The “Return” of the “Repressed”.

In Jacob Zuma’s first few months he has accomplished essentially nothing. There has been a massive expansion of the Cabinet accompanied by the establishment of vaingloriously titled impotent new organisations. There have been numerous empty pledges and promises. There has been an incessant and unhealthy caving-in to whoever shouts loudest in the vacuous public chamber. However, apart from the level of discourse there has been no solid shifts towards reactionary or especially conservative forces, and this is a good thing. The fact that Zuma was backed by the reactionaries in the ANC proves to mean no more than that he was backed by the purported leftists; Zuma is not interested in doing any work, and his chief allies are not interested in anything except their own enrichment and basking in the ephemeral fame which high office provides.
But the shift in discourse is not altogether innocuous, because it portends danger for the future.
A simple example would be Moeletsi Mbeki’s recent declaration in the nation’s biggest-selling weekly that the United States has always been a true friend of South Africa, but that the South African government, because of the ANC’s foolish commitment to the USSR in the past, refuses to see this, whereas the people of South Africa can see this. Mbeki’s observation was ridiculous and fooled nobody; obviously Mbeki lacks the diplomatic and intellectual skills to couch white racist propaganda in terms which can be tolerated by the broader South African public (or, to be fair, he is too lazy and too contemptuous of the public to bother to exercise what skills he possesses). Again obviously, the white proponents of right-wing discourse have yet to learn that you cannot assume that just because a person has a black skin, he is capable of effectually instilling reactionary political ideas into black minds. Like Mbeki, people like Seepe and Mangcu are incapable of generating statements which pass the public smell test. Arguably, they exist in part to reassure white racists that “the blacks really agree with us” — thus fulfilling the same function that Justus Tshungu used to fulfil in the 1970s for the National Party’s propaganda machine.
However, it is pretty scary to see the cat let out of the bag like that. Effectively, the genocidal racism of “constructive engagement” is being redesignated as the kind of policy which South Africa ought to pursue. Apparently, a proper relationship between South Africa and foreign Western powers is one of subservience and toadying. As a corollary, Mbeki called on South Africa to cut itself off from the rest of Africa. One can only assume that there will soon be a comedy series called “The Adventures of Thabo Mbeki’s Smarter Brother”, with Leon Schuster playing Moeletsi.
Incidentally — not all that incidentally — Moeletsi Mbeki is also a businessman. There does seem to be a direct connection between BEE and reactionary politics. Of course one does not have to abandon all ideals and principles in order to be a businessman. Nevertheless, it does seem to happen.
Now, this is not altogether a simple process. It is obviously important for Zuma to pretend to be concerned about the plight of the poor, for he wants to be popular, he wants to win elections, and he appears to be understandably nervous about his control of the ANC without popular support backing him. Hence, in addition to his attacks on the structure of the party in the Western Cape and the North West Provinces, and also in various municipalities, he is charging around, or sending his allies and agents charging around, pretending to show concern for the people. Here Sexwale spends a night in an actual township; there Nzimande comes up with a plan to spend .003 of gross domestic product on the suffering newly-unemployed workers. Behold! We care!
But although this is hypocrisy at its most naked, it is also strangely reassuring. Zuma and his allies may well be entirely cynical and manipulative, but they believe that it is important to cynically manipulate such things. There are checks on the behaviour of Zuma and his comrades which are completely unrelated to conventional politics; they relate to the way in which it is “proper” for an ANC politician to behave, and “improper” behaviour leads to sanctions despite whatever the NEC or Luthuli House might have to say about it.
Obvious examples arise from foreign policy. This might seem strange, since foreign policy was the last thing on Zuma’s mind when he decided to seize power. Also, of course, if Zuma is to be seen as a tool of foreign interests, then one would expect foreign policy to be the thing which would alter most conspicuously. Instead, foreign policy, despite the change of leadership of the Ministry (of course Zuma could not allow his ex-wife, the Mbeki supporter, to hold that Ministry despite the magnificent performance she has put on and the fact that there was no competent alternative to her) — foreign policy has been remarkably consistent.
The first point was about the Sudan. It will be remembered that the “International Criminal Court”. the Star Chamber of global neoliberalism which no opponent of global neoliberalism dares to oppose, decided to charge Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir with genocide and violations of international law relating to the treatment of captives and civilians. Of course the Sudanese government has not committed genocide, and although it has undoubtedly violated international law relating to the treatment of captives and civilians (as, of course, have the guerrilla forces fighting the Sudanese government in Darfur) there is undoubtedly no proof that Al-Bashir s responsible for any of this. However, since nobody who has once disappeared into the dungeons of the “International Criminal Court” has ever emerged, this is not important; what matters it that the President of Sudan must either be sent off to die in durance vile, or the Sudanese government must show that it does not care about the “International Criminal Court” but only about trivial things like the Charter of Human Rights, which the “International Criminal Court” exists to violate.
Well, everybody in South Africa who matters, i.e. the white-skinned bumsuckers of global colonialist imperialism and their own private blackskinned bumsuckers, decreed that the Sudanese issue had been a catastrophe solely and singly and purely because of the evil Thabo Mbeki who had alone been running around stripping every possible system and structure of its human rights. Now that Mbeki was rightly sent off to Purgatory, our hero Jacob Zuma would at once set things to rights by doing whatever Gordon Brown and George W Bush — whoops, sorry, it isn’t George W Bush, it’s his stand-in, Barack Obama — told him to do.
But he didn’t. Instead, he went along, foolishly and incomprehensibly, with the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and every sane person in the world, and said that he didn’t think it was a smart idea to accuse Al-Bashir of charges which were manifestly trumped up around the bloody conflict in Darfur while the Sudanese government headed by Al-Bashir was involved in negotiations with a view towards ending the bloody conflict in Darfur. In other words, rather than have a publicity stunt, get real. Understandably, all those white-skinned bumsuckers went ahead and declared in favour of the publicity stunt, especially if it were obviously corrupt, dishonest and favoured the depraved murder gangs promoted by Western spy networks. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? But it was clear that they had expected that Zuma was their man, and instead he wasn’t — or, at least, if he was their man, he was also the man of some other people as well.
Which the white bumsuckers didn’t like.
Then there was the whole affair of Hillary Clinton and Zimbabwe. Clinton’s visit was a direct insult to South Africa. This was partly because Clinton is an evil person who should be chained to a triangle in the public square and lashed fiercely before being shipped back to America in an ironbound sewerage transport. Backwards. However, in addition to this, Clinton had come to Africa to try to bully and bribe weakling African nations to allow America to set up occupation forces on their territory — forces which are ultimately aimed against South Africa, as the only seriously potentially independent-from-America country in Africa. So she should not have visited the country which her trip to the continent was meant as a declaration of modest, cowardly war against. (O, how grammar suffers when the person using the grammar is grumpy.)
Well, the official line was that, glory be unto the magnificent and munificent financiers of American press propaganda, Clinton was here to rescue Zimbabwe from the bad, bad policies of the South African government before Zuma came to save our souls. And, alongside His Zumacity, we were told, would be the sensible policy of, er, doing whatever the Americans and British told us to do, which was not clear, but would, of course, be “tough”. We were even told that Clinton would not meet Zuma. Was this because the press considered Clinton liable to discredit Zuma, or because the press considered Zuma likely to discredit Clinton? In either case it was wrong; one only wants to know from which direction the poisonous wind is blowing.
Basically, Zuma seems to have told Clinton that — strictly entre nous — the policy of the South African government would be exactly the same as it had been under Thabo Mbeki; namely, that the Zimbabwean situation could best be solved by Zimbabweans, with as little interference by Western colonial imperialism, or by the global banking system which serves that imperialism, as possible. There would be no specific pressure on Mugabe, so long as Mugabe did not conspicuously do anything notably worse than the egregious and ludicrous Tsvangirai. The argument that Tsvangirai was discriminated against by Mbeki (which is exactly back to front — Tsvangirai either hated Mbeki or was commanded by his political handlers to pretend to hate Mbeki) fell apart, unless one assumes that Zuma is covertly under Mbeki’s control.
Fundamentally, Zuma’s foreign policy is the same as Mbeki’s. This is a little conspicuous because Western countries want Zuma’s foreign policy to be whatever they command it to be. Therefore, there is a little more obviousness in the field of foreign policy than in, say, safety and security policy. Otherwise the policy has not changed.
This is a bit problematic for those of us who believe that Mbeki’s policies were not perfect. It is, however, far more problematic for those of them who are paid to pretend that Zuma’s policies are perfect but that Mbeki’s policies were evil. It is necessary for such people to make an enormous amount of stuff up and to suppress other stuff. Luckily there are a lot of e-mails circulating to enable people to do such things without having to perform actual work. Hence the post-Mbeki government is not so problematic for the press that they actually have to do anything.
All the same, the fact is that Zuma is not so dramatically different from his predecessor that things are getting conspicuously worse. In the short term. No doubt in the longer term things will become worse, because the forces seeking corruption and evil are powerful, whereas no forces are seeking integrity and good governance except the general public, whose authority is discounted. However, for the moment people would ask in bewilderment what the whole revolution was about — and therefore the media has to lie about the entire situation. Luckily they have plenty of experience in this respect.

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