The state of the ANC: A response to David Bullard

Jeremy Gordin says his fellow columnist's generalisations went too far


David, my brother - not in Christ, but in non-kosher breakfasts - three points in limine.

First, I would rather be eating, sleeping, or listening to Buddy Guy than sitting in front of a keyboard. Second, insofar as I have amétier, it is un-seriousness. I believe, very seriously, that serious people and issues are tedious and should be sent to re-education camps or the National Council of Provinces.

Third, I was thinking about how my friend Roy and I used to giggle about something Muff Andersen (major, MK, retired) said in the days when she was a music journo. She said or wrote, very sincerely, that the Police (the rock group, not the pigs) was - and I quote - "very sincere."

You understand what amused us, yes? It was her wonderful wide-eyed naiveté (and this from a ranking officer in MK). For when it comes to column writing (or novel writing music or painting or dancing or acting), the issue is artifice. It's about putting the thing in a frame or format; it is not about sincerity.

In other words, David, I would very much doubt that you are being sincere in what you write, especially as there is a particular kind of provocation that you (and most interesting columnists) need to create in every piece so that steam comes out of your readers' ears or they wet their pants with laughter, or both.

You are one of the best, if not the best, at doing this in Seffrica. This is why you get more responses on Politicsweb than I do; you are much better than I am at pissing off people and/or amusing them. And this is why the management and editorial chiefs at the country's largest newspaper groups will not hire you. They are too busy bending forward and pulling apart their bum cheeks in front of the god of Mediocrity, an ugly little tokolosh if ever there was one.

But, before this becomes an Aristotelian treatise on column-writing and sodomy, let's move right along. Here's what I am going to do. I am going, as it were, to break all my rules:

(1) Notwithstanding having close by an unwatched DVD of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and BB King jamming in Texas, I shall sit in front of the keyboard and write a response to you;

(2) I shall, against my better judgment, be serious about your article of 4 April on whether it matters who leads the ANC; and

(3) I will assume, also against my better judgment, that you were being sincere or, at any rate partially sincere, in what you wrote in that article.

Why am I doing this? ... Because I was very struck by what you said in that article.

Because - and this is vital - when the pain-in the-tuchis who calls himself "Plutarch" asked which people in the ANC you would be prepared to call "good" (i.e. not corrupt), the silence - from you and everyone else - was deafening. No one actually answered the question or took Plutarch to task for writing, "I confess to not being able to identify even one [good person in the ANC] ..." (You could have at least drubbed him for his split infinitive.)

It was so quiet that I could hear the planets swishing through the heavens.


Let's start with Plutarch's question and remark - and your contention that in general the ANC is "a ragbag of kleptocrats".

I know a number of senior ANC members who would not steal anyone's money and who would not, moreover, take advantage of their positions to make a profit. But they would probably be embarrassed if I named them here. So let's turn to the cabinet only.

I'm willing to venture that the following people, whatever their other faults might be, are not "financially" corrupt: Angie Motshekga (basic education), Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (prisons), Lindiwe Sisulu (defence), Pravin Gordhan (finance), Ebrahim Patel (economic development), Derek Hanekom (science and technology), Aaron Motsoaledi (health), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (home affairs), Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim (international relations), Andries Nel (justice), Trevor Manuel (national planning commission), Collins Chabane (the presidency), Rob Davies (trade and industry), Sbu Ndebele (transport), and Jeremy Cronin (transport).

That's a fair amount, isn't it? Could you find as many in the English cabinet? Perhaps; but you'd struggle a little. Remember the revelations about the appalling lies that MPs told so as to collect extra expenses for their castle moats or their London pieds-a-terre?

Could you have found as many "clean" folk in the former Italian cabinet? You're surely not going to hold up Silvio Berlusconi as an example of financial (or any sort of) probity, are you? You do know that, until a few years ago, bribes were legitimately part of German arms dealers' budgets? You do know that the French government still condones bribes when it comes to arms dealing?

The point is not to point my stubby finger at one government or another and to shift blame. The point is, David, that your presentation of "the ANC" and "the ANC government" as a collection of kleptocrats is, in the first place, a dangerous generalisation.

Secondly, it's also an unfair one because, below the surface of what you say, is the unspoken contention that somewhere - in the fair and far north (the UK and Europe and maybe the US) - it's somehow better.

It's not better. Looting is going on there as well. It's merely done more subtly and in a more sophisticated and covert way, that's all. If you think that the fellows at the houses of parliament or the guys at congress are not scratching one another's backs, at the expense of Joe and Joanna Public, you're simply naïve.

Yes, I suppose that, if "I were a black South African who had voted for a better and fairer South Africa in 1994 I would be hugely pissed off."

I think there're two points be made here. The first is that the transition was made - Nelson Mandela came out of prison and the ANC was voted into power - in such a starry-eyed fervour ("a miracle") and in such a blaze of righteousness ("no one has a constitution as glorious as ours, no one has a morality such as ours") that, once the honeymoon was over, it has been disappointing to see that we all have clay feet after all.

But what, you might ask in response, about the constant infighting in the ANC, the moronic behaviour of Little Julie Malema, and the astonishing lack of direction among our politicians?

Ja, I know, it is depressing - and it's likely to get worse, alas, before it gets better because the old guard seems to have the party firmly in its clutches; and a Nelson Mandela Mk. 2 - an ANC politician who's going to take the party and the country by the scruff of its neck and restore some direction and morality - is so far nowhere to be seen.

You say you wouldn't be at all surprised to see a splintering of the ANC ahead of Mangaung "as the more globally in touch members of the ANC realise that South Africa is in grave danger of becoming another spectacular African basket case."

I'm afraid not, David; not this time around; maybe in 2017. Certainly, if you think, as you seem to do, that the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, Patrice Motsepe and Tokyo Sexwale might be potential saviours ... well, I think, in the words of publisher Jonathan Ball, that you might need to get out more.

I think too that, in the interests of perspective, you might try some reading about some of the Republican presidential candidates in the home of the brave and land of the free.

I know comparisons are odious, but some of those people are seriously loopy (and they get loopier every four or five years). They might have white teeth and not shout loudly and have passed woodwork at school, but they make youth leaguers seem like girl scouts.

Greed and venality - looting and pillaging - are international languages; I can't think of many places where they are not spoken. Nor are there many places where politicians are the best, the brightest and the most honest.

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