Zumpty Dumpty had a great fall

Andrew Donaldson says the ANC is having a hard time putting itself together again, after the loss of the metros


DON’T all laugh at once, but this week the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, claimed that those many Africans who supported the Democratic Alliance in the elections were suffering from a “mental inferiority complex”.

We were just wondering, here at the Mahogany Ridge, what other sorts of inferiority complexes there could be. But that is neither here nor there.

Sisulu was writing in Umrabulo, the on-line ANC journal. “While the rest of the world discusses the sociology of racism and its limitations,” she declared, “ours is a lived and deeply entrenched reality. Just like the colonial yolk, we will probably the last country to unshackle ourselves from this scourge.”

So, no poultry matter, this. A fowl business was evidently afoot. And ouef with their heads, as the French may have once said.

Away from the breakfast table, though, it did appear that Sisulu’s own mental complex, judging by her arguments, hovered somewhere between irrationality and self-delusion. What other conclusion can we draw from her disdain for those who had voted against her party?

“What we are witnessing in recent South African politics,” she declared, “are mere acts of racist nostalgia borne out of a historical hangover of white political power.”  

One of the consequences of this “racist nostalgia” is the great reckoning, for want of a term, now sweeping through the formerly ANC-led metros. 

In Johannesburg, new mayor Herman Mashaba has announced, among other changes, a review of the management of all city-owned entities and a skills audit of all the city’s employees. “Gone,” he said, “are the days of cadre deployment and the appointment of friends and family.”

Gone, too, it would seem, were the fancy limos. In Tshwane, new mayor Solly Msimanga has halted, with immediate effect, the purchase of all new luxury vehicles for councillors. The money would be used for service delivery instead.

Msimanga has also wasted no time in laying criminal charges against high-ranking ANC officials in connection with what he called “Nkandla 2.0” — the R90-million upgrade to the Pretoria City Hall as well as upgrades to the mayoral residence.

Such behaviour has gravely offended the Tshwane branch of the ANC Youth League, who have somehow suggested the DA was trying to undo the gains made in improving the lives of black children. 

“We are further convinced,” regional chairperson Lesego Makhubela said, “that the cutting of the so-called ‘luxury cars’ is political grandstanding at its best and it is speedily ricocheting to expose how politically bankrupt the racist Democratic Alliance is.”

However, for political grandstanding at its worst, and perhaps the principal reason the ANC was in such a mess, we need look no further than Humpty Dumpty himself.

In a truculent display at the end of his oral answers to questions session on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma threatened to stay away from parliament if opposition MPs continued to insult him. 

“Each time I come here I am abused,” Zuma complained. “Instead of answering questions, I am called a criminal, a thief. This House has to do something.” 

Actually, “criminal” and “thief” were the least of it; he was also labelled “repugnant” and “scum”. Shame, but none of us feel the least bit sorry for him.

But, and notwithstanding his constitutional obligations, perhaps it would be in everybody’s interests if Zuma did stay away. It’s quite obvious the President has never intended answering difficult questions from opposition MPs.

He is utterly contemptuous of the process, which is, admittedly, farcical enough as it is. Questions are submitted two weeks in advance. Flunkeys workshop the answers, and Zuma reads them out in a clunky jarring waffle of obfuscatory bilge and half-truths.

It’s when the President ventures into unchartered territory and the realms of the unknown that matters get interesting. 

This week, for example, after singing, as scripted, the praises of the government’s nine-point plan to save the economy, the DA’s David Maynier asked him what those nine points were. He only knew one: agriculture.

There was a time when Zuma would rely on a certain folksiness — that chuckle, for example — to weather these sort of gaffes. But that may now be a thing of the past, and it does seem as if the days of patronage are numbered. 

His management of the economy has been disastrous — the decision by ratings agency Moody’s to place the SA National Roads Agency, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Land Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Eskom on review was further evidence of that. 

Junk status looms. The teflon is wearing thin. Contrary to what those with a superiority complex will tell you, the ANC really is at war with itself over their president. 

Those chickens…

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.