ANC Elective Conference

Cyril Ramaphosa would be a marvellous short-term solution to the ANC’s problems, but the party’s (and nation’s) role would remain fundamentally unchanged.

Stephen Grootes recently presented two possible scenarios for the ANC’s Elective Conference.  In the one, it’s derailed or dragged out on disputes about the provincial general councils.  In the other (contrary to what my political sources used to tell me), Cyril Ramaphosa wins ANC presidency, Zuma is possibly recalled and Ramaphosa is sworn in before year-end.

A look at the battle themes that have brought us here will reframe our perspective so even if the President Ramaphosa scenario plays out, we will not be taken off guard when this ANC conference cycle repeats itself in another 10 years.

State Capture versus White Monopoly Capital

This is South Africa’s favourite dance: a

  • Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla or State Capture,
  • Slew of emails (#GuptaLeaks) or
  • Book (#PresidentsKeepers)

is released.  In response, the anti-WMC brigade says, “If Zuma must pay for Nkandla, then white people must return the land” or ,“When it’s white people, it’s called business; when it’s people of colour, it’s ‘state capture’.”

At the July policy conference, the ANC seemed to favour the description “monopoly capital” over “white monopoly capital”. But economist, Dr. Dr Jason Musyoka, has pointed out that South Africa’s middle class has always initially been a “creation of the state”, making state capture in its latest manifestation a betrayal, especially, of black aspirations.

I would add that in view of race inequality statistics and the legacy of apartheid, taking the colour out of the monopoly capital descriptor in the name of shoring up political power against the facilitators of state capture foreshadows a subtler betrayal of black people. Why have the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act if the face of South African wealth is not white, unless B-BBEE exists to enrich a narrow, politically-connected base? And if BEE is “reverse apartheid” as many of my white friends complain it is, isn’t that a tacit admission that apartheid was unbearable? Far from arguing against the need for reparations, the complaint strengthens the case.

I digress.

This year has increasingly been characterised by the exposure of private sector involvement in government corruption; auditing, software and media/communications businesses have been implicated. When you connect the company names to National Party funders, you see we preserved the apartheid state’s capturedness, suppressed it through Nelson Mandela’s term, and afterwards used the ANC for what it was summoned from exile to do all along: clean up the old government’s mess by being the visible fall guy for increasingly visible business scandals. The ANC proved its ready corruptibility through the Arms Deal before fully embracing its role as the black slavetrader, pimping tax payers and black labour to the highest white bidder. Until the Guptas’ race pulled our attention behind the curtain.

The end of apartheid and transition into democracy were not miracles: they were a PR exercise. 1994ism was the world’s dog-whistled prerequisite for doing business with us while preserving some semblance of white innocence. The myth of white innocence was necessary because white South Africans would remain masters in what would essentially be a neocolonial setup. The exposure of the Guptas first concealed this system by focusing blame on blackness; then it exposed it because it focused attention on the private sector. Until the latter happened, as the shamefulness of the former exposés emboldened the shamelessness of exposed (black) politicians and their comrades in corruption. This fatigued the public’s sensitivity to scandal — and freed more black politicians to run into kickback deals. With this stampede, the curtain hiding the public sector’s participation ripped apart.

Until it ripped, the Constitution made it nigh impossible for courts to force the Executive and Parliament to do the jobs they were contracted to, forcing the Judiciary to further highlight the country’s impotence to do little more than yell, “Shame!” at the corrupt. The definition of “corruption” (which I have questioned before on this blog) made it appear the law was something more than trust-bait so voters would willingly give a contract-dishing, kickback-collecting mandate to some or another party and its funders.

Despite this, white supremacy feels justified in not hiring black people to its offices. Those black people are then left to entrepreneurship, which shouldn’t have to be for everyone. As I’ve pointed out previously, a new entrant threshold of R50 million means the most lucrative government contracts return to the same politically-connected (black) elites, who leverage having had that business to pick up private sector jobs as well.  This concentrates the country’s wealth and makes a mockery of trickle-down economics, forcing more black people to dependency on government.  And government is too busy looting to care that numerous small black-owned businesses do not get paid when they have done work for government (*looking at Minister Lindiwe Zulu*). No wonder Herman Mashaba is so superior: I would be too, if I had beaten the odds he did. The point is something everyone knows: employment and the level of education standards are inversely proportional to the ruling party’s likelihood to retain power. White supremacy is the ANC’s fuel but the ANC was never really that against it to begin with.

The problem, then, has been that with UBaba’s ascent to the ANC’s pinnacle in Polokwane ten years ago, the refined dining of white-collar criminals descended into the savage feeding frenzy of common, bare-faced thugs. This has forced investigations that debunk the white/business innocence myth. Though they had representation on the boards that should have seen the crookedness of the transactions they were signing off, these businesses are now trying to shove all the blame to subsidiaries with the greatest BEE representation (As I often say, BEE consultancies and verification agencies should be defending the integrity of their profession but this hardly ever happens). One begins to suspect the reason ratings agencies (which have also been caught in scandals) don’t think South Africa is “safe” for investment is that under the penetrating gaze of our investigative journalists, our government will, willingly or not, “kiss and tell” as to which businesses have bedded it.

The negotiated settlement may have neared Cyril Ramaphosa to immense wealth. But because what was being held together with those trade-offs was the legend of white innocence, black lives had to be cheapened in that no reparations were made for apartheid victims in 1994 — a decision that made Ramaphosa synonymous with Marikana in 2012 even as he’s presented as messiah in 2017.

Whether because of this or out of envy that he was invited to the white table while so few others were, Ramaphosa and the establishment he represents have attracted enemies he’ll have to overthrow using ju-jitsu type techniques in the next three weeks. These fighting styles are about leveraging assailants’ attacks as opposed to starting on the offensive. With the evolution of media, the legend of  white innocence has become incompatible with demonstrations of full-faced violence and naked ambition by its custodians. Ramaphosa has become one of those, and though he is black, he is counted upon to remain above stereotypical black fighting styles.

Nandos/Daily Maverick Gathering

At the Gathering last week, the ANC’s only cheerleaders were Mr. ANN7 (supports Dlamini-Zuma, last I checked) and Mr. Gordhan, whom I wanted to ask, “Do you support Ramaphosa as your ideal candidate, or as a compromise?” The Guptas are said to have said, “We can buy the Struggle”; we must know whether Luthuli House is selling it Left, Right or Centre. God knows the party capitalised on its own shame by positioning the ANC as the only thing that can save from the ANC. It presents two faces, one for your right-leaning economic appetite and another for your left-leaning social concerns. It is Shaka Zulu’s Bull’s Horns ambush tactic, and it could explain why even Julius Malema was as tame as he was at the Gathering where he all but admitted the ANC is the only game in town.

So, the party’s only weakness might be Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. Patriarchal societies are threatened by women in power: Robert Mugabe got more grace for his sins than even she whose name is Grace, and if Dlamini-Zuma wins and carries the party to 2019, she’ll be more likely cast down in mid-term than the two presidents before her.

As it is, she is not being forgiven for the sin of ever being a Zuma; how would she survive between the expectation that she will end racism by destroying the economy, and the expectation that she would preserve the economy by upholding racism?

Remember, 1994 was a PR exercise and South Africa will never know more racial equality than the global economy in which it trades. We may be one of the most unequal societies in the world but that is only when we are measured in isolation. In truth, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm: you will find former colonial powers’ opulent wealth in Clifton and the former colonised’s devastating unemployment in Khayelitsha. We are not a failed state; we are a failed world.

The Centrality of Racism 

As has been happening more frequently of late — almost daily — I saw this gem of a racist comment on Facebook. The post was about the possibility that EFF might return to ANC; this commenter said such treachery was part of “their blood”.

The other commenters automatically assumed “their” was a reference to black people. Said commenter’s subsequent behaviour (like deleting the comment without saying it meant anything other than what the others thought) indicates it was correctly read by the others as racist.

I wanted to reply, “Would you prefer black people had in their blood whatever white people had in theirs when they visited their hatred on us through history, or would that be too fair?”

There must be black ineptitude, treachery and corruption for narratives and campaigns to leverage towards ideologies that are racist enough to keep black labour cheap, but not too racist lest those of us buying into them recognise them for what they are.

These ideologies seem especially innocuous when they have a black face over them — a Woolworths-priced Cyril dressing to be drizzled over the hypocrisy salad so Maimane can yield high returns in the country Europe intended to have as its refreshment station but turned out to be a literal gold mine, “undiscovered” land and a cheap labour farm.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.


I got hold of the commenter. Her explanation for her comment was something I had initially believed (that “in their blood” was about political conditioning, not race) until she deleted her comment on the advice/instruction of those who thought it was about race. Her choice to delete her comment was not an admission that the racist reading was correct; it was simply the path of least resistance on her part. 


#MaritzburgCollege: How Behind the Education Curve Are We?

As problematic as Maritzburg College’s initial response to the students with the placards may have been, we must protect College’s right to its rules — before we tear into the rules it upholds through this right.

Former cricketer and Maritzburg College student, Kevin Pietersen, thrust the establishment and the students supporting the EFF (in school uniform, on school premises) into the public spotlight with a tweet that read, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?  Total disrespect for a once GREAT school!  Are you joking?!?!”

Advocate Martin Williams responded that the Constitution frees the students to express their political opinions; the school’s code of conduct cannot limit this right.  No less an editor than Peter Bruce also replied, “Well, Kevin, if we as young men stood up to injustice like these guys we would not have become the country you had to leave.”  The freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion are hard to separate from the freedom of expression.

But once the Constitution trumps the rules of voluntary private clubs like schools, then the “equality clause” should force churches (also private voluntary clubs) to give same-sex couples the same rites they offer opposite-sex couples.  In 2015, Eusebius McKaiser argued that he would rather live in a world where Mmusi Maimane was allowed to think homosexuality is sinful than one where he was not.  I agreed, though I wondered whether children should be kept out of churches in which the preaching and practice deviate from what the Constitution says.

De-toothing schools’ code of conduct on constitutional grounds (even if the Schools Act of 1996 supports those private club rules) could have unexpected ramifications also for businesses that don’t comply with the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act.  Should private companies’ decisions on this be overridden by the Constitution’s recognition and redress of past injustices through positive discrimination?  Why have an opt-out option?

Even if we preach Constitutional supremacy, there is a danger that when we use it to take away others’ private club freedoms, we jeopardise our own.

Now, let’s criticize Maritzburg College’s initial stance on the placarded students (even if the charges against them were eventually dropped).

Many of our schools were formed under colonialism or apartheid; Maritzburg College has been “directing potential since 1863”.  Back then, a governmental power would have a system in place to educate white students for senior administrative and managerial jobs in the public sector, or for professions in the private sector that had a symbiotic relationship with said government.  Those who received what would later be called Bantu Education were limited to skills just a little more empowering than hewing wood and drawing water.  This system extracted labour from them through the administration of those from “nice” schools — thereby capitalising itself, paying salaries and assuring life-long jobs in the system.

The training and education of that day spoke to securing employment in that context, and rules against challenging educational establishments were how the system legitimized itself in the minds of its obedient children.

Today’s educational needs and economic background are different: the rules must be too.  In the absence of colonial powers extracting and exploiting black labour, entrepreneurialism and autonomous thought are as close to life-long job security with cushy salaries as many students will get.  This requires the antithesis of silence and compliance because the promises tied to “behaving” can no longer be kept any more than America and Maritzburg College can be made “great” again.

Today, managing one’s social media presence is part of self-marketing.  It must be, for the students’ only survival options will be radical entrepreneurship on their own or radical economic transformation engineered by the state.  When we condemn them for being self-expressive and bold, we’re condemning the characteristics that will be required by the liberalism which, if allowed to flourish, would make the EFF unnecessary as a “last hope”.

To avoid being accused of pandering to opinion just because it’s opinion, a school in College’s position could redeem its reputation as a place of relevant learning by challenging opinionated students to defend their views in the public square under the disclaimer that those opinions are not necessarily theirs.  What on earth could our schools possibly teach, today, other than how to think and substantiate thought?

Steven Sidley wrote an article saying our political parties aren’t prepared for the rise of technology and its ramifications.  Jobs will go to robots; financial institutions will be challenged by cryptocurrencies.  Presidents could start World War Three with a single tweet.  In this world, the airing and defending of a students’ views should not be so under-resourced and unexpected that visually, it’s aided only by hand-painted signs and socially, it is responded to with shock.

We cannot just wait until the end of the year to look for students’ names in newspapers, then lament at how the education system underprepares them for the world we condemn them for engaging.

Our youth deserves the benefit of the doubt — and educational challenges that match the world they’re growing in.  Leveraged well, the ability to defend one’s opinions on social media is the currency of tomorrow and one of the few tools we’ll have to shape humanity’s collective destiny.

Failing this, we’re preparing students for a past world, which the party these boys support claims to be dismantling precisely because many of us refuse to let it go.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Has Upped the Stakes

If the ANC presidential hopeful’s words didn’t startle you like a sharp gunshot above the noise from the Eastern Cape conference, where were you?

We shouldn’t be apologetic.  And I take exception to what Johan Rupert said, that radical economic transformation means — is a code for theft.  I think we should condemn that in the strongest of terms.  Coming from people who took our land?  Coming from people who are monopolising the economy today?  And of course they’d say that because they want to resist.  So they want us to be scared that if we do it we’ll be seen as thieves.  We’re not thieves.  We are not thieves.  Where there are thieves they must be caught and arrested, but we are not thieves, as black people.

This was at the Interfaith Prayer in Phoenix, north of Durban.

As Dlamini-Zuma can be on the few topics she has some conviction on, she was actually presidential: the recklessness of her words legitimised and reined in by a gravitas that surpasses her physique, she commanded a transfixed silence from the audience.  People only interjected to offer fleeting but passionate shouts of approval where approval couldn’t be contained.

We are not thieves, as black people is a lot like black people can’t be racist — grading on the curve, where one merely must appear more innocent than one’s accuser.  This populism strengthens the probability, hitherto diminished among possible future scenarios, that she and the ANC will win this December and 2019 respectively.

To stop that, the opposition would have to talk-up an amended version of BEE.  Once the cat of “radical economic transformation” was out its bag, nothing could put it back: not even Bell Pottinger’s fall.

It doesn’t matter, for example, that the money looted by this administration could have accomplished or could still accomplish that: the perception (exacerbated by incidences that increasingly show “reconciliation” to have been a trick of the light, like a rainbow) is that South Africa remains divided and unequal because the ANC-led government skipped reparations.  Dlamini Zuma has demonstrated the ease with which she can promise to fix that and justify looting.

This is where an amended version of BEE could be used by other parties as drawcards.  The DA once suggested lowering the “new entrant” threshold for the ownership element of BEE from R15 million to R10 million; the DTI instead increased it to R50 million.  This threshold is the total asset net worth at which a black business-owner is considered “new” to the economy — R50 million.  For empowering a black person up until he exceeds that net worth in his or her personal capacity, the current BEE code rewards businesses with empowerment points.

Having R50 million in cash or assets when one’s debts are paid (that’s what total asset net worth in personal capacity means) should make BEE unnecessary unless one is giving kick-backs to politicians.  At R50 million, it should be possible to amass further wealth without the aid of a law created to effect redress.  If the new entrant threshold is lowered, the same wealth black billionaires make will, going forward, be less concentrated as a result of BEE; BEE will be accessible to a greater number of black people.

In theory, then, they would be absorbed into the mainstream economy, giving more of them and theirs a vested interest in voting with the economy in mind.  There would be more voters’ eyes keeping a direct line of sight on indicators like the exchange rate, our credit rating status and the like because their lives would be implicated even if it’s indirectly — through relatives and friends who’d have begun climbing the economic ladder.  Standing more firmly behind a thusly-amended BEE would also get the DA out of the land ownership debate because the agricultural BEE sector codes speak to that.

The other thing the official opposition would have to do to stop Dlamini-Zuma and the ANC is repeat its Bell Pottinger victory with other multi-national businesses.  I tweeted my social media friends to direct-message me the names of global companies they see as benefiting from black poverty (thanks, everyone!).

If the Democratic Alliance could drag Bell Pottinger before the UK’s Public Relations and Communications Association for taking advantage of South Africa’s situation, then we’re ready to hear wonderful news on all the other exploitative and unethical international companies they’re working to discredit before their respective governing bodies for howsoever those businesses benefitted from the effects of apartheid the way Bell Pottinger did.

This register (titled “Arya Stark’s Kill List”, open for edits and comments) has been compiled from the social media responses.  Won’t it be wonderful to begin compiling evidence that the DA isn’t all the horrible things it’s often accused of being?

A lot of rich and powerful people will assume that our courts’ yet-strong stance against corruption will translate into legal victories for the likes of Johann Rupert against the likes of Dlamini-Zuma.  But our courts have an equally strong hatred of the exploitation or understating of apartheid’s effects.  Our courts are not alone: no statutory or regulatory body anywhere would, upon having the spotlight turned on it, tolerate the abuse of economic power by a firm under its jurisdiction.

The question is whether our official opposition believes enough in the rule of law to do unto other businesses what it did to Bell Pottinger.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.


If Zuma Becomes Life President, There Won’t Be a Shower Afterwards

Notwithstanding arguments that the Western Cape government could have pre-empted the water crisis (allowing Premier Helen Zille the dignity of her daily shower), we must wonder whether Showerhead-appointed office-bearers would miss daily splashes if their constituents had water crises.  The answer to that is a no that strongly reeks of a third Zuma term.

The ANC’s elective conference could be postponed to let the party regroup regarding the KZN PEC, delaying the end of Zuma’s ANC presidency.  The party could also solve its factionalism the way the IFP keeps a lid on its succession issues — by not changing its leader.  Would Parliament remain above the fray, or would it also vote to change the Constitution and sanction a third Zuma term?

ANC MPs couldn’t stop sinking that low if they were thrown a secret ballot to pull themselves up with.  The DA got 99 problems, but that thief ain’t one.  And the EFF is fighting two enemies who have more a vested interest ganging up on it than in joining it.

At the end of its policy conference, the ANC dished up race-neutral descriptions of an economy cartelised by “monopoly capital”, showing that though Julius Malema EFF-ectively shaped the discourse on inequality, the ANC could still push a centrist, de-racialized, ANC+DA-coalition narrative ahead of 2019.  The local government elections, too, proved relevance more important than ideology.  For it is written: political parties shall not live by conviction alone, but by every voter, parliamentary seat, government position, and tender-for-friends that proceeds from the mouth of the ANC.

This tells me the EFF must trade one of its non-negotiable horses for one the ANC’s.  I more easily foresee it tolerate Zuma than turn down credit for re-centring Section 25 of the Constitution (Property).  The ANC won’t co-vote with the EFF on that motion until it has something worth gaining — or keeping — from voting for land expropriation without expropriation, and that’s Zuma.

A radical leftist could argue that by allowing a Zuma third term (read: life presidency), the EFF would block capitalists like Cyril Ramaphosa from challenging uncompensated land restitution from the Union Buildings.  Come 2019, the EFF can’t get credit for pushing back against capitalist Ramaphosa or the current land/economic situation unless it tolerates Zuma, who seems sympathetic to the EFF’s cause.  And the party won’t grow beyond 6% without the ANC agreeing to share its funders under the table — or its abundance of politically-motivated smear-campaigns and murders to silence uncooperative EFF members.

The ruling party’s continued existence depends not on “organizational renewal” but its playing dirtier than ever before.  Ramaphosa can’t become party president without causing fatal splits; Dr. Mkhize can’t without being a fatality; Dr. Dlamini-Zuma can’t without collapsing under the party’s sin because patriarchy empowers men to abuse while punishing women for behaving like men.  Mondli Zondo recently wrote articles on debates about whether South Africa is “ready for a female president” and the double-standards that disadvantage woman presidential candidates.

Besides misogyny, there are personality issues: Rebecca Davis has observed that Dlamini-Zuma less resembles “a revolutionary leader and more a rather strict headmistress addressing an unruly school”, so she doesn’t have “that thing” (*makes Hlaudi Motsoeneng gestures*).  Her school principal demeanour makes her more likely to be made Higher Education Minister to announce free education, in accordance with the rumoured prophecies.

If Zuma knows we know he’ll get amnesty or flee, he knows his enemies are already ahead of those strategies.  What we should have learned with the cabinet reshuffles is he tends towards the reckless and unexpected — where nobody is waiting to meet him.  The raw power of unending endurance is consistent with the patronage system, where a change in leadership is more consistent with actual “organizational renewal” — which the ANC is incapable of.

It’s easier to follow patrons than to negotiate systems.  Having fed the demon of tribalism the fodder of patronage, the ANC’s stability has become permanently dependent on its Prime Minister (to the Guptas, or whoever else is buying the country from him).  As August 8 2017 showed, the ANC no longer exists apart from JZ, for he has fashioned that century-old liberation movement into his personal concubinal slave.  “No, the ANC MPs were just letting him finish his term, not allowing a third one — let alone life presidency!” many say.  But how will they draw the line at a third term if they couldn’t say, “Thus far and no further!” on prior scandals?  The unmoved Duduzile Cynthia Myeni is an omen; just as pigs (not French airbuses) will fly before she steps down, Zuma’s likely to stay put.

Two prophetesses warned us: Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo (“Khwezi”) by alleging Showerhead was a rapist, and Unshowered Zille by alleging he facilitates state capture through patronage.  By saying no to them, we (like Zuma’s appointees) said a stinky yes to these last two terms being just the courtship.  Remember Cersei Lannister’s words: “Today?  You’re not going to die today.  You’re not going to die for quite a while.”

It was just the courtship!  We mustn’t be surprised to find ourselves at a KPMG-sponsored wedding kissing our freedoms goodbye.  The oft-married Zuma won’t be.

His name is ambusher, not ambushed Jacob, not Esau; Gedleyihlekisa, not Gedleyinhlekiso; Zuma, not Zunyiwe.  And it will be a long time before anyone gets to shower.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.

Last Week I Agreed with the DA On One and a Half Issues.  But Will I Vote for Them?

Most opposition parties’ arguments against the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament were political.  But the motion was a philosophical extension of what those parties had been doing alongside the DA anyway.  By claiming a political reason not to join in this time, they were imitating the ANC’s defence of its leader in the previous motions they’d supported.

The DA’s argument was: government is broken; therefore, let parliament no longer prop it up at taxpayers’ expense by continuing with the charade that it works when that pretence adds a veneer of legitimacy to the sham it exacerbates.  Shockingly, the other parties were so fixated on protecting their political brands, they handed the title deed for the moral high ground over to the DA on a silver platter, scorning and then defeating the motion.

This could have been the DA’s plan, knowing that politically we can’t have fresh elections but morally, we can’t not have them.  That kind of opportunism is political stock-in-trade.  Francois de La Rochefoucauld described hypocrisy as the tribute vice pays to virtue.  Describing the DA’s motion as grandstanding without refuting it on its philosophical terms (playing the ball) instead of political terms (playing the man) is refusing pay the tribute because you’re tired of the face collecting it.

It would have been enough for the other opposition parties to abstain, or emphasise the debate’s moral necessity more than its source’s political opportunism, and then vote against it for obviously political reasons.  I think I would have understood.  That they voted for their political interests while underplaying the philosophical obligation the DA had introduced speaks to the rising cynicism of South African politics.  There was a time when ANC politicians had the decency to lie about respecting Public Protector remedial action and Constitutional Court findings thereon.  Today, they openly contradict the Constitutional Court.  It appears some of the opposition parties are taking the ANC’s lead.

A distinction will appear, however faint it is now, between parties that lower politics to what’s pragmatic, what’s possible — Machiavellianism — and those that make it about what’s principled.  In the face of our political fatalism, the DA has a track record of saying crazy and truthful things like, “Jacob Zuma must be stopped!”; MP Zakhele Mbhele’s speech reminded me how the DA often plays the prophetic role of Noah warning people about the coming Flood (the EFF does this, too, sometimes).

The mystery of iniquity at work here is that (black) South Africans refuse the truth, intending to assert their autonomy, only to later recognise they’re trapped in that autonomy and need the “oppressor” to liberate them.  Or as a friend said, “White people have been going to courts and fighting our battles, and now we’re in an embarrassing situation where if we agree with them on anything, everything is undone.”

This has a self-fulfilling power to it.  If “the whites” really do want to bring back white rule, they simply have propose obvious solutions to situations faced by “the blacks”, which they’ll refuse because ego, until one day we are truly trapped and have no choice but to be rescued by “the whites”.  My English teacher used to tell the girls in our class, “Run from a man until you catch him”.  Perhaps South Africans are running from the DA because…well…

You may say it was never the DA that defined “right versus wrong” as “white versus black” but if we shift our gaze to the Bell Pottinger saga, we see the effects of apartheid glossed over and minimised.  The simplest explanation (which is then read back on everything else the DA does, including its parliamentary motions) is that while the DA cares to have black voters, it doesn’t care about black people.  This description fits the ANC too, of course.  I’ll be forgiven if I’m wrong, but for every hundred things on why BP’s PR was “unethical”, from various sources echoing or describing the DA’s role, there’s been barely a whisper in the direction of, “BP’s PR strategy was dangerous not only because it broke the rules, but because it had a grain of truth to it”.

Imagine if we destroyed the inequality Bell Pottinger’s campaign exploited as fast as we destroyed Bell Pottinger; if we reached across to townships as easily as we did across oceans to the UK.  And just as describing the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament as grandstanding doesn’t take a stitch out of their argument, taking Bell Pottinger’s tactics and business down as unethical doesn’t render nonexistent the conditions they exploited.  So, the reasoning that helps the DA on one front, overthrows them on the other.

Their fixation on BP’s technique needs to be halved to make room for the concession that transformation is overdue, followed by a reminder of how the DA would resolve inequality if it were in power.  They missed a golden opportunity to woo the black voter, and it would have cost them nothing they have not lost or paid.

If you think women who have to give their fiancés lobola money have it tough, try writing columns telling the party you want to vote for what it has to do to earn it.  But I am winking in the dark, knowing only a few of this blog’s readers and next to none from any political parties.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints. 

Here Is What We Can Do About #CyrilRamaphosaLeaks

Let’s assume that Ramaphosa’s emails were uncovered by an ANC faction to smear his name before the December elective conference.  Should we be passive spectators?  I’d say please let’s not.

But here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter whether popular opinion exonerates Cyril.  By December, he’d have had a “scandal” to his name.  “The public” would have been “upset” by it.  That will ostensibly be reason enough for the conference delegates to prefer Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over him.

This smear campaign’s purpose isn’t necessarily that the public turns on Ramaphosa.  If people support him through this, the Dlamini-Zuma faction can still say (as the ANC) that his public life has created unfair bias and sympathy towards him, pitting ANC against ANC.  And since theirs is a listening party that learns from past mistakes and is acting to purge out factionalism, they’re taking people’s complaints about scandal-ridden ANC leaders into consideration going forward.  They’ll then argue that scandal that incurs public sympathy foreshadows scandal that incurs public outrage, tacitly admitting they gave Jacob Zuma a chance when people rallied around him during his scandals only to find he was good for nothing but scandal.  The point is they can reduce any conversation about those emails to “scandal”, Ramaphosa to a “moral liability” and our reactions to “upset” regardless of our conversations’ tones, contents, natures, directions or general conclusions about the Ramaphosa emails.

I suggest we instead channel our conversations about those emails against the whole ANC’s chances of winning 2019 general elections.  This way, even if the Dlamini-Zuma faction wins in the December elective conference, its choice to use Ramaphosa as a sacrificial lamb would have cost it more than it was willing to sacrifice.

Turning the tables like this would serve even people who want Ramaphosa to become the national president in 2019 by warning the Zuma faction to put aside dirty tactics now, ahead of the December conference.  This would force the ANC to contest elections with a candidate who won the 2017 elective conference fairly, cleanly, or not bother contesting the 2019 elections at all.  This matters because what a political faction is prepared to do to win within their party today tells us what they’ll do to the country tomorrow, and there’s a good chance we’ll get an ANC president replete with the karma of however (s)he got there.  And when karma collects in the form of favours owed, it’s the country that pays.

Ensuring the ANC doesn’t get a leader who’s prepared to play dirty may sound too much like helping it clean its act up for your liking.  In that event, look at it this way: if the ANC is beyond salvation, then leveraging its factions’ dirty tactics to work against the whole party is the fastest way to deepen the ANC’s losses because if it’s beyond salvation, it won’t stop playing dirty.  What does this leveraging look like?  Like taking every accusation against any of its members and make it about the whole party — like the motion of no confidence taught us to do.

If we apply that principle to Ramaphosa, it means exchanging the discussion on whether he used his status and wealth to prey on economically vulnerable young women, for a discussion that encompasses the role played by the ANC-led government in letting inequality, and the connected economic displacement of women, grow to the extent that a culture of preying on them could be fostered among male members of its party.  That would incorporate and centre the example set by its current leader, Jacob, and the rest of the party’s choice to protect him from the motion of no confidence.

Indeed, if that motion taught us anything, it was to always impute any of the ANC member’s failings to the whole group.  The question, “Did Ramaphosa do what he has been accused of?” makes us pawns in their game of scapegoating their own; on the other hand, the narrative, “They’ve all been doing it anyway” makes them one another’s albatrosses.  We must threaten them with the latter so they clean up their act or destroy themselves; we cannot afford to get swept away by the former.

It’s tempting to discuss whether the women Ramaphosa was associated with were financially independent mistresses with true agency or mere acquaintances whose studies he was paying for.  As I’ve said already, whatever those conversations conclude on Ramaphosa, they can be weaponised against him to Dlamini-Zuma’s favour in December.  And if that faction can do that now, why would it not steal the ballot in 2019?

The pro-active conversation is on whether this confusion of who these women really were in Ramaphosa’s life would be necessary if the ANC-led government had done a better job upholding women’s rights and the economy, even if these particular women were exceptions to the norm created by the ANC’s failure.  Questions on if he took advantage of the circumstances must be secondary to what is definitely known about their structural origins in the ANC’s nature.  We have videos of Mduduzi Manana; we don’t have videos of Ramaphosa.

Between now and 2019, we all have a moral duty to also ensure the proper contestation of ideas and elevation of discourse go as far and wide as they can.  If you agree with any of this, tweet me.  Let’s talk about translating it.  Offer that translation to a newspaper in that town you know has stagnated discourse, all controlled by one sector of the political establishment.  Let’s talk about hosting seminars where we thrash thoughts about for clarity.  We were passive spectators to the campaigns in 2009 and ’14; as a result, the state was captured under our noses from 1994 and even before that.

Ask yourself whether can we afford to do less than everything in our power to influence the political discussion.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints. 

#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? (Part II)

Until enough black people have direct line of sight on the economy, being on the president’s side and letting the Guptas’ looting continue is the shrewdest thing an ANC MP could do; it is smarter than voting against President Zuma even in a secret ballot.

As said before, when President Jacob Zuma does something that upsets the economy, white people take to the streets and march.  There, they’re surrounded by crowds that looks representative of Mandela’s Rainbow Nation.  But South Africa is overwhelmingly black, not racially “balanced” let alone a rainbow with neat, equal colour bands.  The missing black crowds will only know what is at stake and fight for it to the extent that the economy is transformed and they have more skin in the game.

This means there are not enough black South Africans backing an accountable government today any more than there were before the Zuma faction arose, and it rose up, in part, because there weren’t enough black South Africans to hold the government accountable then.  If Zuma had lost the motion yesterday, there still wouldn’t be enough black South Africans to keep the next lot accountable because the next cabinet is under insufficient pressure by white people to ensure transformation.

Part III will explain why it needs to be white people fighting for economic transformation so that clean governance can stick (due to enough black people then having direct line-of-sight on the economy, and knowing what is at stake).

All of this means voting for a less corrupt president was much ado about nothing.  And in case you were wondering why black people who despise Zuma were changing their profile pictures into pictures of Zuma laughing yesterday, this is probably why.  Zuma is a symptom.  White people are dying to paint him out as the cause, eliminating him and declaring their work done.  That will change nothing in the long run; without a thick black middle class, South Africa will fall back into the same corruption.

“Siya, there is no way the ANC MPs thought that through in that much detail!” you may be saying.  Okay.  How much conscious thought do you put into a fist-fight?  Eating?  Dancing?  Do you keep your K53 handbook next to you when you drive just in case you forget how?

No.  You just know.  Likewise, politicians just know how politics works whether they can articulate it out loud or not.  That is why very little worries them: nothing fundamentally changes in South Africa, though a lot seems to be happening on the surface.  Lots of talking, marching and court cases.  No transformation.  Our politicians would not have to use active thought to figure out what is happening in South Africa until 100 000 white people suddenly marched for economic transformation.  Ask me about numbers, and I will tell you of an untransformed economy.

Until something fundamental changes in South Africa, ANC MPs see themselves as playing a game based on white rules.  They can never lose that game even if they are caught cheating because there are not enough white people (or the black middle class) to enforce its rules.  You can remove the Zumas, the Guptas and Bell Pottingers but until a large black middle class with skin in the game comes into existence, these crooking elements will simply be replaced with another lot like them.  Voting them out won’t be the end of the game, just a brief and unprofitable change its players, which, in the medium-term, won’t guarantee a permanent banishment of corruption.

Why, then, should these current MPs not be those players, given that before long, a group no better than themselves will fill the benches?  And the only way to ensure a stay in the game is to keep Zuma and his cabinet in the game and not replace them with another lot that will eventually turn out like Zuma but will not hire the MPs who have potentially disrupted their lives to give said new lot the opportunity to hire and fire newbies no better than they are.  The sacrifice of shaking the ANC profits absolutely no one but creates a lot of risk.  Why fire the only boss you know will hire you?  MPs jobs were not at immediate risk yesterday, but with someone other than Zuma as president, you just never know.

Make no mistake about it: those MPs know that a vote against Zuma is not a vote against the ANC.  Do not underestimate their political acumen.  They did not get to Parliament by being complete idiots.  We can throw all the civil societies, media, court cases and scandals we want at government and it won’t change a thing.  Navigating those is as simple for them as not being caught off guard when someone comes swerving from around a corner is to you.

It then doesn’t make a difference to power whether there’s a secret ballot or not because the vote may as well be secret to those who could have held the government to account but do not have direct line-of-sight on the economy to know what government is doing.

Thank you for reading, and please catch Part III.

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Book should land in mid-April next year.

#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? What’s the ANC’s Next Move? Part I

How is it possible that given an opportunity to act in secret, ANC MPs would still reveal themselves as Zuma loyalists?

Answer: the audience they’re playing to doesn’t care much about protecting Constitutional democracy, and won’t until it experientially knows and feels the connection between its interests and the rule of law.

Before explaining that further in Part II, I think it’s crucial to understand why we must anticipate the ANC’s next move.

Many are speculating that the ANC intends to recall President Zuma.  If that’s true, then the ANC’s “self-correction” will happen at a huge cost to Parliament.  When the ANC was cornered about Zuma before the vote, its defenders’ responses to media and other parties implicitly agreed that there were only two choices before the party’s MPs:

On the one hand conscience, duty towards the country and the Constitutional fulfilment of the parliamentary oath, all of which weighed strongly towards supporting the motion of no confidence.

On the other hand was (at best) the choice to keep the party united long enough to discipline its bad seeds as it saw fit later on, without letting opposition parties score points in Parliament.  This second choice would swing ANC MP votes strongly towards not supporting the motion of no confidence.

But this undermines Parliament’s reason for existing (even if those parties were just scoring points!) because it captures the power to hold the Executive accountable from Parliament to Luthuli House.  But because democracy is abstract while the ANC isn’t, stealing from democracy to shore the party up (with the whole country watching) is easier than taking candy from a baby.

This is all assuming no one from any opposition party voted against the motion of no confidence without first telling the National Assembly.  If the ANC alone rejected the motion only to support it later in another forum, it’s saying other party MPs aren’t to be trusted to propose motions in good faith for the Republic; therefore, the ANC has to protect its existence over-and-against Parliament’s mandate.  Even when the other parties are right, they mustn’t get a chance to act on it before the ANC does.

When, then, will the ANC ever let Parliament do its job on ANC office-bearers?

The ANC MPs defended this choice by pointing out “the hypocrisy” of parties that don’t deal with their wayward members and former leaders.  Whatever its merits, the weakness in that argument is that the country has already rejected those parties (and whatever hypocrisy they may or may not be guilty of) by not voting those parties in as national government.  If the ANC will not protect Parliament because doing so would be going over and above the standard supposedly observed by other parties, then the party is calling on South Africans to grade its success not against the Constitution, but on the curve in relation to how well or badly other parties deal with their leaders.   Then there is no distinction between itself and those other parties insofar as protecting democracy ahead of party interests is concerned, and who wins 2019 becomes not a question of who deserves to win, but who has the most campaign resources and funding.  From there, it is only a matter of time before who wins court cases becomes a question of who has the most money for the most expensive lawyers.  Our judiciary has been exemplary, but it cannot hold out against capture forever; South Africa needs to also do its part.

If we rejoice at a pre-2019 Zuma recall, then in the build-up to the 2019 elections the ANC will tell South Africans that it is a listening party that’s serious about dealing with corruption — but it won’t say, “we deal with corruption by undermining the democratic institutions, like Parliament, that were created to deal with it.”  Our complacence at this is a kiss goodbye to all that has not been undermined, all that has not been captured.

Although waiting on internal ANC disciplinary accomplishes the same end as a successful motion of no confidence in Parliament, it does so by choosing what can be done over what ought to be done.  It’s the politics of the pragmatically possible over principle.  It’s Machiavellianism.  In that case, all our thinking on law, principle and virtue must conform to and justify whatever the ANC say as events unfold.  Their preying on our fear of speaking up is consistent with Machiavelli’s understanding of Fortune as a woman that must be beaten and mauled into submission:

“it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman” who “more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly”.

As such, voters — I mean the good Fortune of being elected to administer public funds — is a “friend” of men who are “less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her”.  If she is not subdued, she will use her courts and other pillars of democracy to walk all over rulers who are too diplomatic or “effeminate” to overpower her.

Obviously, Mduduzi Mañana has been taking notes.  So has the rest of the ANC.

How does one resist?

One does not until one has the numbers to do so.

How does one mobilise them?

The answer is in Part II.

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Book should land in mid-April next year.


#MduduziManana: Shocking, Yes; Surprising?  Not So Much

It’s barely Tuesday, and South Africa’s high-drama news diet has already served up Higher Education Deputy Minister, Mduduzi Manana, assaulting Mandisa Duma for calling him gay.  Yet, subsequent discussions and apologies have unpacked neither the homophobia in her using the word as a slur, nor his frame of reference for clearly agreeing it was an insult.

I’ve shared before that in high school, I, too, stumbled upon that girl who used the taunt, “But you are gay” as a weapon.  Such is intended to emasculate you amongst male bystanders.  If you don’t aggressively (read: violently) disprove it, her gender be damned, you’re seen as allowing the taunter to get away with it.  This is as good as saying it’s true that you’re gay.

Gayness is seen as letting others wield power over you (by calling you gay, for example); the idea of being dominated this way has sexual connotations I won’t go into.  Femininity is framed as weakness before others’ insults, which carries the same connotations as gayness is thought to.  The only way a man can shift being feminised (or made gay) off of himself at that point is by feminising others back.  Ergo, violence.

Verbal bullying is more complex than that, of course: the accused is belittled simply in being put on the defensive because he’s likely to become defensive.  The defensiveness is self-evident weakness, making this an instantaneous vicious cycle — a perfect political trap.  The insulted is caught off-guard and already on the back-foot.  Without violence, denialism arouses suspicion amongst bystanders until it’s vindicated through violence.

Is there a choice, besides violence?  Yes, there are two.  One can enter a spiral of helplessness and shame leading to suicide.  Bottled frustration corrodes and putrefies from within.  The other choice takes, not so much inner strength as it does patience; so much so I’m convinced it comes from a higher power.

For after the antidepressants, psychotherapists and good friends have held you back from the pit, and pulled you back again when the depersonalisation, the dissociation and the disjointedness become part of your being, or non-being, this self-exile coming from being convinced your body’s impulses are so much more evil than “normal” teenagers’ that though they still get to date, have first kisses and Matric Dances, you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t.  It all starts blending into the same muffled, colourless procession of events happening on the other side of a kilometre-thick glass separating you from anything and anyone else.

And all you can really do from there is map out the socio-political terrain that produced the teenage quadrilemma of bully/be bullied/kill/be killed.  You calmly, clinically do a post-mortem of who you used to be, the imaginary being who was willed out of existence by years of self-hate, and share the reports as opinion articles for others to read and scrutinise.  You bisect yourself, and invite others to take a look, all the while wondering whether they can really hear you since you’re having some sort of permanent out-of-body experience.

You tell them that the Donald Trump who asserts his masculinity by threatening to bomb everyone is no different from the Donald Trump who brags about molesting women, is no different from the Trump who disparages gay and transgender rights after flip-flopping on them.  The Jacob Zuma who asserts his masculinity through tribalistic othering is not an innocent bystander from the Jacob Zuma who showers after possibly non-consensual sex (otherwise known as rape) with his friend’s daughter, and that this Zuma is not surprised at another Zuma, alien to himself, who goes off-script with gay rights.

Still, the society that made “gay” a slur trusts individuals whose modus operandi is domination to willingly hand over their tax returns and account for their homestead upgrades; it trusts them to do the “honourable thing”.  And you know, you wonder if you’re changing anything or if your sense of disconnectedness derives from society’s paralysis; if your trauma is an expression of theirs.  Except you know about it, and they don’t.

The ANC makes room for Manana’s and Zuma’s behaviour.  If its MPs vote against Zuma in today’s motion of no confidence, it won’t be because of the party’s commitment to respecting the Constitutional Court’s say-so on their parliamentary oath.  Likewise, if the ANC finally caught up on Nkandla, it wasn’t because it respected the Public Protector’s constitutional mandate.  If it’s horrified by State Capture it isn’t because it respects the Constitution’s view of South Africa as a sovereign state whose integrity must be upheld by its office bearers.  If the ANC seemingly champions gay or women’s rights, it isn’t because its president or its deputy ministers fundamentally believe in these causes.  Come to think of it, the ANC doesn’t seem to believe much in the supremacy of the Constitution or the inviolability of human rights.

“When someone shows you who they are,” Dr. Maya Angelou said, “believe them the first time.”  When we hear of people in the ANC behaving as Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana did, we should certainly be shocked and outraged; we should do everything we can to shield their victims from further harm.

But be surprised?  If we’re still surprised, then the emotional putridness has corroded and decayed the last bit of sense from within us.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading, catch it mid-April 2018

#NoConfidenceVote: Some Schadenfreude to Get You Through

This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.

How did we end up with MPs who’d “suicide bomb” the Constitution on President Zuma’s behalf?  If Simon Sinek (author of bestseller Start with Why) followed South African politics, he’d probably say the explanation is biological.

We each have a rational brain (hopefully) that functions as our “press secretary”: think Sean Spicer, Zizi Kodwa, Anthony Scaramucci or Gwede Mantashe explaining the irrational decisions we’ve made at the more animal level of our limbic brain that houses and responds to our Donald Trump shadow.  Each lie Zuma tells is limbic-brain talk intended to resonate with his own.  It’s “true”, or rather, compelling and effective at the felt level.

Likewise, pro-Zuma MPs did not ooze into the National Assembly by osmosis.  They were directly and indirectly voted in by South Africans whose basic Maslow Hierarchy concerns don’t and can’t involve upper Maslow issues like the currency exchange rate, the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, JSE-listed company share prices and credit rating statuses.  Those things can’t take top-of-mind priority until you’ve visibly got skin in the game.  Do you know by how much the walkable square footage at the poles of this planet has changed in the past decade?  You’re probably too busy dealing with what’s in front of you right now to develop a direct line of sight on climate change; it’s “the scientists’ problem”.

In 1994, the system designed to exclude black people from economic participation was altered to include them in voting.  Nothing was designed to give those voters direct line of sight right now on financial indicators, or put their skin in the macroeconomic discourse.  They live in a commercial wilderness colder than the melting poles, but not as cold as outside the ANC and its campaign-season blankets, rhetoric and free food.

Sustainable economic growth will require that those at the periphery of this economic wasteland be pulled in a bit at a time until a critical mass has been included and a tipping point has been reached.  Even if we exorcised the Guptas and the Bell Pottingers tomorrow morning, their replacements would slide right in and carry right on.  We need for enough South Africans to know what’s at stake.

Until then, at a limbic level, the people will only vote only for the kinds of people they can trust.  That’s not a race thing; it’s a human thing — as human as not knowing how much ice melted at the poles of the only planet most of us have ever live on.  At a limbic level those trusted and voted in will, like them, see the Constitution as a fence, a high suburban wall that keeps the status quo’s beneficiaries’ in and poor people out.  These are people who’ll agree it’s “full of demons” for making it easier to access gay rights (on paper, at least) than basic amenities.  My point is that the Rainbow Nation, gay people included, was not a stillborn; it was and is a breech birth.  Or as DA MP, Zakhele Mbele, says,

“When people lack jobs, opportunity and ownership of property, they have little or no stake in their communities”


“Economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion.”

We tried to make social inclusion the foundation for economic inclusion, and it hasn’t entirely worked.  As an indirect result, our options for president may whittle down to prejudiced rape apologist, Julius Malema, whose

“analysis of the [South African] situation is accurate, but whose calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ ignore that Broad-Based Black Economic Transformation already makes the provisions he invokes as political rhetoric to whip up populism,”

as says BEE Novation MD, Lee du Preez.  “The economic message of BEE was never politicised because to politicise economic policy while it’s barely christened by the business world is to break the gentleman’s agreement, an unspoken code of etiquette,” he further points out.  “Not troubled by those niceties, Julius punted nationalisation and expropriation as though BEE had never existed, let alone been christened, let alone achieved equality and equity when it was used properly.”

Malema’s faction previously occupied the niche the Zuma faction does now.  The only difference is the Zuma faction privatized nationalisation (read: captured) for the benefit of an elite and politically-connected few; Malema took that Molotov cocktail of limbic entitlement and hurled it from the rooftops to the masses who caught it.

But Karma, bless her soul, may have delivered a coup the grace.  The Gospel According to Juju is that Baleka Mbete was promised Deputy Presidency, but Zuma used her and dumped the baby (Parliament) on her lap.  If she poisons that child against its daddy by making the vote of no confidence a secret ballot and it passes against Zuma, he and his cabinet (possibly including the Deputy President he appointed, Cyril Ramaphosa), must resign.  Chapter 5, 90(1)d of the Constitution indicates she could then run the country for Woman’s Month as Acting President.

Who knows whether she’d use that time to pull some levers, like bribes (she learned from the best!), to manoeuvre conditions in the country in her favour for the ANC presidential race?

If I could just endure her yelling, “Order!  Order!” for what would feel like eternity, I’d consider giving my immortal soul to be the demon at her shoulder telling her to stick it back at Zuma.  Hell hath no fury and all that.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Siya Khumalo speaks and writes about religion, politics and sex. Next year April, he will release a book.