The ANC: Another God that's failed

Jeremy Gordin writes on the particular disillusionment of the best of the ANC's true believers

A book, an invite, a tweet, and a capsized boat – these seemingly disparate things have this morning floated around my mind like dust motes in the sunlight.


Remember Polly Garter? She’s the naughty person in Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama, Under Milk Wood – a single mother with many children, fathered by different married men from the tiny Welsh town of Llareggub (bugger-all, backwards). As might be expected, the townswomen are all nasty about her [i].

At one point we hear Polly’s voice: “[Here I am,] me, Polly Garter, under the washing line, giving the breast in the garden to my bonny new baby. Nothing grows in our garden, only washing. And babies.”

In my house, nothing grows except books. So much so that this has been the cause of a few harsh words between my gorgeous wife and me. Inexplicably, she believes that food, university fees, electricity bills, etc. should take precedence over spending money on books, those “precious life-bloods of a master (or a mistress) spirit,” as Milton said.

One of these books, an original English edition (Hamish Hamilton, 1950), keeps winking at me every time I go near the shelf where it resides. I read it thoroughly, 53 years ago in 1969 when I was 17, and have a good memory for some things (though not bills, fees, etc.), so I don’t know what the problem is. I guess the book feels it’s high time I paid attention to her again.

It's titled The God That Failed: Six Studies in Communism, by Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, André Gide, Richard Wright, Louis Fischer and Stephen Spender; and caused a massive fuss when published in 1949/50 because – to put it politely – the common theme of the six essays is the disillusionment of those famous authors with Communism and their decision to abandon the Party, even to combat it.

Koestler’s lines from his final paragraphs are inter alia: “I served the Communist Party for seven years – the length of time Jacob tended to Laban’s sheep to win Rachel his daughter. When the time was up, the bride was led into his dark tent; only the next morning did he discover that his ardours had been spent not on the lovely Rachel but on the ugly Leah. [ii]

“I wonder whether Jacob ever recovered from the shock of having slept with an illusion, I wonder whether afterwards he believed that he had ever believed in it.” [iii]


Aha, I see that Andrew Donaldson in his excellent column has already touched on the invitation issued by King Brian to the used cow salesman, Ramaphosa.

The big thing about the invite is that it represents “the first state visit by any foreign leader to the UK since King Charles III succeeded his mother, Queen Elizabeth II”.

Donaldson suggests that what might have played a role in Charles III’s decision to honour Cyril with being his first official foreign guest is the quaint notion – apparently held by some – that our Squirrel is a leader of some influence among African Union members and so could perhaps have a quiet word with his African peers about their dalliances with the Russians and the Chinese.

Additionally, I agree with the Daily Maverick’s Peter Fabricius that maybe ol’ Sleepy Joe Biden might have dropped a word in the royal ear about the need to prop up Cyril who, after all, hails from the Holy Land of Mandela.

Doubtless both Sleepy Joe and Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state who visited recently, have realised that SA has gone a trifle off-piste in a number of ways, but that Ramaphosa (like V Zelenskyy) nevertheless understands how to speak the only language that counts – not Tshivenda or Ukrainian but beaucoup, beaucoup dollars – and that Cyril can therefore be nudged back onto the right path, with a little encouragement from Charles III.

Now then, I was jolted from my usual evening stupor the other night when a friend telephoned. My friend, who happens to pay a great deal of money to our Fiscus, was what I can only describe as “engorged with anger”.

“What the fxxx!” he screamed. “Why the fxxxxx hell is this useless creature going off to see the king of England, at my expense?! There’s no electricity, no water, nothing works – and he’s going to London. WTF!!”


Unlike the doughty David Bullard, I avoid social media. However, courtesy of an informative comrade, I was forwarded a tweet posted by Ferial Haffajee on Tuesday.

“So, we must pay tax, but 1. No electricity. 2. No water. 3. No roads [well, not entirely correct.] 4. No maintenance. 5. No jobs. 6. No houses where needed. 7. No safety and security. 8. No universal basic income. 9. No proper home affairs. 10. No ‘nutting’.”

Ferial is a “South African journalist and newspaper editor,” as Dr Wikipedia tells us. “She was editor of City Press from July 2009 until July 2016 and previously editor of the Mail & Guardian. Haffajee was awarded the 2014 International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists and appointed to the board of the International Press Institute in 2011. She is currently Associate Editor at the Daily Maverick and was previously editor-at-large at HuffPost SA until it ended its partnership with Media24 in 2018.”

She also wrote a book in 2015, What If There Were No Whites In South Africa? I haven’t, alas, read it, but Dan Roodt wrote that underlying Haffajee’s “pastiche of Bosmont memoir, office gossip, antiwhite resentment and racial econometrics, is the idea that whites should ideally disappear”.

Well, Dan Roodt is Dan Roodt, what can I say? I, however, like Haffajee. I believe she’s a “good” person, honest, decent, sincere, hard-working, committed to journalism; and also deeply devoted to the much-vaunted ANC dream of equality of the races, transformation, and all those admirable things.

I also think she’s not alone – I know she’s not alone; I personally know of at least 30 people – and doubtless there’re many more – who are also “good” folks and similarly devoted to those beliefs.


So, Ramaphosa has chosen to visit Charles III at the taxpayer’s expense.

But he’s supposed to be extremely busy trying to steer a country where the electricity and water supplies are in deep trouble, badly potholed roads are the order of the day, there is precious little maintenance of most things, massive unemployment bedevils the place, there’re no houses where they are most needed, scant safety and security, no universal basic income, and a pretty useless department of home affairs. To which list, by the way, one could add many other things.

I wonder whether Ramaphosa had given any thought to putting his shoulder to the wheel rather than taking time off for a freebie.

I also wonder then how Haffajee and those similar to her feel. For it occurs to me that if you’re pro-ANC, or have been till recently, the disaster in which we now find ourselves must whack you very hard indeed.

For it is not only the water, electricity, and all the rest that have failed – your god has failed too. What to do? Write a book titled Another God Has Failed?

What do you feel or say when you discover that, like Jacob, your energies and struggle have been spent not on the lovely Rachel but on the ugly Leah? Do you ever recover from the shock of having devoted yourself to an illusion, a nasty and destructive one to boot?


[i] I’ve been trying to do away with endnotes, as you might have noticed, but I can’t resist this one.

Here is Mrs Organ Morgan, wife of Llareggub’s church organist, talking to her husband, Organ Morgan:

Mrs Organ Morgan: “And when you think of all those babies [Polly Garter’s] got, then all I can say is she’d better give up bird nesting that’s all I can say, it isn’t the right kind of hobby at all for a woman that can’t say No even to midgets. Remember Bob Spit? He wasn’t any bigger than a baby and he gave her two. But they’re two nice boys, I will say that, Fred Spit and Arthur. Sometimes I like Fred best and sometimes I like Arthur. Who do you like best, Organ?

Organ Morgan: Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.”

[ii] I apologise for Koestler’s obviously sexist attitude, what can I say? Different times ...

[iii] I’d better also apologise for the Biblical story’s obvious sexism. The compilers of what we call Genesis are said by scholars to have done their editing and redacting in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, a long time ago – and, it sometimes seems, in a galaxy far, far away.