“... I won’t play at delicacy. I ask you point-blank for all the details.”
“You are as curious as a child.”
“No. I am only an anxious old man,” I replied earnestly.
- Under Western Eyes, Joseph Conrad, 1911.
Breaking news: Just as I finished writing this article, it was announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa would at 20h30 tonight, August 5, announce changes to the national executive. Good luck, everyone.
Say what you like (and some people do), the weather in Johannesburg outside my (freezing) house is absolutely gorgeous.
I’ve lived on or visited every continent in the world, except South America and Antarctica, and ain’t no place with weather like Gauteng’s. Today at noon it was 20°C outside and the sun was shining brightly. If it weren’t for the weather, what sane person would choose to live in Joey’s?
So, I try to get outside as much as possible. Two days ago, I drove to Emmarentia where I encountered a so-called car guard whom I first met when I needed an entrez to the cigarette black market.
This young fellow, now an acquaintance of many months’ standing, had a problem. His ID had been lost or stolen and (according to him) the dept. of home affairs wanted payment for a replacement. Well, he’d helped me out when I was in need, so I said I’d send him some money via eWallet. But second problem – where he lived the bank machines have all been destroyed in recent weeks. We needed to find another way.
Then yesterday I went to Greenside where I bumped into another acquaintance, always jovial, who earns what money he can carrying people’s packages or pushing their trolleys at a local supermarket. He has a place in my heart since he was (some years ago) the only “complete stranger” I’d ever met who immediately recognised me as a “famous journalist”. (He’d seen my pic in the Daily Sun, of which he was an avid reader).
“Haven’t seen you for a while,” I said, “where’ve you been?” He explained that the taxi fare from Vosloorus, where he lives, is so expensive that it’s not really worth his while to travel to Greenside every day; sometimes he doesn’t make sufficient to cover his transport, so what’d be the point?
“Did you at least manage to get a TV set during the recent unrest?” I asked. “No,” he replied, looting wasn’t his thing. But he noted that his home township was an utter shambles following the forementioned troubles.
All of which is to explain that it occurred to me that – given the wonderful weather, the smiling (albeit needy) people one bumps into, and that one’s attention is focussed on Saturday’s final rugby test between the Springboks and the B&I Lions – as well as many other factors, such as the barrage of events that we Seffricans are daily subjected to – given these considerations, it occurred to me that most people have almost forgotten last month’s purported insurrection, apparently aimed at ending our democratic way of life.
I today therefore convened a meeting of the underground revolutionary cell that I chair (The Fishcake Gordin-Kropotkin Parkview Decembrists, the FGKPD) – out on the corner of Wicklow Avenue, so as to take advantage of the sunshine while ensuring that any electronic snooping equipment would be foiled by the traffic noise.
There is only one other member of the cell (obviously I can’t divulge his name) – and we debated in detail whether there had been a so-called Zuma insurrection or not. I was at an advantage (which I didn’t give away, of course) – I have read the Statement of the South African Communist Party Central Committee, as delivered on August 1 by Dr Blade Nzimande, the SACP General Secretary.
I mean, if you want to know about revolution or insurrection, obviously you must pay attention to what the purported professionals have to say. I had another advantage too; being a former wily journalist and student of language and syntax, it seemed to me that much of the statement had probably been penned not by the learned Dr Nzimande [i] but by former deputy GS Jeremy Cronin, author of the seminal essay, “Why South Africa will never be like Zimbabwe” and other fine analyses [ii].
Be all that as it may, my fellow comrade said it was clear that there’d been an orchestrated insurrection. First, there’d been a relatively successful cyber attack on Transnet Port Terminals [iii] and petroleum refineries also ceased operations for a few days. Second, there was a sustained attack on the key N3 corridor, the aim being to block Durban harbour and to suffocate Gauteng.
Third, there were attempts to take out electricity, oil pipelines, communications infrastructure, not to mention the burning of food depots. Fourth, the mass looting was clearly fanned by a relatively professional social media “capacity,” probably linked to renegade ANC and other networks.
And, said Comrade X, there might have been more than that. “We don’t know how much intelligence was actually picked up and consequently how much serious insurrectionary stuff was thwarted. More things than we know about might have actually almost happened.”
But why, I asked Comrade X, has the government – or if not the government, then the president – not done much about this?
“Ach,” he said, shouting over the traffic, “they’ve gone after some low-hanging fruit – that’s laughable, I know – but possibly the less fuss is made, the better for Cyril at the moment. We don’t know whether Ramaphosa can count on the military or the police. Maybe he doesn’t either, so the less said publicly, the better.”
Take a look, I added, at the cabinet and at the ANC so-called leadership. First of all, would you like to be in the bunker with most of them? Would you trust them? (Only if you could take away their cellphones.) Second, most of them must, in the words of Led Zeppelin, be dazed and confused. The health minister’s gone down and so has Ace Magashule – they must be asking themselves who might be next.
“Bet you there’re private conversations between friends going on right now,” I said. “It’s not so much a matter of Ramaphosa’s so-called caution; point is that he doesn’t know who he can trust, if anybody.”
The SACP statement – with regard to whether the violence and looting were orchestrated? – is pretty much along the same lines as that argued by Comrade X and me. In the SACP view, the aim of the insurrectionists was to make the country ungovernable and then to “present a freed [Jacob] Zuma as the only person capable of restoring peace”.
The main differences between the SACP statement and the views of the FGKPD lies in the respective views of why the revolution started and why it “failed”.
The SACP says the insurrection started “due to three inter-related factors: the degeneration of our liberation movement; a weakened state; and the failure to use the 1994 democratic breakthrough as a platform to drive a serious [sic] national democratic revolution with the resulting persisting crisis of extreme levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment and chronic violence”.
We of the FGKPD think Thieves Incorporated merely wanted to put a proverbial shot across Ramaphosa’s bow: “Don’t f--- with us!” They didn’t care all that much that Zuma was in chokey; they did care that it could be a precursor of what was going to happen to them [iv].
The SACP said the rebellion failed because “Workers and the trade union movement understood that jobs were being lost ... There was no support from that quarter. The taxi industry, notwithstanding its own tendencies to volatility [sic], understood its symbiotic relationship to shopping malls and played an active role in defending these commercial assets,” etc. etc.
The FGKPD thinks it failed because the looting got more out of hand than anyone expected (taking aback even “the planners”) and – ironically – because the police were such lame ducks. If the police had gone in with a heavy hand and killed a lot more people in clear sight, I think things might have taken an even worse turn.
Additionally, many Seffricans, who have grown extremely tired of being messed around so much for so long (disempowered?), simply decided that enough was too much already, and opted to do what they knew the police weren’t.
So, what’s the bottom line? Are there malevolent people still planning things as I write? Probably. If Ramaphosa doesn’t do something quickly and cleverly [v], and/or even if he does, might the malevolent ones try to strike again? Quite possibly.
But what is to be done (as the SACP also likes to ask, à la Vlad Lenin)?
Jeez, we at the FGKPD don’t really know. Buy bottled water and baked beans, keep your hat on your head, wash your hands and wear a mask, enjoy the gorgeous sunshine, and, above all, even if a rugby test beckons, try at all costs to avoid our particular Seffrican malady – short-term amnesia.
[i] Dr Nzimande is very busy as Minister of Higher Education and also has a number of pressing problems at the moment such as, for example, the claim by suspended director-general of the Department of Higher Education, Gwebinkundla Qonde, that there has been financial mismanagement in the department, including Qonde being given the go-ahead by Nzimande to flout procurement rules. Could Dr. Nzimande be joining Dr. Zweli Mkhize on Desert Island Discs sooner than we think?
[ii] Yes, I know “Hotel Rwanda” actor and former EFF MP Fana Mokoena has recently taken to social media to chastise Nzimande about the statement. Mokoena said: “Blade Nzimande has just written a film called The Insurrection. It’s a dramatic script which is not well researched and has no actors. In short, it’s a creative intsomi [folk tale] of epic proportions he played in his own mind and shared with his colleagues at the SACP,” wrote Mokoena. You see how easy it is to fool most of the people most of the time, especially (former) MPs?
[iii] Business Day (BD) reported today: “Paper and packaging group Sappi, the world’s largest producer of dissolving pulp, says violent protests in KwaZulu-Natal is expected to shave off $16m (R220m) in core profit, a blow compounded by a growing line of ships outside Durban after Transnet was hit by a cyber-attack.”
[iv] Norman Mailer (I think it was) once wrote that Muhammad Ali was asked why he didn’t go down just for a 3-count in a particular fight so as to take a short rest from the punishment he was getting at that point, and Ali replied that he didn’t want to start any bad habits. Same with Thieves Incorporated.
[v] Please see Breaking news above.