The No Brainer Cup

Andrew Donaldson on the two-horse race that wasn't between State Capture and Ramaphoria


NEWS concerning the horses from the UK: an Irish filly, Trouble and Strife, won the 5.10pm race at Lingfield Park in Surrey on Wednesday by three lengths. 

The only other runner was a nag called Brexitmeansbrexit.

Make of that what you will, those of you who follow events in the land of the colonisers, but here at the Mahogany Ridge it provided respite from our daily tedium, geeing up, as it did, the imagination about another two-horse race.

Well, sort of a two-horse race: one of the entrants we had in mind was a mule with a wooden leg called State Capture that refused to leave the starting gate. 

Word eventually reached the punters that it was on strike following a dispute with the jockey. According to the stewards, the mule was convinced it was the one that had to be in the saddle and, until the matter was resolved, was not moving an inch.

All of which, you would have thought, suggested a walk in the park for the horse and odds-on favourite, Ramaphoria.

And it was a walk in the park. However, instead of making for the finishing line, Ramaphoria unexpectedly ambled over to the hospitality tents in the members’ enclosure and, lingering among the gentry, there came a great appreciation of its fine fetlocks and other horsey bits.

Then it left Kenilworth, turned left into Rosmead Avenue and was last seen clip-clopping off in the direction of a knacker’s yard in Ottery where it would probably be turned into glue to smear on the back of Nelson Mandela posters to mount on the nation’s billboards.

The No Brainer Cup, in other words, had yet to be run, let alone won.

Or so it would seem. For — back in the real world and away from such reverie — there’s some chatter that the Mandela centenary celebrations are giving Cyril Ramaphosa a much-needed boost in the popularity stakes. Meeting with former US president Barack Obama had restored some of the legitimacy, respectability and confidence in national leadership that was lost in recent years. 

Ramaphosa, the pundits say, is channeling his “inner Madiba”. 

Which is understandable. The Mandela icon is powerful, and the Madiba invocation will be an ANC staple for generations to come. It will almost certainly increase in pitch and frequency in the months ahead, what with the coming elections.

Such conjury can be double-edged, though. Jacob Zuma had a bash at the mojo when he entered office in 2009 with stirring Mandela-esque avowals to reel back the Presidency from the remote and aloof heights it had climbed under Thabo Mbeki and restore it to the people. 

Then he parcelled it off to the Guptas. 

Given the ineptitude and criminality that followed, it was not surprising the narrative that Mandela “sold out” the struggle at Codesa should have gained traction during the Zuma presidency, especially among the callow and unschooled. Thankfully, the centenary celebrations have done much to counter this fiction.

The President’s stated intentions to follow the example of Madiba would, of course, be so much more credible if it weren’t for the weasel-like behaviour. (I know, I know, he started the column as a stallion and ended as a stoat. But some Fridays are like that.)

Ramaphosa repeatedly insists that he’s not a weak leader. He has every intention, he tells us, of dealing with crime and corruption, and he will take decisive action against those complicit in state capture, even his own comrades. Which should be bleeding obvious, you’d think, seeing as how it was senior ANC leaders who aided and abetted the state capture project in the first place.

And therein lies the rub. Given his insistence that ANC unity must be preserved at all costs, Ramaphosa’s insistence that he will act against the bad guys is no more credible than his denial that, photographic evidence to the contrary, he knelt before King Goodwill Zwelithini at the time of the latter’s land imbizo at Ulundi.

“I find it quite laughable,” Ramaphosa told reporters. He wasn’t kneeling, he was just on his knees, showing the Zulu monarch pictures of cattle in a book. Which, perhaps, is an odd way to show someone a book. Besides, Zwelithini knows what cows look like. God knows, but he’s been given enough of them over the years.

But back to horse sense. Since his election, Ramaphosa has talked a great deal about bringing them to book but still the Zuptacrats walk among us, a mockery of justice. Failing to act against them, even at the expense of party unity, makes him no better than the worst of the state capturers.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.