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Hocus-pocus: No one is fooled by the magic trick of the ANC military veterans

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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.

When I see the so-called military veterans taking our ministers hostage; when I see these young-looking men and women making all sorts of demands, I think to myself, what a magic trick indeed. How stupid must the ANC be to really entertain this nonsense?

It was David Copperfield who introduced me to the dark arts of magic and illusions. How I remember him making the Statue of Liberty disappear or walking through the Great Wall of China. He left people around the world in awe. I used to be so mesmerised by his tricks and illusions – I was taken in by them and found them amazing, to say the least.

Today, the magicians and conjurors are the military veterans of the ANC. 

When checking the dictionary, it states that the word ‘abracadabra’ is a word said by conjurors when performing a magic trick. So, when I see the so-called military veterans taking our ministers hostage; when I see these young-looking men and women making all sorts of demands, I think to myself, what a magic trick indeed.

Imagine 40-year-old veterans with a few oldies thrown into the mix and voilà, you can get R4-million each. Plus benefits like pension, free healthcare and bursaries for your children, and so much more, it seems. How stupid must the ANC be to really entertain this nonsense? Why not call a spade a spade, people? What veterans are these? Are these the same veterans as in Zimbabwe who are youth camouflaged as old veterans of our liberation Struggle?

Looking at some of them, they must have been in their teens in 1994 and they would still not qualify as veterans today. According to the ANC constitution, you qualify to be a veteran when you have had 40 consecutive (unbroken) years of ANC membership, and you must be 60 or older.  

So, where do these conjurors come from? In the early 1990s we had talks about talks, then, suddenly, we experienced so-called black-on-black violence. It seems the ANC and IFP supporters were at each other’s throats and killing one another left, right and centre. Of course, nowadays we know that the apartheid police and some military types were operating in the background supporting the IFP murderers in providing both weapons and training.

The point is that Self-Defence Units (SDUs) had to be established in most of our townships in order to protect ourselves and communities from these bandits. These SDUs were controlled by the youth in our communities. Most of us had no military training – we could not in our wildest dreams be classified as military veterans, and yet it is these people who today want us to recognise them as military veterans, demanding benefits for having been in the Struggle against apartheid.

Imagine all of us making demands from our government because we were in the anti-apartheid Struggle? Why then do these so-called veterans think they can place such demands on our government?  

We see the same pseudo-magic now in Soweto, where a group of people (households) want to trick the government into believing that they must only pay R200 per month for electricity. Magic. For years the ANC government did not have the balls to do the right thing concerning these rogue elements in Soweto, and today they actually think they can just conjure up magic and get their way by not paying for basic services. They have been stealing electricity from the Eskom grid for many years now, and as soon as the new CEO wants to do the right thing, they call him a racist. All the other Soweto citizens pay their dues, but this particular group wants to perform magic. Why do these people think they can conjure up such humbug?

This kind of bullshit magic is allowed to mushroom because the ANC and our government cannot take the necessary difficult decisions and tell such conjurors to go and jump. In short, the ANC government cannot provide the necessary leadership that is required in these situations.

It was Harry Frankfurt, in his book On Bullshit, who explained it so perfectly when he wrote, “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.”

Perhaps the ANC has been taken in by it: they are simply over-confident that they can recognise it, but in these cases it is clear they have missed the point. And now they have to contend with bullshit… with magic that makes military veterans appear from thin air. So taken in by it are they, that they give the military veterans ample time to discuss and negotiate all manner of demands.

It was Wittgenstein who said that the following bit of verse by Longfellow could serve him as a motto:

“In the elder days of art
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part,
For the Gods are everywhere.”

The point of these lines is clear. In the old days, craftsmen did not cut corners. They worked carefully and they took care with every aspect of their work. Every part of the product was considered, and each was designed and made to be exactly as it should be. These craftsmen did not relax their thoughtful self-discipline even with respect to features of their work which would ordinarily not be visible. Although no one would notice if those features were not quite right, the craftsmen would be bothered by their consciences. And so nothing was swept under the rug.

Or, one might perhaps also say, there was no bullshit. Now when we look at our so-called military veterans, did they take care with every aspect of their anti-apartheid work? Were they indeed there? Are they not cutting corners here and now? Or is it just bullshit?

I, for one, take nothing away from those who have sacrificed and suffered the indignity associated with the anti-apartheid Struggle. The torture, imprisonment, pain and killings suffered by so many of our people is very real, and yet they do not demand money or benefits from their government. They would rather demonstrate agency and continue to attempt to change their own lives for the better. They do not reminisce about their contribution in the Struggle and they certainly don’t feel the country owes them anything.

Face your realities like most of our people do. It is true that a better life for all is not yet a reality for all, but behaving like conjurors and wanting to invoke magic by claiming to be military veterans is a cop-out – taking the easy way out to avoid doing something challenging or making a difficult choice.

Stop with the abracadabra drivel and stop with the demands for handouts. We can all see right through you so-called military veterans. DM

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All Comments 8

  • “ How stupid must the ANC be to really entertain this nonsense?”

    How stupid must the average South African be to keep voting these thieving idiots into power while their living conditions deteriorate, and their childrens’ futures disappear?

    ???

  • Weak leaders with no plan to stop the rot – undereducated voters suits the ANC as they cannot discern what good or bad policy implications are.

    • You’re wrong my friend. Their plan is to remain in power whatever as that is the only way the pillaging can continue and they will stay out of jail.

  • So, so-called military veterans are just another bunch of thugs demanding money they don’t deserve?
    4 mill a pop is quite a claim!

    • I’m fully in agreement. Besides the bullshit, the sheer incompetence, the blatant stealing, the corruption, the utter destruction of anything of value in SA. And poor Oscar still flies the flag.
      I’m surprised he hasn’t blamed the Whites and the DA…..or did I miss something.

  • Ronnie Kasrils stated in an interview that post ’94, a database of struggle veterans was compiled, so they know exactly who qualifies for benefits. The rest them have been used as a pressure group like ZANU-PF does, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. The ANC needs to keep them quiet which is why they can’t just cut them off, and why they get such high-level access.