Phokeng hell,what was Cyril thinking?

Andrew Donaldson writes on Ramaphosa and Malema's recent unfortunate forays into labour matters


IF they handed out prizes for failing to read the room, Cyril Ramaphosa would sweep the board. It is one thing to address a Cosatu rally on Workers’ Day. But a rally in the North West, at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium — a venue fairly close to the site of the 2012 massacre of striking Lonmin Platinum miners at Marikana?

Phokeng hell, but what on earth was Squirrel thinking? 

Here, again, were striking miners, furious at being ignored for weeks by both Cosatu and the government. And here, hoping to address them, was the president, a former union leader who, as a fat cat Lonmin director, had urged police to take action at Marikana, and bust up wildcat strikes.

This was the same president , incidentally, who in September last year told Parliament that, regrettably, he had not yet been able to visit the families of the 34 slain miners. “It’s very complex,” Ramaphosa said. “It’s very emotional and needs to be dealt with in a sensitive way. These are the issues at play. They are not easy.” ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Little wonder it all went pear-shaped and Ramaphosa was prevented from delivering the same old, same old about labour and had to be escorted from the stadium in an armoured police vehicle — an ignominious retreat that prompted one of Julius Malema’s redshirts to post a photograph of a Nyala personnel carrier on Twitter with the caption: “This is the transport that saved Cyril Ramaphosa from Rustenburg Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Under EFF Government the same transport will take him to Jail for what he did in Marikana.”

Malema, meanwhile, was in Mpumalanga, telling a May Day rally that the EFF intend starting their own labour movement — one that would apparently be more powerful than Cosatu. You could tell this was an important development because Juju made the announcement in a curiously back-to-front manner: “That union will never sell out. That union will always be on the side of the workers. We are preparing to do a union, and not a Mickey Mouse union, who is in cahoots and in bed with the employer.”

It’s worth noting that the Marikana strikers had also aligned themselves with the “opposition” — the then emerging Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, rivals to the Cosatu-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers. The NUM, seen as being too cosy with the Lonmin management, had lost its organisational rights at the mine after membership fell from 66 per cent to 49 per cent.

Worth noting, too, is Malema’s ardent jones for coal-mining. On Sunday he criticised the government for its intentions to reduce the country’s dependency on carbon fuel, and threatened to reopen mines “by force” should they be closed down: “How do you say we can’t mine coal in South Africa? What are we going to eat? The day you close coal mines in Mpumalanga, you should close Mpumalanga.”

Food, of course, is an important part of the revolutionary diet and Malema understands full well the link between mining and the trough. After all, he enjoys a healthy relationship with the controversial businessman Adriano Mazzotti.

This alleged tobacco smuggler’s own mining interests in rural Limpopo had, it seems, run into “community problems” — the locals were gatvol at what they felt was the rape of their land — and Mazzotti turned to Juju for help in “diffusing” a tense situation in this neglected part of the country. A not inconsiderable sum of money, it’s claimed, has changed hands.

Bottom line, I guess, is that workers should steer clear of trade unions in bed with political parties. Especially those parties that claim to champion workers’ rights. There is power in a union, so the old folk songs go. Unfortunately, there is money, too. Other people’s money. But this has never been much of an obstacle where the EFF are concerned.

Mayday, mayday…

My old friend, the noted bon vivant and boulevardier Carl Niehaus, did not have a particularly enjoyable long weekend. This is a shame. The past few weeks have not been kind, and Carl was in urgent need of a break from the self-induced hurly burly of his calling.

This, of course, has not happened, and he remains under considerable stress. We had noticed this, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), and wonder if, perhaps, he is due another public nervous breakdown. In fact, the flotsam at that end of the bar suggest that this is not so much a case of if, but when and bets have been placed. A book has even been opened, and odds are shortening the meltdown will be within six weeks. 

It all started on Wednesday, when Carl flew off to attend the Umkhonto we Sizwe “all inclusive unity conference” at East London’s International Convention Centre. This beano was hosted by the Department of Military Veterans in partnership with some bunch who called themselves the “Ex-MK Conference Preparatory Committee” and was intended to unite all factions of the former MK community under one umbrella.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “East London has an international convention centre? Kinda getting ahead of themselves, don’t you think?” But bear with. 

According to a government statement, there have been several attempts to unite these combatants, and to deal with their welfare challenges, housing needs, health care, skilling and education support, and so on.


It was envisaged, then, that all these issues would be addressed at the conference. And then some, like exploring further sponging opportunities and leeching self help schemes. Or as the bumf put it, to “chart a way forward to a brighter future for all those who sacrificed their youth in the battlefields engaged in activities against the apartheid regime”. 

Some mythologising was also on the agenda, it would seem: 

“It is hoped that this process of uniting ex-Umkhonto we Sizwe combatants will lead to them sharing their rich history and stories with South Africans, relieving stories about heroic battles that rattled the pillars of apartheid and leading to its demise in Quito Carnavale, Wanki Sipolilo campaign and other successful battles fought inside the country.” (sic)

Carl, I believe, would have been a highlight here. Not only is he a leading light in Radical Economic Transformation, a society of nostalgics who hanker after the days of untrammelled looting and silly clothes, but he is also an excellent storyteller, a natural who is capable of bringing great dramatic tension to the inventive accounts of his valiant encounters with the fascist racist regime. 

Sadly, it was not to be. 

The man kindly described by Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis as frequently behaving like “an increasingly ethically depleted Forrest Gump” tested positive for Covid-19 and was asked to leave the conference most pronto. 

There was, it’s been said, a bit of karmic blowback here. Although not exactly opposed to Covid vaccinations, Carl has apparently refused to be jabbed because he is a firm believer in freedom of choice. 

In November last year, for example, he attacked the government’s mandatory vaccine policy, likening the vaccine passport to the apartheid-era dompas. And there was more where that came from last week. 

Clearly distressed at being denied a platform, Carl instead went on the rampage on Twitter. There was some bluster about Covid-19 certificates and compulsory testing being “downright illegal”. And this unhinged hysteria: “This was all planned in advance: The testing centre at the registration venue was all run by white males. It was like walking into an apartheid era trap! An utter disgrace. The organizational chaos of this conference is a disgrace.”

For the record, Carl knows all about walking into apartheid-era traps. It’s what got him into trouble in the first place. That and his utter naivety. We will no doubt be hearing a lot more about this when the long-awaited sequel to his 1994 autobiography, Fighting for Hope: His Own Story, is published in November. 

His protestations, meanwhile, attracted the attention of the Sunday Times, who duly made him their Mampara of the Week. He was not pleased, and believed he’d been singled out because he had been infected. “So,” he tweeted, “according to the SundaySlimes, all the people who have contracted, and those who died of COVID-19, are mamparas in their eyes. Shame on them!”

It was about now that Carl should have taken a deep nap, perhaps after a soothing rooibos and lemon tea, and turned off his mobile phone. But social media is a powerful drug, as addictive as heroin, and when ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom cynically tweeted that he and his colleagues were “trembling with fear” at Carl’s fulminations, our man, incapable of restraint, responded:

“Shame, sarcasm has never been your strongest point Whit requires intelligence, and you've always been a bit of a dull fellow. How does the saying go? As blunt as a koevoet... Incase this also flies over your head, let me remind you of the other meaning of koevoet in our history” (sic)

Could it get any worse? Yes, it could — and did. 

Carl has gone on to reveal an uncomfortable enthusiasm for #VoetsekSAMedia, an anti-press campaign started by one Nkosentsha Shezi, a self-styled “RET champion” and big stiff, apparently, in the funeral business.

Shezi had compiled a “rogue’s gallery” of journalists supposedly captured by the magical White Monopoly Capital. They include Sam Sole, Marianne Thamm, Max du Preez, Ferial Haffajee, Justice Malala, Adriaan Basson, Eusebius McKaiser, and Redi Thlabi, among others. “Let’s name and shame them,” Shezi wrote, “and add more names. . .”

Carl thought this a wizard wheeze, not only retweeting Shezi’s bilge, but helpfully adding Pieter-Louis Myburgh and Anton Harber to the list. As he put it: “This hack @PLMyburgh & his enabler @AntonHarber should be added to the rogues gallery of #WMC propagandists. #Myburgh wrote that pack of lies, #GangsterState#Harber as Chair of the #TacoKuiperFund 1st funded him to write the rubbish, & then gave him an award for the lynch-job.”

This is dangerous territory, and we’ll no doubt be hearing all about it from the SA National Editors Forum in a few days. But then I suppose Carl is a desperate person, fighting for his political life. Gloves are off. But, whatever he may think of them, journalists are probably the least of his problems. He is wholly unlovable, and no-one in the ANC wants to be his friend. That, I must report, is not our fault.

Don’t touch that dial

Then again, there are “media personalities” like Bongani Bingwa, who tweeted the following to draw attention to his radio show: “DA leader John Steenhuisen is on a so-called fact finding mission in Ukraine — another own goal for the Desperate Alliance? How many conflicts has he bothered about here in Africa? His own backyard? Or is this about the skin colour of those being killed in Ukraine? #702Breakfast

Unfortunately, I have not yet heard Bingwa’s show. This is due to me having a life. But if this is an example of its tenor, then I am certain he is destined for great things in talk radio, a so-called medium because it is neither well done nor rare. Incidentally, and on a more cautionary note, he warns his Twitter followers: “I WILL block you if you’re nasty!” I would delete this if I were him. The audience he’s chasing doesn’t do irony.