By rook or by crook

Andrew Donaldson on Ace's chess playing, the latest news from Despiqbal Survé’s Independent Media, & more


MUCH is written of Ace Magashule’s strange battle with Cyril Ramaphosa. Even now, hardened reporters are on 24-hour “grovel watch” lest the ANC’s suspended suspended secretary-general cave in to demands to beg forgiveness and throw himself at Squirrel’s mercy. 

Said apology could be coming through any moment, and editors are holding the front pages, waiting to fill the “Ace space” with copy. As deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, Madame Hypocrisy herself, put it: “We are confident the SG will rise to the occasion and follow the dictates of the ANC constitution.” 

Indeed. The drama is almost too much to bear. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

However, the photograph the former Free State premier tweeted of himself playing chess as he launched his fight-back campaign has drawn little comment. It’s a pity, for this is a greatly symbolic snap. 

Chess is deeply-rooted in ANC mythology. This is largely due to Jacob Zuma. Accused Number One is said to have drawn on his tactical chess skills throughout his political career. As one commentator noted: “For years, he was always a few moves ahead of his opponents, able to move his proxies into powerful positions, willing to sacrifice his pawns, pin opponents into immobility and strike hard when defences were down.” 

Your average sociopath, in other words. 

Scrutiny of Accused Number Two’s picture suggests his own game has just started and he’s about to make his third move. The more obvious reveal, of course, is that is he seems to be playing by himself.

This is significant. The tide, as expected, is turning against Magashule. His position is hopeless; he is his own worst enemy and he’s in a lonely place. What supporters he does have are laughable and rubbish. They include Carl Niehaus, Tony Yengeni, Malusi Gigaba and Bathabile Dlamini, the cream of the crop when it comes to the “thanks-but-no-thanks” bunch.

My own feeling is that, if Magashule wants to get ahead and gain more interesting allies, he should give up chess for a more sociable game. Perhaps Mahjong, which is fast replacing jukskei as a popular volkspeletjie in the Free State, thanks to the province’s growing Chinese population. 

What’s more, the commentariat would be greatly excited were Ace to be photographed in an alluring cheongsam while toying with his tiles. I’m sure he’d then get all the attention he desperately craves.

Meanwhile, can we now expect a flood of corruption-accused ANC members “stepping aside” from public duties? 

After all, in terms of the rules for the suspension of cadres as revealed by Squirrel on Tuesday, they are greatly incentivised to do so. Consider: they’re suspended on full pay and benefits, at taxpayers’ expense, but are not permitted to perform any of the duties or responsibilities of office or engage in any official or unofficial party activity. 

What’s not to like?

Granted, the holiday (or situation, as they call it) is to be “reviewed” by the party every six months. And, of course, the outcome of any judicial process could, in theory, dramatically affect the circumstances of those like former state security minister and NEC member Bongani Bongo who, along with his ex-wife and brother, is facing corruption, theft, fraud, money laundering and other charges. 

Bongo’s trial is set to start in January but he wants it struck from the roll and appears to have embarked on that familiar rolling Stalingrad defence legal strategy. Expect massive delays, in other words. 

He claims he has done nothing wrong and is the victim of a Squirrel conspiracy. Among other things, he and his chums allegedly bought a R15-million farm on behalf of some backwater municipality with R37.5 million of public money — and kept the difference for themselves. As Bongo insists, there’s nothing to report here. He may have a point; it’s how the ANC has done business for years.

There’s another potentially thorny problem: MPs are paid by Parliament, not their parties. In terms of the rules, MPs are not allowed open-ended absences; those who’re awol for more than 15 days automatically lose their seats. There are naturally exceptions, like illness and maternity leave. 

Parties can also formally request that the National Assembly extend an MP’s leave, but they must then declare both the reason and the length of the absence. We can accordingly expect a lot of this, and it should be fun. 

“Madame Speaker, the Honourable Member’s criminal trial is set down for July 2022. But said Honourable Member is following an established tradition and throwing all manner of spanners into the works to delay the judicial process. The House should be made aware that it is unlikely the Honourable Member will be present in this chamber anytime soon. Can the House settle on a return by 2035?”

The upside of all this is, if MPs are not at work, what harm can they do?

Massive attack

Wonderful news from Despiqbal Survé’s Independent Media. It appears that, by tinkering with the “latest technology with artificial intelligence”, a specially commissioned investigation has inadvertently uncovered the inner secrets of Twitter. This is a profoundly important discovery.

According to the Independent’s “investigations unit”, there has been a “significant spike” since September 2019 in negative content on Twitter concerning Swervy’s newspapers and other business interests. 

Mention is made of journalists like Ferial Haffajee, Marianne Thamm and Pieter-Louis Myburgh. It appears they tweet a lot of this negative content. Their tweets are retweeted by others. These tweets are, in turn, retweeted by yet more Twitter users. And so on, and so on. This is known as “sharing”. If there’s quite a lot of “sharing”, then the tweets are said to have “gone viral”. Or, in street, “done broke da internet”.

Much research has gone into this. It’s claimed that, in the period of the study, 71 847 tweets were made by 16 372 “so-called users” to amplify content that will damage the reputations of Swervy and his businesses. There is a suggestion that sinister automated “bots” are responsible for this retweeting. 

If that is the case, then these are pretty lame bots, as they’ve only managed, on average, about four or five tweets apiece in the 18 months to March this year. It would seem, then, that these “so-called users” are, in fact, very real users. Put another way, 71 847 tweets over 18 months is an average of about 133 a day. Which is hardly a deluge of automated botty stuff. Donald Trump alone could pull off that number in a single visit to the lavatory.

There is no suggestion anywhere that it is Swervy’s own behaviour that could be responsible for the harm to his reputation. Research in this regard may be helpful.


It’s often claimed that monarchies serve no purpose in the modern age. Which is true, I suppose, but they are useful indicators of mental illness. It is for this reason I have been paying some attention to the shabby power struggle within the Zulu royal family, a conflict best described as “Bad will after Goodwill.”

On Saturday, the former public protector Thuli Madonsela tweeted that reporting on this matter needed “correction” to avoid confusion: “Her Majesty Regent Queen Mantfombi did not appoint #PrinceMisuzulu as King. She nominated him for appointment. The law gives the appointing power to the Royal Family, which inevitably will consider the will.” This distinction amid rumours and allegations of poisonings, forged documents and all-round treachery on a Shakespearean scale. 

Among those who responded to Madonsela was the EFF commissar and MP, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, who tweeted: “Divisive. Typical role of a house nigger!” 

A hardened revolutionary in thrall of feudalism and who openly declares allegiance to a king who would hold sway over millions of “serfs” in hardscrabble misery on “royal land”? I rest my case. That’s a diseased mind right there.

Muddied oafs with feelings

Raised eyebrows here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) following the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa in July and August. Eleven of the 37 players selected are English. Why so many? 

True, the Lions are selected from those eligible to turn out for the Home Nations’ sides, so you’d expect the squad to be top-heavy with England players. But given their woeful performance in the Six Nations tournament (second last on the log), it’s a wonder anyone from England was included. 

It may be “political” to load the Lions with dead weight, but this “unionist” gesture cruelly denies Scottish and Irish stars like Oli Kebble, Quinn Roux, Jaco van der Walt, WP Nel and CJ Stander an opportunity to visit the old country. As it is, Duhan van der Merwe is the only Saffer cracking the nod for the tour.

It hasn’t gone well for England since the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Quite why they were under the impression that the Springboks would roll over and let them win that wonderful afternoon in Yokohama is a mystery that has yet to be explained, but the malaise has continued and the “culture wars” could have something to do with it.

This week, The Times reported that rugby bosses here are dropping the “Saxons” nickname for the England second team as it’s deemed inappropriate what with the sport’s efforts “to reflect the diversity in society”. The team will henceforth be known as “England A”, the name by which they were known until 2006.

Not to nit-pick, but the nickname may never have been appropriate. The Saxons were a tribe who lived on the North Sea coast of Germany in the early Middle Ages, and (obvs) no Germans, medieval or otherwise, turn out for the England second team. Besides, the Saxons are no longer a distinct ethnic or national group, having been scattered hither and thither across Europe over the centuries. 

And, I suspect, the name is not as “freighted” as other sporting franchise titles. Which is why the Washington Redskins are now known as the “Washington Football Team”. But I may be wrong. Perhaps the Saxons were racists and slavers as well. 

One hopes, amid all this pants-wetting, that the Barbarians manage to keep their name. Unless of course those invited to play for this well-loved club happen to be steeped in ancient Greek and Roman traditions. In which case, they have no historical right to call themselves Barbarians.

Meanwhile, England prop Joe Marler wants the Lions management to include a “trained mental health expert” to help players cope with “the monastic existence” in South Africa. The Mirror has quoted Marler as saying: “Lions tours are tough enough as they are, being away from your families, but this one is particularly hard. If they’re not going to take someone qualified, they definitely need to have a conversation as a whole touring party at the start.”

conversation? This doesn’t bode well. Not long now and they’ll all be playing what the Americans call soccer.