NEWS & ANALYSIS

ANC policy conference nonsense

Jeremy Gordin says the reportage of the Sunday papers was awful

As some of you know, I'm usually a mild-mannered, easy-going sort of a fellow, inclined for the most part to joviality, with the milk of human kindness flowing pleasantly in my veins.

But, geez, I got pissed off on Sunday. After luncheon, as Nigel Bruce would have called it, I bought the Sunday Times.

"Chaos at ANC indaba," intoned the front page headlines.

"[email protected]$ me, George, and call me Alfred," I thought to myself. "What have I missed? How could I have missed that?"

As it turned out, I'd missed nothing. "Despite the stage-managed facade of unity on display during President Jacob Zuma's closing address on Friday, the Sunday Times has established ..."

"...the Sunday Times has established ..." This is pompous newspaper-speak meaning: "Well, this is the stuff we think we can vouch for after grilling all five reporters - but, um, it's been a bit of a stretch." ("And, between you and me, china, the editor's got that feeling in the pit of his stomach that editors have when they find out, at 4pm on publication day, that they haven't got a bloody lead worth writing home about.")

And what had the ST established?

Inter alia that the delegates "assaulted each other" over "nationalisation." Over nationalisation? Well, blow me down with a feather; didn't know people cared that much about nationalisation ....Ach, rubbish. Apparently two okes had a barney over the microphone. And, by the way, I didn't go to this conference. But I've been to other ANC jamborees and they are even more badly organised than the department of basic education's book deliveries and this one, I hear, was a hegdis (Gaelic for "mess") of note. So of course there were scuffles over the roving microphones ... 

Second, the ANC's top six were "seen as having been emasculated" because none called the delegates to order. Emasculated? Do you know what the word means? Did you fellows not see the Spear of the Nation before it was emasculated?

Anyway, after about six short paragraphs the article rapidly moved off the "chaos" to inform us that the party remained divided on key issues such as (a) whether or not about JG Zuma should serve a second term and (b) the proposed nationalisation of mines.

Well, duh, as my 13-year-old daughter would say. That's what conferences are about, aren't they? To argue about things. It's a facet of democracy and a sign of some health in that moribund organisation, the ANC, that folk are arguing about nationalisation and Zuma's second term (or is it going to be the third hiatus of his second transition?).

As a Parthian shot for the whole paragraph (do you think the ST journos know what a Parthian shot is?) we had this: "A senior NEC member, opposed to Zuma's second term [sic - and no names, no pack drill], said the conference left his faction emboldened. ‘Zuma is not coming back ... politically he's finished.' He said it was clear the NEC was ‘shocked' by the rejection of the ‘second transition'."

"Politically, he's finished" ...? Yeah, right; you keep me telling me that, Mr Anonymous, especially when we meet at Mangaung ...

And what f^&$#xxg rejection of the second transition?

Every ANC type - and they were "senior" types - hauled unwillingly on to e-News or the SABC was asked, "Now about this rejection of the second transition ...?" And they all asked, as I have just done: "What f^&$#xxg rejection of the second transition?"

No one seemed to have thought it was rejected but that it had merely had its name shifted to the "second phase of the first transition". (Is that what it's called? - yeah, I think so.)

I mean it's all codswallop, we know that, but I don't think this particular exercise in semantics - The Semantics of Codswallop", a PhD thesis - means that Zuma suffered a crushing defeat. I think it means the ANC mainly fiddled about with some not-very-impressive phraseology while Rome burned ... or, as it so happened, Limpopo school children spent their days picking their noses instead of filling in work books.

Anyway, the whole second transition shtick has mostly reminded me of the immortal lines from Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited:

Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren't right
My complexion she said is much too white
He said come here and step into the light, he says hmm you're right
Let me tell the second mother this has been done
But the second mother was with the seventh son
And they were both out on Highway 61 ...

Then I turned, with some excitement, to the brain boxes writing in the Review section. The main piece was by one Caiphus Kgosana who was going to explain Zuma's massive tactical blunder. I was, as I have just written, looking forward to this with some excitement.

What a mind-number extraordinaire. I really couldn't get through it. Could be that I have Attention Deficit Disorder; could be that it was boring and uninspired (as is, I readily concede, the whole issue of the second transition and what it's supposed to signify - Kgosana was handed a bit of the old poisoned chalice, methinks).

Then - working on the basis that I have certain principles, but that if you don't like them, I have others - I broke my own ban regarding the purchasing of City Press - because, well, because the ANC policy conference was purportedly an important conference.

Oy, did I make a balls-up. The CP proclaimed that the "Tide turns against Zuma". Why? Well, Zuma took a series of knocks, the CP politics team informed us, because most delegates are still being horses' asses about the youth wage subsidy, because there was agreement to some sort of "strategic nationalisation" (whatever that means) ... but then the article sort of petered out ...

So what's to say about all this? Well, for one thing, journalists really need to start being journalists and to stop being, in the words of Blade Nzimande (and who ever thought I'd end up quoting him approvingly?), they need to stop "being mouthpieces of [the] factionalists in the tripartite alliance".

All I can say - he said boringly - is what I wrote in the Zuma biography regarding the run-up to Polokwane: journalists have to stop talking to the big mouths in Luthuli House and to the various dial-a-quotes. They need to get out more and to and talk to ANC members all over the country - to what Steven Friedman would call the ‘the grassroots" - and find out what the various branches are planning to do re and at Mangaung.

You can see why I was pissed-off last Sunday. Not only do I find myself quoting a Friedman phrase and agreeing with most of what Nzimande said in his piece of 2 July ("The media's misreporting of the ANC policy conference"), but - and this could come close to ending my beautiful friendship with the Bullfinch - I also have to agree with many of Mondli Makhanya's comments on the ANC policy conference.   

Maybe it's time I moved into the ninth phase of my first transition.

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