Opinionista Oscar van Heerden 21 July 2021

A gang of grotesque mediocrities tried their best to foment a failed insurgency — they will not succeed

After their failed attempt to destabilise South Africa, these mediocrities issued a threat to President Cyril Ramaphosa: Release Jacob Zuma within 14 days, or else. This boils down to nothing less than domestic terrorism.

Oscar van Heerden

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 leading characters in the drama unfolding this past week, whether we call it an insurgency, coup attempt or simply counter-revolutionary insurgency, are all but mediocre in form and content.

I mean, you only have to look at who they are to realise — no wonder their failed insurgency did not muster the required objective. It is because we are dealing with empty vessels who are corrupt and criminal in their intent. Now, after their failed attempt to destabilise our country, they have issued a veiled threat to President Cyril Ramaphosa: release Jacob Zuma within 14 days, or else.

I want to make it perfectly clear, the minute they made this threat publicly, they entered the realm of domestic terrorists. Yes, the committing of terrorist acts in the perpetrator’s own country against their fellow citizens. Targeting strategic installations, national keypoint facilities, water treatment plants, electricity distribution plants and so much more is ample qualification for domestic terrorism.

This gang of grotesque mediocrities are comprised of the so-called “RET” types. You know who they are. Open defiance in their attempt to undermine the state under the leadership of President Ramaphosa, and yet nothing is happening to these people.

Why?

In wanting to correctly characterise this, there are three things at play:

  • The political conspiracy taking the form of a counter-revolutionary insurgency;
  • The criminal elements that are looting, creating chaos and violence; and
  • The socioeconomic conditions underlying these events.

The first point is where the mediocre ones operate. Clearly, their base was KwaZulu-Natal, hence most of the operation took place there, and nowhere else really except for some areas on the outskirts of Gauteng. How pathetic!

They were really hoping their campaign would spread like wildfire throughout the entire country, but alas, it ran out of steam after just one week. After all, all those meat carcasses and looted alcohol must be consumed at some point.

So, I’m not surprised that by the weekend it all came to an abrupt end. I mean there is obviously a reason why I took almost 20 minutes to try and get that 58-inch TV into my car. Meat on the fire, on my new sofa watching my 58-inch TV, a cold beer or whisky, ready for the “Amakhosi for Life” game in Morocco. Bet you didn’t take that into consideration when you workshopped your well-oiled insurgency plan, did you?

But I understand, you never actually thought you would get to the end of the week. I’m sure there were celebratory drinks all round at Nkandla. Tell me I’m lying!

The form of politics over the past few years under the Zuma administration has been simple. Steal indiscriminately, loot the coffers of the state dry and have no regard for the law or our constitutional democracy. That’s why when things don’t go your way, it is so easy for some to accuse our judiciary and our government of apartheid-style tactics.

We have moved so far from that evil system, but I guess not according to you, who served as president of this democratic republic for nine years. You, who have been premiers for more than a decade and you, who have served as deputy ministers. Grotesque mediocrities who have no regard for the vows you have taken on so many occasions — to honour and protect the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Today, you are the ones that are actively fuelling violence and insurrection.

It has become rather obvious that you have been on the back foot for some time now, perhaps because from the very start you overestimated yourselves. You underestimated President Ramaphosa and his carefully crafted plan. You are no longer in charge of any state-owned entities, so cannot loot nor accumulate any resources to mould a significant attack on the leadership of Ramaphosa. You are no longer in control of the secret funds of both crime intelligence (SAPS) nor the State Security Agency, hence again, no looting possible, nor resources for a fightback. The taps have been systematically turned off.

And boy, are you trying to get your hands on something. Major-General Jeremy Vearey had to go and yet you lost the court case yet again. Peter Jacobs had to go because he had a stranglehold on the secret funds of crime intelligence, so you had to move him to the police inspectorate, of all places. Robert McBride asked too many questions and saw too many illegal activities that he too had to be suspended and moved aside. You tried and you lost! Because you are grotesque mediocrities.

As for the second issue, the law enforcement agencies must enforce the law. Poverty can never be an excuse for lawlessness and criminality, never. Large-scale arrests must take place, there must be no granting of amnesty for looters because tomorrow they will simply do it again.

Already we have seen how quickly the looters cottoned on to the simple fact that because of Marikana and the flak the police got from that unfortunate incident, they would think twice before they used lethal force — and hence the unabated looting we saw on our TVs.

To retrieve all stolen goods immediately, gazette an amnesty period for everyone to return all the goods within a certain time or face the long arm of the law, eventually.

The third element outlined above is by far the most complicated. I have written about this issue for years and maybe, just maybe, this time my white compatriots will take stock. Poverty, inequality and unemployment cannot be only a government problem because you pay your taxes. Let’s not tackle this historical injustice the way the white farmers in Zimbabwe did. Knowing about the land question for decades, but convincing themselves that because they were doing good and providing for the economy, they simply did not have to contend with this critical matter at all, until of course it exploded.

My white counterparts here in SA like to quickly remind us of the Zimbabwe situation and the fact that we are well on our way there, but astonishingly never want to take the time to really dissect the historical challenge in SA and the need to reform the structural components of our economy.

How long will the ostrich approach last here, I ask? Let’s openly talk about what a wealth tax would entail, what a sovereign wealth fund would entail, and what a comprehensive basic income grant would entail. These are uncomfortable questions, yes, but necessary ones.

Blaming the government for the manner in which it responded to this latest crisis makes us feel good perhaps, but you and I know, the real challenge is in how we move forward in building and protecting our non-racial, non-sexist and democratic SA. United in our diversity!

We will not be distracted from this noble goal. As citizens of this beautiful country, we shall prevail and we shall overcome. For if we do nothing after the events of the past week, we are as complicit in the continuation of our historical injustice as those really responsible for its evils.

No gang of grotesque mediocrities will derail us. DM

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All Comments 15

  • So what do we do, Oscar? Where do we start? What steps do we take?
    Yes, we pay our taxes, yes we exercise our right to vote, but what else do we do?

  • I am in agreement with the essence of your summation. However, I sense that you got stuck on historic events and the colour of people, especially the ones with a lighter hue. Cut that out and there will be a meeting of the minds.

  • Unfortunately we have lots of mediocracy on either side of this family squabble. Fancy a job as a minister in this government? They have lots of vacancies for competent people (dark complections only) .

  • A wealth tax! But the whites have always been the major contributors to tax in this country. What has happened to that tax? Would a wealth tax be any different, or just more funds to plunder?

  • In a normal democratic country, citizens expect and receive – decent schooling, decent healthcare, security.
    If we wish to have these rights – definitely not privileges – we must pay private providers. So effectively a very high wealth tax is already in operation in good old RSA!

  • The tragedy of South Africa is that our country possesses all the intellectual, human and material resource capital necessary to turn our beloved country around. It is the misguided “faith” of the governing ANC in the “gospel” (read my lips: the good? news) of marxist/leninist/fascist doctrines that stand in the way of real progress. And, please don’t point to China as an example of what such doctrines have achieved. Their whole edifice is built on the brutal and total oppression of the population and the suppression of true democratic expression and freedoms. The ANC is not going to change – all of their ideological, political, and social premises are aimed at staying in power at all costs. For them, the party and the state are one, just like in China, Cuba, et al. What South Africa needs now is a fresh and constructive political alignment, and a leader(s) of boldness, integrity and courage, able to offer a vision for the future that all patriotic South Africans can buy into. Please, oh please, will they stand up. God have mercy on us!

  • Land for the poor has been freely available for more than a quarter of a century, yet – at least at the last time I heard it reported on – less than 10 percent of this land has been granted.
    So there seem to be some immediate steps that could be taken here, no?

  • After more than 27 years of ANC rule, our main boast is that what once worked, no longer works. It is a land in which we are also able to boast that we have one of the most illiterate and innumerate populations in the world.
    All I have heard and seen from Oscar’s ANC is a diet of platitudes about “new dawns”, “rebirths” and transformation, while nothing really changes because the economy does not grow, local authorities remain corrupt, schooling does not improve and “empowerment policies” bypass the poor.
    The enthusiasm for a neat conspiracy to explain all of the above, and pin it on Zuma, is an attempt to shield the current administration and those in power from any responsibility. Conspiracy theories can be profoundly comforting, as they imply that our problems are willed on us by others, who can be identified and removed.
    This hammering on inequality and always having to blame the Whites reads like ideological opportunism, a mere diversion and ethnic scapegoating.
    We have now become part of Africa.
    The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered a judgment is Western. African rulers will never do that. Look at how the rest of Africa is governed.
    In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power, have it for themselves & their friends and families.

  • Just waiting for a couple of these ‘mediocraties (including the Zuma twins) to be had up for treason. SHould I hold my breath?

  • Oscar, great article, seriously great. But lets be real, Zuma & Cronies, messed it up for all South Africans. By not providing for the poor, houses, jobs, buoyant economy, decent growth rate, all by portraying to wrong message to the outside world 🌎. Populist image, of socialism for SA, while looting every parastatal in our country. Pocketing the money that should have been used to provide services, schools, flush toilets, clean washing water, adequate electricity, hospitals & medical for everyone. Now when its discovered too friggen late, and he is sitting in jail, we sit with his can of worms in our lap. And you ask what now ! Firstly they, his supporters, must acknowledge that they Zuma & Cronies, knowingly, blew apart any dream, our nation might have had, as a Rainbow Nation. Yes 👍 now is the time, as John Steenhuizen so eloquently said, forget politics, all like minded parties must now pull together, for 1. consequences 2. Reshuffle 3. Massive directional changes to policy, to get the country Zooming again. No more “if’s & but’s “ just do it. Cyril i know you can do it. Oscar tell him.

  • Another thoughtful article. I wish this line would have been the headline: “Poverty, inequality and unemployment cannot be only a government problem because you pay your taxes.”

    The solution to the triple challenge facing South Africa needs to be addressed by all South Africans. Government needs to come to the party, but the real shifts that are needed must be implemented and supported by all of us.

  • The socioeconomic conditions underlying these events… the Grotesque mediocrities themselves as 9 years were spent looking out for number 1…

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