By: Clyde Ramalaine
What are the political gains at play which CR22 seeks to harvest with this propaganda?
South Africa is and remains gripped in waves of revolt. No public relations and spin will deceive South Africans to assume the situation is normalising and under control as politicians advocate. It is interesting to hear how the elites explain the revolt of the poor. The elites who call this looting and violence necessarily seeking to criminalise a legitimate black struggle against the triplets of inequality, unemployment and poverty, the identity of South Africa. It is also interesting how the revolt is brushed aside as momentarily and necessarily limited to the organising around the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma. Zuma’s bungled incarceration as critical could merely have been a trigger and thus cannot be seen as the fundamental reason for what we have witnessed before our own eyes. I wish to contend that a glaring and convenient error is committed when the elites deny the poor, the unemployed and those marginalised their appropriate agency. While some seek to pin the activities of this last week on the orchestration of a group of Zuma loyalists, they have failed to realise the agency of the disenfranchised.
Another pervasive hypocrisy in our discourse details those 30-40 years ago under Apartheid who did precisely what the July 2021 revolt evidence. Perhaps blinded by their current class dispositions, they have forgotten their personal role in looting and violence. They suddenly cannot relate to what is unfolding and is advocating for the law to be upheld. They forgot Apartheid was a system with laws. They did precisely what they today condemn as looting and violence. Anyone who was part of the ’70s and ’80s struggle for liberation from an unjust apartheid system will confirm what is today labelled as looting and destruction of infrastructure was an integral reality of a campaign to bring Apartheid to its knees.
It is the same former looters, stone throwers, infrastructure destroyers that made up the bulk of those arrested at the time today who want to lead the moral high ground. We hear them calling for the SANDF to be unleashed to deal with the current situation. It does not point to a much deeper reality of deep societal fissures and entrenched challenges that explain the undeniable fact of an unjust society underscored by the vast underlying chasms of inequalities.
It appears South Africans have an appetite for discussing anything but will not discuss SA, the unequal society. They will not engage inequality as now entrenched with a black- government in office has legitimised this inequality in which black lives mean nothing, in life and death. These defend this unequal society as normal and acceptable. I ask why?
This brings us to the question of leadership or, instead, the glaring absence of such.
There is little disagreement that Ramaphosa remains wholly suspended as a distrusted leader with no original or authentic capacity to bring about any meaningful change related to the real challenges that face SA. Challenges of unemployment, inequality, and poverty. He will hide behind COVID when we all know COVID, and its draconian unscientific regulations immanent in a lockdown of unjust practices has been his saving grace. His litany of job summits, economic envoys that would attract investments have all fallen flat.
He has failed to lead in every meaningful area and, therefore, would have been subjected to a vote of no confidence in any other society. Recently economist Moeletsi Mbeki joined the growing crowd of many of us that have called for this vote of no confidence because Ramaphosa is unfortunately not fit to lead SA.
In his now to be expected empty rhetoric, South Africa’s president confuses the delivery of leadership speeches with what I choose to call a read-out. You cannot call any of his addresses inspiring as evidencing authentic leadership. His talks are best explained as read-outs that often appears to be being read for the first time as he speaks. It is a president that, in ignorance, dared to describe the revolt as ethnic mobilisation. He never explained his construct and left South Africans befuddled. Arguably, a man ill-informed or blatantly ignorant is trapped in seeking to be the clean guy in a pigsty.
His CR22 intoxicated crowd calls what happened this week a coup. Perhaps they do so in ignorance, or they do so to maximise sympathy for their blind leader. At the height of the week of an undeniable revolt of the poor, State Intelligence Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa [a highly questionable character that should serve nowhere in any corruption-free cabinet] appeared from nowhere to inform South Africa that they have intelligence reports that details a list of names, twelve in the number of those who plotted this insurrection and are directly responsible for the revolt. It did not take rocket science to identify these as essentially Jacob G. Zuma sympathisers. Kodwa was now informing SA how these twelve will be arrested for planning and orchestrating this insurrection and instability.
Interesting enough, while ministers crawled out of the woodworks to make public statements, the DSG Jessie Duarte, often mistaken for the self-appointed police officer trailing certain ANC members and leaders, was firing off accusatory WhatsApp messages to certain ANC members and leaders condemning them as responsible for the revolt. DSG Duarte went as far as to assert that the hands of those she was addressing are dripping with blood.
You also heard ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe, often mistaken as the self-appointed de-facto president of the ANC and SA categorically referring to the people involved in the acts of unrests and uprise as ”thugs”. Unfortunately, this type of power-intoxicated armchair-analysis elitist ANC leaders who, from their class disposition, pretends a lack of appreciation to analyse South African society properly. It also speaks to a mind that got used to political power and is wholly oblivious to the reality of the triple demons of Inequality, Unemployment and Poverty. Maybe a mind that talk about it in a cliché sense without engaging it as the fundamental reasons for the unrest. It also communicates the mind of the factionalist leader whose sole interest is to keep his guy CR22 in power. That extends to him a political relevance and power to continue usurping ANC and SA leadership because the incumbent is pathetically weak. That is the ANC in leadership in this era, wholly inept at making sense of the hour and taking cheap and easy refuge in blaming a few who are not part of their faction.
There is nothing new under the sun, as the adage goes. We are back here as we again in typical and now characteristic of the Ramaphosa leadership blame-game hear empty salvos of sabotage. Shall we remember how after one of his Davos hastily returns he categorically claimed ESKOM was sabotaged and how they will arrest those responsible? Has Ramaphosa ever come back to admit his propaganda of sabotage and apologised for his lies? Until today this fake news led from the highest office remains opaque and nothing but a ruse. Ramaphosa also never come back to apologise for his false claims that some want to unseat him. These acts do not inspire trust in his leadership.
Ramaphosa is not alone in this arrogance of assuming South Africans are all idiots.
As relayed by Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa, a closer look at this intelligence report shows the elements of classical propaganda. Propaganda feeds on human nature to rationalise and understand what happened in the aftermath of a crisis. In the aftermath of this revolt and unrest, millions of South Africans want to know what happened. They want to know why the State in its intelligence infrastructure could have been this outfoxed. This reality of a people questioning the leadership affords Ramaphosa and his crowd with propaganda to invent kamikaze and apparent straightforward answers.
Remember, the answers need not be the truth. Ramaphosa and his group provide a proverbial hand over barrel answer as to the reason for the uprise as directly linked to the Zuma incarceration. They know too well that once one can explain the actions, you now earn the space to point society to the perpetrators. Meaning they arrogate the power to name and shame the perpetrators.
What does the Ramaphosa leadership hope to derive from its buoyant instigator and sabotage claims?
It is a leadership that still refuses to own this crisis since abdicating direct responsibility for such is its praxis. This crisis is directly linked to Ramaphosa’s list need for a second term and DCJ Zondo’s ambitions to be Chief Justice. Meaning the political ambitions of two political players brought us here.
These inequalities are further exacerbated by the undeniable consequences of the COVID 19 funds gross corruption under Ramaphosa’s leadership. He thus can attempt to shift the blame to abdicate responsibility to so-called plotters or instigators.
Central to the need to identify and single out Jacob Zuma sympathisers as the instigators for the revolt is the fundamental hope for Ramaphosa to be heroes in triumphalism who arrested the nexus of looting, thus endearing itself to South Africa. We all know it can be argued, Kodwa’s intelligence report can be reduced to nothing but a propaganda kamikaze intelligence report since it is rooted in ANC factionalism driven by a need to deal with internal ANC political foes. On another level, it can also be contended that it is a report that has the has a sole aim to ensure aCR22.
On Friday afternoon in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Ramaphosa’s walkabout was his usual ‘lights-camera-no-action drama’ akin to how he rushed to inspect expired AstraZeneca vaccines as the only president in the world amidst fanfare. It is always about public relations for Matamela. He shows up to claim the spoils of an apparent victory in Ethekweni and constructs a public address for Friday night at 8h30pm to tell SA he has everything under control.
In a classical sleight of hand propaganda ploy, Ramaphosa presents to a South African public devastated by the wave of violence and destruction an easy target to hate for the calamity that befell our nation. In this narrative, those responsible are the plotters or instigators. They must face the might of the law, which means instead of having to deal with the challenge of a glaring lack of decisive leadership on his part to give clear direction on critical and complex socio-economic challenges that essentially lead to the upheaval, it can now all be reduced to a few plotters that must be apprehended. In this sense, it becomes a law and order matter in the prism of Ramaphosa.
This crafted narrative also affords Ramaphosa, who has always looked for a means to deal with his political foes in the ANC a silver platter opportunity. He can now decisively deal with political opponents. He can do so because of the wholesale assistance of the mainstream media propaganda machinery, which uncritically supports him as the only hope in the intertwined broader white and global interest frames.
This kind of media will give the fake narrative of ‘insurrection’, ‘coup’ and ‘sabotage’ credence because it must do its part to render those who oppose Ramaphosa enemies of SA. This affords Ramaphosa and his crowd the power to unleash the repressive state apparatus, akin to apartheid-style, on these ‘enemies’.
Under these circumstances, he no longer must face them in the open democratic political arena where contestation of ideas is the standard. He can remove them and use his fake insurrection claims as justified means to charge, arrest, and imprison them. In this sense, his political opposition is criminalised. This classical deflection for those who can see.
So, when you saw him flanked by the heads of SANDF and Police, daring even to entertain the eNCA crafted notion of a need for a State of Emergency, we must realise empty leaders ultimately rely on the power of brute force to stay in control. South Africa must smell the coffee since we appear back in Apartheid. You guessed right, Mr Public Relations [Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa] wants a second term at all costs and in this moment hopes to come out of this the hero regardless of the costs even if he must declare a state of emergency. Do not be surprised because he attempted classically conditioning South Africa by mentioning it as not off the table. Is this not the proverbial mechanic with one tool, a hammer [state-of-emergency] left in an empty toolbox?