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The RET fightback storm is coming

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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.

Like Russia, which will not compromise its national self-interest, so too the RET faction will go to war to ensure they attain their objectives. That storm will hit us, and hit us hard.

Since the opening of Parliament in February, it seems as if matters have calmed down significantly in our body politic — or is this simply the calm before the storm?

The NPA has indicated it is making good progress in many high-profile cases. The State Capture report has shed light on many wrongdoers in government and the private sector, and we await the President to point the way forward on these matters.

Finally, a head of the judiciary has been appointed and I’m sure that Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will restore the dignity of that high office after his predecessor went off the rails towards the end of his term.

The President, it seems, has kicked into a different gear and has now decided to consult with citizens on the ground through imbizos, which is something to be welcomed. The President, who it seems is now comfortable in his skin, has also decided to consult with various ANC provinces and it seems clear that many are supporting him for a second term. But the RET forces will not have it. They are certainly gathered in dark, smoke-filled rooms planning their next assault.

These past few weeks saw Russia invade Ukraine and a full-blown war break out in that part of Europe, to the utter dismay of many Europeans. John Mearsheimer, a respected international relations scholar in the US, makes the argument, in wanting to understand this war, that international law and morals and ethics matter in the international system, except when they are in direct conflict with your strategic interests.

Let me elucidate this point. There exist a number of theoretical schools within the realm of international relations and, without wanting to bore, I will very briefly speak to some of these. 

The realist school is by far the most dominant theory, which simply says that the world is anarchic; that there is no global power to govern this anarchy and therefore individual nation states must take care of themselves in the global system. In short, might is right. The more resources you command, the more armed forces you command, the more soft power you command, the more you can ensure your strategic interest and national security imperatives.

The liberal international school, on the other hand, also subscribes to the basic principle that the world is indeed anarchic: however, it disagrees with the realists in that it believes global institutions such as the United Nations, the UN Security Council, the World Health Organisation, the International Criminal Court and the International Labour Organisation are stakeholders that can attempt to manage such anarchy along with individual nation states.

There is also a Marxist and a post-modern school, but I won’t presume to bore you with these.

Now, the simple point Mearsheimer is making is that in the international system, predictability of nation states is critical, international law is respected and adhered to, morals and ethics in the system are important and finally, strategic interest is of utmost importance.

Now, in the international relations system, he says — and I agree with him — when all of the above is in direct conflict with a country’s national interest, in other words, international law and moral and ethical arguments don’t hold with a certain country, that country will invariably settle to defend its national interests first and foremost. National interests speak to any country’s sphere of influence and its national security.

In case you are wondering how all this relates to our domestic situation, and why I talk of the calm before the storm, it is because I propose that the very same thing will play out here at home in the coming weeks and months. But a war of a different sort.

Using the same argument with respect to our national politics, RET people are governed by two core objectives. One, they want to stay out of prison at all costs. Two, they want to be back in the driving seat of power — in other words, they want to get their hands on the public purse yet again, because these last few years they have been starving, not having been able to steal or benefit from corruption.

So, to protect their self-interests and work towards these two objectives, they don’t care about the law of the land. They will frustrate the NPA and delay justice as much as possible. They will instigate violence and mass protests for their own personal reasons, if need be. They don’t care about the moral and ethical arguments put forward by many citizens and civil society organisations. All that matters is their own self-interest: that of staying out of prison and taking back power.

Like Russia, which will not compromise its national self-interest, so too the RET people will go to “war” to ensure they attain their objectives. That storm will hit us, and hit us hard.

There are reports of an ANC National Policy Conference taking place in July. This is where the RET forces would want to cement their hegemony, attempt to make the conference their sphere of influence and attack the CR forces.

It will therefore boil down to having either a strong and stable or weak and unstable outcome in July. Strong and stable if Cyril Ramaphosa and his group prevail, or weak and unstable if RET forces prevail. The CR grouping will move us forward with clean government and an anti-State Capture position, whereas RET will take us backwards.

The attitude of many ANC provinces is that they must keep their eye on the bigger picture and not get bogged down on individuals and their respective legal forays.

When all is said and done, they must win elections. They must stay in power. And the RET faction threatens this objective for its own self-interest and should not be allowed to do so.

Now, let me also indicate that there is a possibility of the RET forces realising that without CR they simply wouldn’t win the 2024 general elections, and therefore they will have to contend with him at the helm, while controlling him from below, so to speak. It’s a calculated risk on their part.

As far as their being the puppet masters, I say two things: first, our people are not stupid and will see right through such a clumsy plan; and second, the CR grouping had better mobilise properly to make sure that, this time around, it will be a decisive rather than marginal win.

In other words, don’t sit on your laurels. Get ready for the impending storm. DM

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  • I concur with Oscars astute analysis; they will hang on to Ramaphosa’s coattails as they know that without him the ANC is likely to be unelectable and then seek to control him like a marionette. Incidentally, and of course far removed from this first sentence, does anyone yet have a handle on who is behind the oil pipe-line thefts? Clearly they believe they can act with impunity, care not one jot for the National interest and are well resourced and funded.

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