The ANC has never felt embarrassed before, so why now?

Ideas

The ANC has never felt embarrassed before, so why now?

It reportedly fears SABC job losses will ‘embarrass’ it, which is unfathomable considering its track record

Columnist
According to a weekend report, 'at least 1,000 employees meet and exceed their job profile' at the SABC. What, then, are the other 2,200 doing?
Oh, happy days According to a weekend report, 'at least 1,000 employees meet and exceed their job profile' at the SABC. What, then, are the other 2,200 doing?
Image: Robbie Tshabalala

Even by the soul-sapping standards of the Sunday press it was a startling headline: the ANC, City Press reported, doesn’t want the SABC to fire anyone because it fears a wave of retrenchments would “embarrass” the ruling party.

Of course, there were plenty of other macabre details in the piece.

There seems, for example, to be some confusion about whether a meeting between the ANC and some SABC suits was arranged by the party or its puppet, with both insisting it was the other lot who called the meeting.

This suggests neither group has understood that they are all part of the same zombie collective and are still going about, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, in the tragic belief that they are still alive and doing important jobs in the real world.

Then there was the morbidly fascinating glimpse into the SABC “skills audit”, whose findings were shared with the ANC last week, including the happy announcement that “at least 1,000 employees meet and exceed their job profile”. (I’m not sure exactly what this means, but I think it is safe to assume that there are at least 1,000 people in Auckland Park who can find their way from the parking lot to their desks all by themselves.)

Other claims, however, struck me as extremely unlikely, such as the one insisting that “the SABC had no proper filing system and did not keep requisite records for its 3,200 employees”.

First, as every freelancer who has ever worked with the SABC knows, all invoices sent to Auckland Park are quickly and efficiently filed in a special cabinet that shreds them into long strips of paper, before transferring them to another filing cabinet called “a bin”.

Second, if only 1,000 of your employees “meet or exceed their job profile”, why would you want to store any information about the other 2,200, who are apparently paid to drift slowly towards death in dimly lit cubicles smelling of Nik Naks and regret? By all means, send an intern round once a month to make sure nobody is decomposing into the carpet and leaving a nasty stain, but files? For who? For what?

All of these questions and impressions, however, couldn’t keep one from returning to the headline and its far-fetched, almost ludicrous claim: that the ANC is capable of feeling embarrassment.

At first glance, it seems a preposterous thing to suggest. After all, if the ANC could oversee the theft of hundreds of billions of rand by the Zupta regime without the faintest hint of a blush, why would it feel anything about a few hundred retrenchments? If the total collapse of municipalities in SA can’t rouse even the faintest hint of shame, why on Earth would the party feel an iota of awkwardness about making an effort to cut costs at the SABC?

Embarrassment, after all, requires two things the ANC simply doesn’t have: the ability to register one’s own missteps and an awareness of how those missteps are seen by other people.

For the ANC, there are no missteps and there are no other people. There is the party, which, by definition, is infallible; beyond which is a dim otherworld populated by irrelevances and enemies. It’s why our current minister of higher education described the Nkandla scandal as “white people’s lies”. There are no crimes in the ANC. There are simply accusations made by lying racists far, far away. And if there are no crimes, then there is nothing to feel ashamed about.

And yet, on Sunday, City Press quoted verbatim someone close the ANC talking about embarrassment. Which means the prospect of firing SABC employees is more alarming to the party than the looting of R500bn or the SANDF beating South Africans to death, or any other obscenities committed without a mention of “embarrassment”.

Why?

I suspect the answer cuts deep into the heart of what the ANC has become. Because the ANC is no longer a government. It doesn’t have to be embarrassed about stealing money or redeploying thieves, or having a military that kills civilians, because those are the concerns of a government and the ANC is not here to govern.

The ANC is here to get paid and to make sure it keeps getting paid.

The rest — the economy, education, policing, infrastructure — are just chores that come with the job, the way bankers sometimes have to empty their trash cans. But the job itself is simple: it’s to keep the chosen in a job, no matter what.

Which is why nobody can be fired, ever. Because if the chosen get fired, like people in the real world, what is the ANC? What’s it for? And how long until the whole pyramid scheme starts rocking on its foundations?

Embarrassing, indeed.

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