Venezuela: Has the ANC lost its mind?

Douglas Gibson asks what can possibly be achieved by Ace Magashule's pilgrimage to Caracas

Is SA out of its mind on 

President Cyril Ramaphosa famously described Ace Magashule, Secretary - general of the ANC as "my boss." He went on to say that without Ace, he, Ramaphosa, would be nothing. One does not lightly cross the boss, even one tainted by the Estina and other Gupta scandals. One must assume that the president is comfortable with the latest Magashule move: the ANC delegation, led by Ace and joined by members of Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, to visit Venezuela in order to "show solidarity" with President Maduro.

Is the government quite mad? On the eve of our tour of duty on the Security Council of the United Nations, is it sensible to poke in the eye the USA and 50 other countries who no longer recognise Maduro on the grounds that the recent election was rigged?

Of what possible benefit to SA, our economy, our drive for investment, our attempt to ensure growth to create jobs for our millions of unemployed, is an aggressive show of solidarity with Maduro? His leadership of his country has made this country with the largest oil reserves in the world, a basket case of hunger, deprivation, human rights violations and the desperation of millions who have left and want to leave the benighted country?

If ever socialism proved its failure, Venezuela is the prime example. Strange is it not, that the SA government and its allies choose again to lick the boots of yet another dictator with failed policies instead of trying to position ourselves among the countries that work, that have jobs for their people, that are growing and where human rights count. In particular, why do we choose, in the most provocative way imaginable, to distance ourselves from our largest trading partners and our largest investors and side with a handful of countries who generally are not democracies?

Russia and China both have enormous outstanding loans to Venezuela and have a solid reason for gritting their teeth and backing the failed state and its leader. The rest of those showing solidarity with Maduro are Iran, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Syria. These do so for a variety of reasons, mostly ideological. Are these really the states that we should go out of our way to join?

It is difficult to believe that our Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) and Minister Lindiwe Sisulu support the solidarity visit of Ace Magashule and his friends. Our ambassador at the United Nations, the very experienced Jerry Matjila, stated recently: "South Africa draws from its experience in overcoming one of the most repressive and insidious racist regimes through dialogue, and believes that internal, inclusive dialogue remains the only viable and sustainable path to ending the political crisis in Venezuela." This statement, made presumably after consultation with his minister, makes a good deal more sense than the gung-ho “solidarity” of Ace Magashule and his trade union and communist pals.

This policy mess gives rise to two questions: The first is this: why does the Secretary-General of the ANC not leave our foreign relations to the minister and the diplomats?

The second is perhaps more important: when will President Ramaphosa assert himself in the interests of South Africa and tell Magashule to get on with the business of running the party's election campaign and stop interfering in matters where he is ignorant and where he could do great harm to the economic prospects of our country?

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is: douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com