Boot-licking with a forked tongue

Andrew Donaldson says the ANC is now going to have to grovel before both the Americans and Russians


BE on the alert, nature lovers, for a massed lemming-like reverse ferret could be in the offing. The ANC government is expected to send a high-level gatkruip delegation to Washington to plead with lawmakers there not to punish South Africa for its non-nonaligned stance on the war in Ukraine. 

Business Day reports that the mission, headed by trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel, is part of a plan to ensure the country remains eligible for preferential access to American markets. 

Patel would, in particular, be making an oral submission to the office of US trade representative Katherine Tai to secure South Africa’s position as one of the 35 sub-Saharan territories that benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and to allow the government to proceed with its plans to host the upcoming Agoa Forum.

Which should be interesting: a member of one of the world’s most doctrinaire communist parties seeking favour from the overlords of Western capital. We live and learn, as they say.

Pretoria insists, though, that there is nothing out of the ordinary here; these submissions would precede the 10-year review of South Africa’s eligibility for the trade pact, which expires in 2025. “This is standard practice,” a government source told Business Day, “and talks such as these are usually conducted at ministerial level.” ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

What is perhaps not standard practice is the request from bipartisan US lawmakers calling on the Biden administration to move the Agoa meeting from South Africa to another country because of the ANC’s perceived support for Moscow. In their letter to Tai, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and president Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the officials bluntly state:

“We are seriously concerned that hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum in South Africa would serve as an implicit endorsement of South Africa’s damaging support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and possible violation of US sanctions law. Further, these actions by South Africa call into question its eligibility for trade benefits under AGOA due to the statutory requirement that beneficiary countries ‘not engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests.’

“While we understand that the AGOA eligibility review process for 2024 is underway and that decisions have not yet been made, we question whether a country in danger of losing AGOA benefits should have the privilege of hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum. Our concerns are shared by many South African citizens and businesses, who are increasingly vocal about deteriorating conditions in the country.”

The letter’s signatories include the Democrat senator Chris Coons, who chairs the Congressional subcommittee on state and foreign operations. Coons has close South African ties which hark back to his involvement with the anti-apartheid movement: as a youth, he volunteered with the SA Council of Churches, then led by the late Desmond Tutu, and in 1986 he wrote a book on the US divestment campaign. 

Other signatories are Senate foreign relations committee member James Risch, House foreign affairs committee member Gregory Meeks, and House foreign affairs committee chair Michael McCaul. 

This is not the first threat by US lawmakers to sanction South Africa. Several months back, Republican congressmen proposed legislation in this regard, but this was dismissed. 

However, as the journalist and author John Matisonn points out in a News24 column, attitudes in Washington have hardened considerably following such events as the docking of the Lady R in Simon’s Town harbour, the landing of a Russian transport aircraft at Waterkloof air force base, the joint military exercises with Russia and China which coincided with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and South African voting at the United Nations “which leans further towards Russia than our Brics partners, China, India and Brazil”.

Like other commentators, Matisonn notes that Washington’s involvement in the destabilising of Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq has been catastrophic, resulting in immense loss of life, and this has provided grist to the “whataboutery” mill of those who support the ANC’s “neutral” position. He writes:

“But the trouble is that these arguments don’t matter one bit when it comes to the consequences for South Africa. The reality in Washington is that its politicians have the power to cut off our exports and cost us thousands of jobs. South Africa’s unemployment is already shockingly high. Further loss of jobs should scare the hell out of us, regardless of grievances against previous US overreach.

“South Africa is acting as if it is an extremely powerful country, where there is no shortage of jobs and where it can afford to be rude to a superpower. It can’t.”

What it can do, though, is grovel. This may seem insulting to Cyril Ramaphosa and his government, but a lot is at stake. Serious prostration is necessary if Patel and his delegation are to convince Washington to soften their position on the threatened withdrawal of preferential trade status.

By the same token, Squirrel cannot afford to annoy the Kremlin. There is now little doubt that the Russians are financing the ANC. Consider: a few months back the party couldn’t pay its staff salaries — and then suddenly it can. Weird that.

But perhaps not as weird as the juggling act Pretoria must now pull off: simultaneously keeping on the right side of both the Americans and the Russians. Boot-licking, in other words, with a forked tongue. We’re watching this space with perhaps perverse interest.

Marching orders

Puzzling developments concerning Ace Magashule: the former secretary-general has been expelled from the ANC after being found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute following his unsanctioned efforts to unseat the president. But there is perhaps more to this drama than meets the eye.

Magashule was first placed on suspension in May 2021 following his refusal to stand down, as directed by the party, after being charged with fraud, money-laundering and corruption charges relating to his tenure as Free State premier. He had also ignored ANC’s instruction to apologise for wanting to oust Squirrel. 

God alone knows which charge is the more serious — behaving like a ravening pirate, stealing from the poorest of the poor, or conspiring to get rid of Ramaphosa. As for damaging reputations, well, this is difficult: could regard for the party be more rock bottom than rock bottom?

What intrigues, though, is why Magashule did not challenge his suspension despite angry avowals to do just that. According to a News24, the ANC’s national disciplinary committee had given Magashule seven days to respond to a ruling that he be thrown out. Failing to do so, he was shown the door. 

There is a suggestion, however, that he regarded the criminal charges, 37 in total, as being more pressing than the trifling disciplinary committee business, and the latter was accordingly placed on the back burner.

But it’s now claimed that Magashule had also intended to appeal the NDC’s ruling. Trouble is, the deadline to do so passed on Monday afternoon. 

Or did it? It seems there is confusion as to how many days there are in a week. According to an “ally” unidentified by News24, our man believed the deadline expired on Tuesday. As this “ally” explained: “Magashule believed that he was granted seven working days, and the last day by which he ought to have responded would then be Tuesday, 13 June, meaning he still had a day to make submissions.”

Which is all very well. But here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), the regulars regard the notion of “working” days — periods in which actual work is undertaken — as being alien territory for the ANC. Seven such days could be a month of Sundays for all we know.

Time means little to Africa’s oldest liberation movement. Or at least it used to. As former ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini complained, the party had “rushed” to get rid of Magashule. Back in the old days, she told Eyewitness News, there would have been no such haste as the ANC had been more indulgent of its errant membership and “it would not have been this easy to expel someone”. 

The organisation, she added, had a history of being patient with “difficult” members: “There will always be testing situations in the ANC, and the expulsion of people should be the last resort for the leadership.”

Spoken, it must be said, as a difficult member herself. Experience matters.

Earth-shattering developments

The SABC reports that the Council for Geoscience has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the 4.4 magnitude earthquake that shook large parts of Gauteng on Sunday morning. Andile Mngxitima, former MP and now leader of the Black First Land First party, may be able to assist with their inquiries. He has firm opinions in this regard and has tweeted:

“I blame the white man for the earthquake. Their greed has hallowed out the belly of the earth mining our mineral wealth. The entire Gauteng is at risk of these occurrences. They arent natural they are man made. The Oppenheimers and others must pay the ecological reparations to blacks.” (sic)

Thus another clue as to why even the Economic Freedom Fighters want nothing to do with Mngxment and kicked him out the party in 2015. (Hint: it wasn’t just because he refuses to brush his hair.)

Crime watch

“As the [National Prosecuting Authority], we came to a conclusion to withdraw charges against all accused in the Nomzamo tavern shooting case due to challenges that include, amongst others, investigations that could not be complied with due to witnesses fearing for their lives and also, subsequently, witnesses losing their lives.”

NPA spokeswoman Phindi Mjonondwane, on the decision to drop the case against the six men accused of the mass shooting at a Soweto shebeen in July 2022 that left 16 people dead and injured several others. 

My word!

(An occasional series on neologisms inspired by current affairs.)

Pandorverb: to seek favour by indulging in a craven and sanctimonious manner the whims of tyrants, bullies and genocidal maniacs.

Government would rather pandor to war criminals than hold them accountable for their atrocities.”