ANC doesn’t know what the EFF is going on, Juju does
The EFF knows exactly what it is and what it wants, but does the ANC?
“If your friends told you to jump off a cliff, would you?”
It’s been the go-to argument of parents for decades, and for good reason: its logic seems incontrovertible, and as long as you’re not talking to a thrill-crazed, nihilist preteen, the answer usually has to be a grudging “no”.
Unless, of course, you’re the ANC. Because if Julius Malema told the ANC to set itself on fire and jump off a cliff, we’d all be watching a screaming, blazing mess hurtling toward impact.
Then again, perhaps we already are.
It's now accepted as fact that the EFF dictates ANC policy, if spasmodic convulsions to the left can be described as policy. Whether it be land expropriation or nationalising the Reserve Bank, the EFF merely needs to point to a random page of Revolution For Dummies and a few weeks later the ANC remembers it once proposed that very idea at branch level.
Such wretched plagiarism would be understandable if the ideas were good. But so far the only things the ANC has seen fit to copy are the opium dreams of mediocre sociology undergraduates.
All of which asks the question: why? If we picture the results of the last general election as a room containing 100 people, why are 62 of those people being bossed around by six?
One answer might be that they’re not. If you still believe in the existence of sentient life on planet ANC, you might argue the party is simply being pragmatic and doing what it has to in order to keep a majority in next year’s election: matching the EFF’s utopian promises for a few months with some howlers of its own before quietly abandoning them, letting them smother to death under rhetorical obfuscation and the daily grind of national politics.
This is possible, but for me it doesn’t fully explain the sullen and subdued nature of the ANC’s plagiarism. Instead of trumpeting these stolen ideas as giant leaps forward, they’re shuffling their feet and sucking on their bottom lips. Instead of trying to outsell Malema, they’re avoiding eye contact.
To me, this doesn’t feel like strategic competition. This feels like obedience. This feels, again, like 62 people getting bossed by six.
Which brings me back to my original question: how is this happening?I suspect one explanation might be the ANC’s traditional vulnerability to personality cults. Certainly in the last 10 years it has thrown itself at the feet of various political Svengalis, rolling over like a theatre full of suggestible rubes the moment a travelling hypnotist dangles a pocket watch. Given the swathes Malema cut through in the ruling party, it seems logical there are many inside the ANC who still feel an intoxicating combination of fear and desire the moment Malema yells at them.
There is, however, another explanation. And it goes by the name of Brad.
Brad (not his real name, which was Satan) was a boy who, for a few weeks of my childhood, bullied me.
It was pretty mild as bullying went, a little more than a stream of low-grade invective and some theatrically threatening looks. He never touched me, mainly because I was twice his size. But that didn’t matter. Even though I could have squashed him, I was bizarrely in thrall to his nastiness. Indeed, his smallness made him seem even more dangerous, like a scorpion or a bullet.
I could have told a teacher. I could have walked away. But I was powerless because Brad had something I didn’t: a powerful sense of who he was and what he wanted. He was a tough guy who wanted people to feel bad. I was, well, just a guy who wanted a doughnut. He had the courage of his convictions, no matter how shitty they were. I had nothing but vague unease. And that was all it took to become the servant of his anger.
The ANC doesn’t have a clue what it is or what it’s for. It doesn’t know if it’s a political party or a looting machine or both. It doesn’t even know where it is: Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki sold its moral compass to European arms dealers, and Jacob Zuma pawned its political one to pay for a firepool. It is hopelessly lost. And when you’re that lost you’ll follow anyone who tells you to follow them.
Years ago, when Zuma and the ANC were threatening to gag Zapiro, I wondered why it was that a man with an air force was frightened of a man who drew pictures.
The answer then, as it is now, is simple. The ANC is frightened of anything that knows what it is and what it wants. And the EFF knows exactly what it is and what it wants.