Loathing in the time of liberation

But when a woman decides to sleep with a man, there is no wall she will not scale, no fortress she will not destroy, no moral consideration she will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about. – Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.

Over the last 20 years, there is nothing I have grown to despise more than the ANC. Or rather the leaders who have twisted and mutilated this liberation movement so much, that it has degenerated into the rotting, ponging carcass it is today. If I were to take the liberty to alter slightly the quote above from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, it would go something like this:

But when a corrupt politician decides to usurp all power, there is no wall he will not scale, no fortress he will not destroy, no moral consideration he will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about.

I have written many times before on this blog about the oh so many transgressions of the ANC, but I am unfortunately not as eloquent as writer, researcher, lecturer and political activist Dale T McKinley, who published an article in The Star newspaper. I will now take a further liberty and reproduce it here verbatum, because I think the whole world needs to know what is happening in South Africa.

Power, money define a modern ANC

One of the favourite sayings of ANC leaders over the years, and most often directed at those of its members who have departed the organisation for various reasons, is: “It is cold outside the ANC.”

It doesn’t take a political analyst or life-long movement activist to figure out the metaphorical meaning.

Simply put, the “warmth” inside the party is defined by being part of the ANC’s unequalled access to and use of institutional power – whether as applied to the ANC or the state it largely controls – and the accompanying material benefits (read: money) derived. Twenty years into ANC rule it is that “warmth” that has, in turn, come to define the party itself.

None other than the ANC number one himself confirmed this, even if for very different reasons, not long after he had ascended to the presidential thrones of party and country.

Speaking to the ANC Veterans League back in 2009, Zuma declared – without a whiff of contradiction or irony – that “money and positions have undermined the ANC (and changed its) character and values”.

He was quickly followed by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who proclaimed that: “When selflessness, one of the principled characters of our movement, is being replaced by a newfound expression of selfishness, wherein personal accumulation becomes the main cause for divisions, we must know that the movement is in decline.”

No doubt both Zuma and Mantashe were attempting to present themselves as the “new” champions of some kind of moral regeneration campaign within the party. After all, they had succeeded in ousting Mbeki and his neoliberal technocrats, with Cosatu and the SACP leading the way, by claiming that theirs was a politics of returning the ANC “to the people” through a principled, accountable and exemplary leadership.

As has most often been the case with the ANC since 1994, however, the reality is a far cry from the rhetoric. Even if present before at the individual level, under Zuma’s leadership the pursuit of money and power (position in the ANC and the state) has become the sine qua non of membership and more specifically, advancement. Closely tied to this organisationally bound accumulation path is an effective “requirement” of an obsequious loyalty to Zuma himself, a willingness to defend and cover up for number one, whatever the cost.

Over the past several years the cumulative result at the macro-organisational level has been quite dramatic. The ANC has morphed from its earlier transition days as a “modern” bourgeois political party designed to consolidate a class-based system of power overlaid with narrow racial interests to an inveterately factionalised, patronage-centred, corrupt, rent-seeking and increasingly undemocratic ex-liberation movement.

In turn, this has framed more particular examples of the ANC’s inexorable political and organisational descent:

* The retreat into the political shadows of ever-increasing numbers of the “older” generation of members and leaders who have become disillusioned with the party’s trajectory and its present leadership.

* The marginalisation, expulsion and, on occasion, murder of those in the ranks who have opposed, questioned and/or exposed the conduct of leaders of the party and the state who are, in one way or another, part of the Zuma battalion.

* The ascendance of a new breed of militarised, dumbed-down, “yes baas” storm-troopers and securocrats whose core purpose is to police the masses and guard the party/state gates against unwanted questioners and intruders.

* The embracing and catalysing of a politicised ethnic identity alongside xenophobic, homophobic and misogynist attitudes and behaviour that potentially foreshadows an inward turn towards a pseudo-”traditionalist”, social proto fascism.

* The widespread disintegration of the ANC’s grassroots structures into mostly corrupt, localised factional vanguards “servicing” various party dons;

* The sustained socio-political rebellion of its “natural” constituencies among the poor and working class, the general response to which is a dismissive arrogance combined with heavy doses of repression; and

* The spectacle of professed “communists” and “radical” unionists enthusiastically espousing a politically and socially reactionary politics, defending and covering up corruption as well as engaging in the gradual balkanisation (and in some cases, liquidation) of organised working-class forces.

Such ANC characteristics have not however, as might be expected, led to a parallel decline in the number of ANC members. Indeed, if ideological and organisational coherence, actual job performance and delivery of mandates (whether as party or state leader and/or official), respect for rights enshrined in the constitution or adherence to the general letter of the law were the main criteria for prospective members, then the ANC would surely be an unpopular choice.

Instead, over the past decade or so there has been a considerable increase in membership growth. What this shows is that more and more people are being drawn to join the ANC not out of political/ideological belief or because they think the party is the best vehicle for sustaining democracy, advancing political cohesion or contributing to effective public service.

Rather, and as several recent research contributions to a special issue on the ANC at sub-national level of the journal Transformation reveal, the key drawcard of ANC membership is the pursuit of power and material advantage (most often in the form of money). This is directly tied to patronage and clientism, which have become the dominant forms of political and organisational direction and leadership under Zuma.

Flowing from the top downwards, these forms have ensured that each successive level of leadership and structure (within the party and the state) is umbilically linked to a particular faction competing for political control and position in order to access resources. In the process, internal democracy and lines of accountability become little more than irritants, pushed to the margins of rhetorical spin.

Not surprisingly, the cumulative result is that the line between party and state, at whatever level, has become more and more blurred. ANC structures, from top to bottom, graft on to the parallel state structures like parasites feeding off the bounty. The two “bodies” become progressively intertwined, the trajectory of one dependent on the other. Where there is mutual benefit to be had, the various “bodies” will co-operate, but it is just as likely that they will enter into (factional) conflict where there is competition.

Besides the sorry organisational and political state of the various ANC “leagues”, the ANC’s own core structures are in trouble.

By all accounts, a majority of ANC branches are either largely dysfunctional or racked with factional battles. The party itself has acknowledged that the majority of its provincial executives and parallel provincial structures are “unstable”. The “best practice” example of this is to be found in none other than number one’s backyard, with the conference of the ANC’s largest region – eThekwini – having to be postponed indefinitely due to infighting and allegations of cash for votes.

With crass accumulation as well as open and often violent factional conflict combined with regular exposures of massive fraud and manipulation of meeting and election procedures, the general state of things in the ANC looks more like a mass drunken fight in a casino than a 100-year-old party governing a country.

The outside world once helped us bring down the tyranny of apartheid. I fear we may soon again be calling upon the outside world to help us bring down the tainted liberator.

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This ain’t no banana republic

Everything leading up to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by Scoundrel No.1 the President a few weeks ago and subsequently has given force to the idea that South Africa is a banana republic.

Social media was abuzz with claims that the beginning of the end had started that horrid day. Those video clips of the bust-up in Parliament was merrily doing the rounds, much to the delight of all those who have over a period of time come to despise this ANC administration (as admittedly, I do too).

But are we really a banana republic?

No. And far from it. However, the daily antics of our politicians, especially those in the ruling governing party will not ease the cries of the nay-sayers. But do we have a democracy then?

No. I’m not convinced that what I’m living every day is actually a functioning democracy. At least not in the traditional sense like those in countries such as Norway and Switzerland say (two random European countries. Extracted from Global Democracy Ranking), based on (1) politics, gender (socio-economic and educational gender equality); (2) economy (economic system); (3) knowledge (knowledge-based information society, research and education); (4) health (health status and health system); (5) environment (environmental sustainability).

As you can see, South Africa is not doing too well; way off the mark actually and declining. But we’re the new kids on the block, so a little leeway should be allowed, right?

No. Instead of making headway to improve our fledgling democracy, the politicians seem to be heading the other way. My experience is that the politicians are too busy looking after numero uno (well Scoundrel No.1 The President first, then themselves obviously because the system of patronage must be protected) and they have absolutely no compunction in trying to hide it, nor do they show any remorse when caught.

The levels of corruption are so bad, that when the nay-sayers do label this country as a kleptocracy, I have no hesitation in agreeing. It seems so apparent that our politicians are hell-bent on making South Africa the leading kleptocracy in Africa, maybe even the world.

Footnote: Choosing Banana Republic by The Boomtown Rats would have been an obvious choice for my mostly usual Monday music post, but I decided to go with the other one as this post developed into a rant. I Don’t Like Mondays has nothing to do with going back to work on a Monday, or whatever people usually think, but has to do with the shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, USA on 29 January 1979, who like our politicians showed no remorse for her actions.

The evolution of the ANC excuse

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South Africa’s government, the ANC has done a lot right in 20 years of ruling running the country. But they have also done a lot wrong.

However, every wrong was brushed aside with excuses. Rather amusing ones too. Meanwhile, it’s patently obvious ANC politicians reward themselves for every right with self-enrichment. Or because successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of the voting fodder deserves a pat on the back, they’re maybe  rewarding themselves for both. Who knows?

While they initially start with outright denial when confronted, the ANC are growing their list of excuses:

Apartheid

White people, also known as the race card

The Third Force

Colonialism

The official opposition in Government

Apartheid (yes, they use this one liberally)

Jan van Riebeeck

Economic growth

As you can see from the last two, it’s desperate times for the ANC. I’m giggling in anticipation at what they’re going to dream up next.

December Road Trip

It’s time to hit the road. Tomorrow we embark on an epic South African road trip.
Johannesburg – Graaff-Reinet – Plettenberg Bay – Cape Town – Colesberg – Bloemfontein – Durban – Johannesburg
A total of 3886km, excluding the local trips in each destination. That takes care of nearly the whole of December.
And so I got to go pack and catch some zzzzzz’s…

Gobble! Gobble!

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The President is well-known for gobbling up taxpayers money for his personal benefit, but a Sunday newspaper called him a chicken yesterday and for good reason too.

Jacob Zuma was labeled South Africa’s Number One Coward for refusing to answer questions in Parliament simply because it’s getting much tougher to defend the indefensible. Scandal seems to follow him around like a mosquito on steroids.

To make matters worse, his spokes-idiot Zizi Kodwa defended him by saying “The president can’t go to parliament when that parliament is a circus.” People have been calling the ANC-run parliament a circus for years, and it’s pretty darn hilarious that they agree.

If it was at all possible to take things from worse to rock bottom, you can count on Zuma to comply. At a Press luncheon over the weekend, Zuma asked if it was unfair for him to squander spend nearly a quarter of a billion rands on sprucing up personal residence at taxpayers expense when an airport was constructed nearby former apartheid era President P.W. Botha’s  home for his apparent exclusive use.

Not only was the comparison disingenuous, the dufus failed to realise that defending his wastage by comparing it to another cretin’s wastage, was the worst possible thing to do. This self-serving clod, never misses an opportunity to remind the sheeple how terrible the apartheid era sins were, while never missing a chance to repeat them himself.

While credulous voters continue to abide this disgraceful specimen, it will be gobble, gobble, until the country is properly ruined.

Mrs. President

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I am all in favour of female Presidents, because let’s face it, men are such egotistical bastards when it comes to governing. Unsurprisingly I rooted for Hillary Clinton to become the President of the USA when the choice was “do you want America to have its first Black President or first female President.”

Female heads of state are not rare, but neither is it a common occurrence. Europe, South America and the Far East seem to have a more enlightened approach and leads the way when it comes to electing a head of state, compared to the rest of the world. Africa has had only about three female heads of state, if you exclude those who acted in the position. In what is traditionally a male dominated sphere, women who do become Head of State, must surely have had a tough time getting there, and an even rougher time, being there.

However, in certain instances one has to draw the line at who is allowed to become a female leader of a country. I draw the line when cronyism or competence is involved.

Grace, Robert Mugabe’s wife’s entrance into politics in Zimbabwe is a classic case of cronyism. Anyone with two brain cells must immediately conclude that this is a blatant attempt by Mugabe to entrench his hold on power by creating a political dynasty involving his family. Off course in a country where democracy is just a word, and elections a mere formality, her rise to the top is all but guaranteed.

South Africans from many quarters have been proposing that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of incumbent President Jacob Zuma, become the next President. As much as I would love to have a female President of South Africa, it must not be this woman. If her performance and achievements as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Health and Home Affairs at various times ar anything to go by, she is not fit to be a leader of state. Her current portfolio as head of the African Union Commission (AUC), formerly The Organization of African Unity (OAU) is also not something to be proud of. This is essentially a glorified Dictator’s Club.

South Africa has many women of substantial quality who can lead the country, when Jacob Zuma is hopefully booted out unceremoniously. We must choose wisely.

When overzealous politicians go South

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The South African (ANC) government has introduced some neat legislation over the course of twenty years which most people are happy with. Over recent years however, they seem hell-bent on tipping the scales with a plethora of mind-numbingly dumb laws, such as The Protection Of Information Bill.

Recently the idiot politicians (beats the hell out of me why they are referred to as lawmakers) in charge of Home Affairs, dreamt up some silly rules to govern Immigration, among other things. Journalist Peter Delmar of Times Live has written a very witty column about it, and because I could not in my wildest dreams have said it better, I’ve decided instead to steal it whole and post it here. I’m sure he won’t mind.

Impressionable minds at the Department of Home Affairs have been watching too much CNN.

If you’re a foreigner married to a South African, congratulations: we really are the very nicest people in the world to be married to. Too bad, though, that you will have to go back to wherever it is you came from to prove that you really are you – even if you’ve been living in this country for years, happily producing broods of little half-South Africans.

If you’re, say, a rocket scientist, a bio-molecular astrophysicist, or a newspaper columnist (one of those scarce and valuable skills we need more of if we’re going to grow our economy), you’re going to have to jump through a whole heap of hoops to convince our Department of Home Affairs that they should let you in. And genuine foreign investors can jolly well stick their money and their factories in any other country if Home Affairs doesn’t like the look of them. This because, nowadays, Home Affairs takes security very, very seriously.

(The new-found security obsession of what used to be considered the world’s worst government department does rather bring to mind that phrase that has to do with horses bolting and locking stable doors. Until very recently our borders were beyond porous and South African passports could be bought at any old flea market almost anywhere in the world.)

But not any more, not since tough guy Malusi Gigaba took over at Home Affairs a few months ago. Now we have a department of paper shufflers determined to keep us all safe. About time too (the police gave up long ago on the business of keeping people safe and secure).

But the regulations that Home Affairs’ blunt-instrument law-drafters have come up with are not exactly winning them friends and influencing people.

Most recently it was the airlines that were up in arms over Home Affairs’ brilliant idea that nobody should be allowed to travel to South Africa with a child if that child did not have an unabridged birth certificate.

All over the world millions of very nice people with nice steady jobs they have worked at for 30-odd years have been saving all their lives to come on holiday to South Africa so that they can point their Nokias at our crocodiles, get a suntan and drink cheap beer.

The problem the airlines have with this unabridged birth-certificate story is that Kenya also has cheap beer and lots of sunshine.

And crocodiles. In fact, thanks to that carefully stage-managed annual migration lark, Kenya’s crocodiles are much more famous than our crocodiles. (A big drawcard for nice rich foreign people with steady jobs used to be our rhinos but, well, we’re sort of running out of those .)

Last week the mandarins at Home Affairs agreed, in the most grudging tones, that they would deign to speak to the meddling, protesting airlines, which wanted the unabridged-certificate wheeze postponed for a year.

This is good news. Perhaps Mr and Mrs Airline can explain to the aunties at Home Affairs how things work: “We fly in lots of foreign tourists who spend lots of money in our country having a wonderful time. The money these nice rich people spend creates jobs.

“All of the people looking after them – the hotels, the bus operators, the B&Bs, the restaurants, the shopkeepers the grandchildren buy ‘Hello Kitty Goes to Kruger’ T-shirts from, even the brewers who make the beer – pay things called ‘taxes’.

“And those taxes keep you lot at Home Affairs in your jobs.”

Now I wonder which government department will try to top this act of lunacy. There sure are plenty of them, and they keep growing after every election.

Making amends with Herman Charles Bosman

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I have a rather embarrassing confession to make.

I have not read a single book by a South African author in all of my 48 years. Surprisingly, I was not asked to in school either, although one set-work was African, but not South African. And so, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe has been the only book from this continent that I have read.

I have given some of the greatest authors ever, the skip, for all these years. Alan Paton, Nadine Gordimer, Nelson Mandela, Andre Brink, J.M Coetzee, Antjie Krog, Breyten Breytenbach, Wally Seroto, Olive Schreiner, and even J.R.R. Tolkien who was South African born, all passed me by.

At this point, I need to make another confession. What I stated in the paragraph prior to the one above, is not entirely true. I did read Slave Species of God by Michael Tellinger out of curiosity, but I consider that a non-book. It is the biggest load of pseudo-scientific rubbish you will read. And so it does not count.

However, all that has changed and I’m now making amends for the many years of scorning South African authors. About two weeks ago, I was loaned an old copy of Herman Charles Bosman’s Bosman At His Best. It’s a compilation of some of his best short stories, and what an awesome story-teller he is. And that’s not all. This guy is damned funny. Get a load of this from In the Withaak’s Shade:

I remember the occasion that I came across a leopard unexpectedly, and to this day I couldn’t tell you how many spots he had, even though I had all the time I needed for studying him. It happened about mid-day, when I was out on the far end of my farm, behind a koppie, looking for some strayed cattle. I thought the cattle might be there because it is shady under those withaak trees, and there is soft grass that is very pleasant to sit on. After I had looked for the cattle for about an hour in this manner, sitting up against a tree trunk, it occurred to me that I could look for them just as well, or perhaps even better, if I lay down flat. For even a child knows that cattle aren’t so small that you have got to get on to stilts and things to see them properly.

And…

What was more, I could go on lying there under the withaak and looking for the cattle like that all day, if necessary. As you know, I am not the sort of farmer to loaf about the house when there is a man’s work to be done.

Not surprisingly, I’ve dropped everything else I’m reading until after I’ve devoured these brilliant stories from one of South Africa’s most famous authors.

Incidentally, there’s a full reading of this hilarious short story available here on YouTube.

On the not-worth-talking-about scale

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck South Africa today around lunch time. Originating in Orkney in the North West Province, the tremors were felt in large parts of the country and even in neighbouring Botswana and Mozambique.

I felt it in my office while on a conference call and just looked up at the ceiling. I’ll bet many others looked up at the ceiling too. Probably a normal reaction, that. It’s being reported as one of the biggest to hit South Africa. Seems there wasn’t too much damage, except for the unlucky guy who died after a wall apparently collapsed on him.

Up here on the Reef, we live directly above working mines and tremors from mining activity is quite normal. Sometimes in the dead of night, I can swear I hear the locomotives running deep underground in the mine tunnels. But this was a real quake, albeit not much worth talking about when compared to the recent disaster in China.

In other not worth talking about news, I discovered today that there’s a random dude from South Africa who’s following my blog. What’s not worth talking about though is his blog which spews the kind of bigotry I rant about here on my own blog. Seems he’s a homophobic, patriarchal, anti-feminist, religious ANC supporter.

Not sure I want his kind following my blog. Get thee gone bigot.

And finally, it’s being reported that the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) is losing its relevancy. That to me is not entirely correct. Presided over by Angie Motshekga, this woeful organization lost its relevancy a long time ago. They were merely going through the motions of being constituted, whereas all they were doing was supporting the puerile ambitions of power-hungry ANC men, and furthering the patriarchal agenda.

It is widely said that Motshekga single-handedly destroyed South Africa’s education system. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but she most certainly played a huge role in dumbing it down, and still does. And her feats of maladministration in the Education Ministry are now legendary.

The cremation of the ANCWL will not come soon enough, and hopefully we won’t have to suffer the presence of Angie in Education much longer too.

Recuperation breakaway

It’s never a great idea to pack on the morning you are going away somewhere for an extended stay. Especially not when you’re departing at 4:30 that same morning.

But now I know for sure.

The girls and I holidayed in the amazing Mpumalanga Lowveld area last week and I forgot to take my cameras. I never leave my cameras behind when going away on holiday. But this was a first, and only because I packed in a hurry. Somehow the bag with the cameras whose batteries I had charged the night before, never made it to the car. Which meant I had to take a few pictures with my stupid cellular phone. I hate that thing; more so if/when I have to use it for more than just making or receiving calls.

But I did. And I got shitty pictures.

Awful, aren’t they? Please use the link above to get a decent idea of how beautiful this area of South Africa is. The German tourists seem to dig it. Met quite a lot of them taking in the sights, and every one I spoke to was impressed with the natural beauty of the Lowveld. Or maybe they’re just still so happy after that fantastic World Cup win.

By the way, the picture with my car visible in the background through those empty curio vendor stalls is not one of the natural attractions of this area, although I’m still pretty pleased with that four and half year-old Honda. I was just fascinated with the way the stalls looked in the setting sun.