My F*k – Cyril: The ANC heads for the polls

Howard Sackstein says our govt seems determined to crash into all the obstacles in sight

Last week South Africa was enraptured by the 17 second video clip of Marelize Horn learning to crash a bicycle. With a completely open field before her, young Marelize pedalled directly towards the rugby post as if magnetised to its danger. With pinpoint accuracy and a loud clanging noise, Marelize smashed head-first into the only obstacle in sight. Millions of viewers listened as Marelize’s mother, Heidi, exclaimed in sheer exasperation, “My Fok Marelize”, and, at that very moment, I realised that President Cyril Ramaphosa was Marelize and the rest of the country was Heidi groaning in resigned frustration.

“My Fok Cyril”, we gave you the keys to the country, but you are heading straight for the rugby posts, and unlike Joel Stransky, in the rugby world cup, you not going between them. As we head towards elections 2019, and as Ramaphosa panders to the temple of popularism, rugby poles and elections polls are looking disturbingly similar.

Ramaphosa has a problem. He is stuck with a party ideologically held hostage in the long forgotten cold war. When the ANC looks in the mirror, it sees a revolutionary party fighting western imperialism in a world order that ended in 1989, when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Suddenly, in 1989, the world changed and sadly for the ANC, its Soviet-era trained Che Guevara beret wearing technocrats and Gucci clad policy makers, it did not. Stuck in a by-gone era and beholden to popularism in its attempts to fight off the ideological challenge of the neo-fascist Economic Freedom Fighters by pandering to popularism, the ANC has become Dorian Grey, projecting an image of vitality while decaying deeply inside.

Living in its fantasy world, the ANC sends delegations to Venezuela to prop-up its crumbling president, Nicolás Maduro, it signs cooperation agreements with the internationally shunned racist and fascist Hamas regime in Gaza and it shields the revolutionary theocratic dictatorship of Iran, one of the most bloodthirsty regimes in the world. Wedded to the ideological romanticism of the Cuban revolution, it dances a salsa with the failed Caribbean dictatorship where most of the population survive on government salve labour with a salary of $25 per month. Its actions and ideology are out of step with the modern world and isolated from the rest of the BRICS assemblage, with whom, we as a nation, supposedly identify.

But for our political cyclist, the problem goes much deeper. South Africa is slipping further and further behind the rest of the world in competitiveness, economic growth, education, healthcare, technological development, maths science…The list looks as long as Marelizes’ journey to public humiliation.

Playing to the crowd, Ramaphosa speaks of confiscating private land for re-distribution, while the state has failed to re-distribute its own land. Its rhetoric on land-redistribution may undercut the EFF’s election platform, but it undermines confidence in South Africa. Sitting in New York, London, Berlin and Tel Aviv, investors look upon us with scepticism. Marelize must have learned Newtons third law of physics in her science lessons, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Capital follows confidence and here at the bottom of Africa we know how to point our bicycle directly at the rugby posts.

When Ramaphosa went to Davos in January to sip cocktails and nibble canapes with the jet-set, he described the independence of the South African Reserve Bank as “sacrosanct”. But in the corridors of Parliament, where the smell of Blue Label whisky wafts through the air, Ramaphosa talks of nationalizing the Reserve Bank. An act of nationalization would be irrelevant, given that government already appoints the Governor and Board of the Bank, but it plays well to the rowdy T-shirt wearing crowd. And so, the currency tanks, the growth rate declines, people lose their jobs and South Africa slips further and further away from the centre. As Marelize learned in English poetry, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.

As the Zondo Commission into State Capture names names and the ANC takes no action, Ramaphosa starts looking a little less comfortable in his seat. When government plundering of Eskom leaves a crippling R419 billion in debt and the lights go out, the ANC still figures out how to hit those rugby posts in the dark.

When our business leaders talk about saving South Africa Inc. but move all of their assets offshore, and our newspapers are filled with advertisements for second passports and homes in Portugal, USA and Israel, Marelize’s mother should know that there is nothing left for her to do but shout “My Fok Marelize”.

And so South Africans heads to the polls on 8 May to select leaders from a slate of parties who inspire no confidence and offer no vision. And to the winners go the spoils, only to find that maybe too little remains. While studying English literature, I am sure Marelize learned that in the early 1800’s Percy Bysshe Shelley described travellers stumbling upon a decaying statue in the desert:

“And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

And before it’s too late, let us all should out to our President - “My Fok Cyril, can you not see the poles?”