary. They will make empty promises of increasing social grants and introducing a basic income grant for all. They will then have to create a constitutional crisis by undermining all Chapter 9 institutions, especially the NPA and our courts, especially the apex Constitutional Court.

It will be coordinated and structured, mind you. First, you attack the fourth estate — the media is biased and in the pockets of white monopoly capital. Don’t believe a word they say, print or broadcast.

The fragility of our institutions must be safeguarded and hence we must lend our support to the “Defend Our Democracy” campaign. I know we are all asking whether the NPA has a solid case against Ace and others. This is a valid question and one that will be answered only once the various criminal cases get under way.

Second, they must create a security crisis — so they will instruct members of the SA Police, intelligence structures and the SANDF (MKVA) who are sympathetic to their cause to revolt within their respective organisations.

Third, they must further undermine and cast aspersions on the untransformed white monopoly capital and shout that structural changes are needed now! By the way, this is a campaign that they never prioritised for the past decade. But we will believe them this time around.

And finally, they will move in for the kill — a hostile takeover of the ruling party at its elective conference in December 2022.

Chaos will reign supreme! This will be our darkest hour.

Again, I’m referencing another movie, Darkest Hour, in which Winston Churchill finds himself in a bit of a quandary. A quandary that says, shall we go to war against the Nazis or not? Some in his party insisted that he strike a bargain with Hitler and his advancing forces, while others demanded that the time for talk was over. Winston was faced with a dire choice — to plunge his people into a bloody war or to, in a manner of speaking, surrender to fascism.

In May and June 1940 a large portion of his armed forces was trapped in Dunkirk in northern France. How to get them back from certain annihilation?

As Britain stood alone against the Nazis — the French had already surrendered, to all intents and purposes — Churchill called on the people of the UK to take their own boats and dinghies and set sail for Dunkirk to rescue as many soldiers as possible. The evacuation was codenamed Operation Dynamo, and what a huge success it turned out to be.

The moral of this story is that although you might seem to stand on your own, Mr President, take us, the people, into your confidence. Just like those brave souls that set sail, so shall most citizens support you in this fight against chaos and tyranny.

We expect all leadership structures of the movement to deal decisively with ill-disciplined members in all provinces. The NEC was unambiguous when it stated that no one must associate with a factional grouping in the form of RET and work against the ANC — no one. And for those who refuse to step aside after the 30-day period, there must be suspension with immediate effect, no questions asked. It is up to the PECs and RECs to assist the NEC (the highest decision-making structures between conferences) to implement these decisions.

Yes, we know that in response to the RET calls for structural changes to our economy, we must implement Nasrec conference resolutions with some speed, and indeed the Ramaphosa grouping has done so.

Structural reform of the SA economy is, after all, needed, not so? Some resolutions are proving a tad more difficult than others to implement, but this is not insurmountable.

Yes, there must be a tinkering with the social contract as it stands or else we will have not delivered to our people. We understand this and are doing all we must to find solutions to these challenges. 

The fragility of our institutions must be safeguarded and hence we must lend our support to the “Defend Our Democracy” campaign. I know we are all asking whether the NPA has a solid case against Ace and others. This is a valid question and one that will be answered only once the various criminal cases get under way.

The morbid symptoms suggest our darkest hour… so, can we rely on our people (civil society) to go out with their boats to protect our armed forces, our troops defending our God, country and Constitution? DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    A fake democracy cannot be defended. If the Constitution has loopholes to buy votes that lead to the election of leaders who should never have been there in the first place, SA needs more than a massive Dunkirk moment. We also need people with integrity. Those have always been in short supply.

    • Hiram C Potts says:

      Well said.
      The bottom line is that it’s all about controlling the levers of power so as to enable even more looting & theft. Plain & simple.

  • Dr Know says:

    The RET should be very careful to light the tinder of discontent, they are equally to blame for the making of it and could very well burn themselves too.

  • Rian Rademeyer says:

    How bleak. Imagine the economic slump. The poor will suffer first as they did under his Free State tenure.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Oscar, this is NOT a Hollywood movie, but a mess created by your beloved ANC. They had enough time to become a competent government. They have wasted their chance.

  • David Schmidt says:

    Thanks Oscar. An eloquent analysis that sets out the fundamental truths and difficult challenges we need to confront.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    The moment we halt reverse apartheid we will retain SA skills and unleash the creative energy of all our people. Educate, educate and educate more and we can be a winning nation. Corrupt politicians be damned. Let the real South Africans stand up, be counted and not fall foul of the lunatic fringe.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Please protest now. 29 April is D Day for Ace. 3 weeks left. Tik Tok.

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