No repentance from the Goblin

Andrew Donaldson on Gwede Mantashe's defence of the ANC's record in office


GWEDE Mantashe, the ANC’s national chairman, has warned that South Africans will “live to regret” voting the party out of power next year. This encouraging news courtesy of a recent interview with the Sunday Tribune, which pointed out that the party’s leadership had previously acknowledged that support could fall below 50 per cent in 2024.

This, it was surmised, would drive the ANC into seeking a coalition partner to remain in power. An opposition coalition could, of course, prevent such an outcome. Most notable, though, was the explanation offered as to why the electorate would abandon the ANC: they’re a bit young, these voters, and “half of the people” who complain about the party’s abysmal record have no experience of apartheid.  ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

“I went to work in the mine with a matric,” Mantashe told the Tribune. “I couldn’t have a blasting certificate, but a white person with Standard Two (Grade Four) would have a blasting certificate. I know that and I know the change that has happened [since then].” 

To emphasise the point, Mantashe said that more than 90 per cent of South Africans now had access to electricity whereas, in 1994, when the ANC came to power, only 34 per cent of citizens enjoyed such access. This, you would think, should count for little now that Eskom is imploding and blackouts are the order of the day. But no, not so, according to Mantashe: “Then … therefore because there is load-shedding, [they say] ‘nothing has happened since 1994’. I can’t be part of that kind of narrative.”

Such a shrinking violet, the Goblin. For, along with his comrades, he is alas very much part of this narrative and, rather than bashfully shying away from it, he should boldly own the mess, firmly grabbing that narrative with both hands.

And, while he’s at it, he may want to cut back a bit with the school qualifications schtick. Latest research suggests that some 4.6 million young South Africans are unemployed and looking for work in a crippled economy that has very little demand for matriculants and even graduates. Besides which, one man with a Standard Two works on the mines and gets a blasting certificate; another man with a Standard Two works in a pet shop and gets to be president. So it goes.

But back to that rueful day when the ANC is voted out of office. This appears to be such a frightful prospect that the party has sought help from a higher power. Thus the channelling of the inner Pharisee as ANC leaders made a show of attending Easter church services across the country. 

Deputy president Paul Mashatile, for example, told a Grace Bible Church service at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium on Good Friday that the church, established in the early 1980s, had been integral in shaping him and other political leaders. “Since then,” Mashatile said, “the church has grown and has produced great leaders who serve our country in different capacities. I have always seen senior officials in government and private sector leaders when I visit the church.” 

Religion, he added, had played a significant role in the ANC, which was founded on the “teachings of [the] faith” that helped the party persevere in the apartheid era. The same teachings had presumably guided these great leaders in the post-apartheid looting era. 

All in all, perhaps not the most ideal of product endorsements.

Elsewhere, president Cyril Ramaphosa was in Polokwane on Sunday, where he addressed the multitudes at the St Engenas Zion Christian Church and expressed his gratitude that ZCC members had cooperated with the government during the Covid lockdown.

St Engenas, incidentally, is the patron saint of service stations and spotless rest rooms. According to the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), the N1 north of Pretoria can be an ordeal. Pristine facilities at piss stops do so help in smoothing a pilgrim’s progress.

But, like all upstanding congregants, the ANC has been quite generous when the collection plate was passed around. The SABC reports that the eThekwini Metro Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal is to transfer land to 23 churches in uMlazi, Mpumalanga Township, Cato Manor and Verulam.

This is according to mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, who told a Good Friday service that, in turn, these “premises” may be used to provide what the SABC has termed “government services”. As Kaunda’s spokesman, Mluleki Mntungwa, put it: “This is part of government’s programme to promote land ownership and security of tenure. [The mayor] has further committed the municipality to continue to allocate worship sites to churches because he strongly believes if churches are allocated land they will continue to play a significant role in promoting unity and social cohesion in the city.”

Separation of church and state clearly means little when there’s a good chance that a spot of God-bothering may deliver unto the ruling party continued mass support. 

This cynical abuse of the credulous does call to mind the central theme of the late VS Naipaul’s controversial The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (Alfred A Knopf, 2010), a travelogue exploring the effect of religion on the progress of civilisation on the continent. Naipaul’s thesis is best summed by Guy Rossatanga-Rignault, a former university dean in Gabon, who tells the author: “The new religions, Islam and Christianity, are just on the top. Inside us is the forest.”

Do not pass Go. Do not go to Jail

Eeny, meany, money, mo! Catch a Gupta by his toe. If he grumbles let him go. Eeny, meany, money, mo…” 

And why not? This age-old children’s counting game has had many iterations over the centuries and another contemporary update would not be amiss what with the current farce concerning the former Saxonwold Shebeen proprietors.

It really does beggar belief, as colleague David Bullard writes, that the government and the National Prosecuting Authority only learned last Thursday that the United Arab Emirates had on February 13 nixed a request to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta — almost two months earlier. 

Even more gobsmacking, David suggests, is the fact that the brothers were spotted swanning about in Switzerland, “land of banking secrecy”, just as belated word of Dubai’s refusal to hand over the real Zuma government finally reached justice minister Ronald “Youthful” Lamola.

For my part, though, I was intrigued to learn that the Guptas were now reportedly citizens of Vanuatu, a tiny nation that consists of 83 volcanic and coral islands in the South Pacific. 

It is, literally, a backwater — some 1 750 kilometres east of northern Australia and 1 200 kilometres west of Fiji. The country is considered the world’s most at-risk nation for natural disasters. Its future prospects are, to put it in a coconut shell, grim what with rising sea levels threatening freshwater tables and agriculture. 

It is perhaps a sign of its desperation that it welcomes any old flotsam and passing trash — at a (cheap) price: Vanuatu sells citizenship for about $150 000 a pop; not too shabby, considering its passports allow visa-free travel throughout Europe. Demand from the Chinese market has resulted in passport sales now accounting for more than 30 per cent of the country’s revenue.

While a Vanuatan passport may provide another reliable safeguard against extradition, the cynic in me wonders whether the surest way a politically-connected criminal could avoid appearing before a South African judge would be to actually be in South Africa. Surely a return to Saxonwold would guarantee the brothers immunity from prosecution? Top legal boffin Dali Mpofu is no doubt standing by to assist in this process. 

That said, I have been hard at work developing a best-selling board game, State Gupture™. It’s very similar to Monopoly, but instead of snapping up desirable real estate, players buy cabinet ministers. Houses and hotels are eschewed in favour of lucrative contracts. (Roll a six and you get to pick up two cards from the tender pile.)

Player tokens are no longer the familiar Monopoly favourites, like the top hat, shoe, iron and Scottish terrier, but rather symbols that represent the lucrative industrial sector — a gantry, a lump of coal, a concrete mixer, and so on. The one exception is the lavatory token, a symbol of where the country is headed: down the pan. 

The game has two possible endings: when the last cabinet minister has been bought or all the money has been stolen. Either way, it’s a winner.

The bottom of the barrel

Speaking of Dali Mpofu, the presence of the ace advocate is these days marked by a trail of high dudgeon. Such is the reputation for long-winded legal arguments and all-round aggravation of jurors, not to mention the dubious clients and the dilettante political activity, that an anagram is suggested. Thus, in the great Grouse tradition that gave us Cheek Bile, the police minister, the boffin of the Bar will henceforth be known as Odium Flap.