The hyenas awake! (Apologies to actually existing hyenas, who are deeply impressive and sexually progressive beasts apart from their scrawny hind-legs.) The cannibals are sharpening their carving-knives! The vultures circle in the sunset! The bandits, false phrasemongers and poisoners of public wells are on the march!
All of which is to say that the white ruling class is getting hopeful again.
With the installation of their ally Jacob Zuma and their agent Cyril Ramaphosa in charge of the decaying remnants of the ANC’s organisation, the ruling class has two high roads to power. One is simply to destroy the ANC and remove it from power. The other is to take over the ANC and retain it in power as a ruling-class operation. (In comparison with what the ANC was before Zuma, this latter is already the case — but even today the agents of imperialism have to at least pretend not to be cronies of global capital; the ANC cannot be an active proponent of plutocracy as the DA is.)
The immense unpopularity of Zuma and his allies, the decay of the National Executive Committee into a club for feeble-minded failures, and the organizational disintegration of the ANC outside Luthuli House, naturally offer empowering opportunities for the white ruling class. There is an election coming up in two years, and the money is pouring in from everywhere (reputedly, even from the Guptas, those Zuma allies who, like Zuma himself, are happy to walk on both sides of the street simultaneously). The Democratic Alliance hopes to take control of Gauteng.
They have been hoping to take control of Gauteng for the last eighteen years, without any real sign of success thus far. This is partly an obligatory matter; Gauteng is the main centre of white wealth in the country and therefore is the place where victory is most likely if white wealth is the fountainhead of victory. Gauteng is also the heartland of white male Anglophone Democratic Alliance values (their success in the Western Cape relies heavily on the coloured vote) and therefore victory there would possibly enable them to strike back against the usurping Führerin Helen Zille. Above all else, Gauteng is full of confused black middle-class people, many of them embedded in white values, who are quite capable of voting against their interests just as Western Cape coloureds do, and who might conceivably stumble behind the Democratic Alliance like rats behind the Pied Piper of Hameln.
The year after that there is a municipal election. Having taken Gauteng, the DA then hopes to take control of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and also of Port Elizabeth. They will thus control two out of nine provinces and four out of seven cities and will have (in their minds) driven the ANC out into the peasantry and the working class, which will compel the ANC to rethink its support for Zuma, except that there is no apparent difference between Zuma and the ANC.
At this point, namely 2015, the ANC will (in DA theory, anyway) call on Zuma to stand down as President and install his Deputy President, Ramaphosa, as boss of the country. Once Ramaphosa is in charge of the country he will be able to implement ultra-right-wing policies which will further alienate the ANC utterly from the people, so that by 2019 a majority will be voting for the DA (possibly after Ramaphosa splits the ANC and his portion of it merges with the DA) and the end of the line is total and permanent victory for white supremacists and neoliberals, with the 25-year rule of the ANC (but only nine years of which were genuinely independent of white control, if one accepts that Mandela was largely under the thumb of the white bourgeoisie) being a minor interregnum in white control.
Now this is not an altogether impossible scenario, horrifying and disgusting as it might seem. The idea that the ANC’s support will fall substantially between 2011 and 2014 is by no means impossible; it fell substantially between 2006 and 2009, and fell again between 2009 and 2011, and by now the Zuma administration has done so much harm to its own image that the ANC is inescapably tarnished; nobody can see the Tripartite Alliance as a vehicle for progress or development.
One problem is that the ANC may not lose as much support as the DA hopes. It is certainly likely that Zuma has alienated a lot of supporters, but are they really likely to run off to the DA? Granted, if they stay home, the vote will decline, but not so much as if they switched parties — which is far from certain. One major reason for the big increase in DA support in 2009 was the decisive defection of coloured support after Zuma purged coloureds from the Western Cape ANC leadership and installed a string of half-witted Xhosa tribalists and SACP careerists in their places. This is obviously not going to happen again; there weren’t enough coloureds supporting the ANC in 2009 to make a loss of coloured support decisive. On the contrary, even with the egregious Patricia de Lille fronting for the DA in Cape Town, it is entirely possible that a lot of coloureds will stay home from the DA vote, pushing them down again.
This has nothing to do with the vote in Gauteng, where the DA will have to win over a lot of Africans to win. The ANC got 64% of the vote in 2009 to the DA’s 22%, a relatively small change from 2004. The DA needs to improve its share of the vote dramatically, and it has no real expectation of doing that. It might conceivably be able to win Pretoria, but it is very unlikely to win Johannesburg. In other words, the dramatic shift that the DA hopes for will not make a tremendous amount of difference in the outcome because the DA is extremely unlikely to be large enough to assemble the kind of coalition which Helen Zille threw together to seize control of Cape Town in 2006.
Another problem is that the ANC is a very different kind of organisation from what it was before 2006. It appears far more subject to public opinion as represented through either newspapers or mobs burning down police stations, because whenever there is a crisis it responds by changing political positions or at least making humiliating public rhetorical climbdowns. It is also, by and large, docile and obedient to the orders of the ruling class in the way it was not before 2006. This has led the ruling class to imagine that the ANC will simply roll over and die at the blast of a newspaper headline.
However, this is not the case. Zuma and the SACP and the rest of them have not sacrificed the ANC’s principles and independence of policy simply out of a whim. They have done this in return for ruling-class support in embedding themselves inextricably in the party. In other words, for secure power within the ANC. (It is, in fact, very much like what Zille has done in the DA, rooting out the white male leadership and replacing them with blacks, coloureds and women without changing the basic white structure of the party. As a result she is surrounded by people who will lose their jobs if she is replaced — so she is secure barring an immense purge or a catastrophic defeat which leaves the party’s paymasters with nothing to lose by dismissing her.)
Therefore, Zuma will not stand down if the ANC’s support falls by 10%, any more than he did in 2009 when its support fell by 4%. (Indeed, this fall in support was painted as a gorgeous triumph by hired pundits like Roger Southall.) He will not leave unless he is kicked out — it is far from certain that he will stand down as President in 2017; he may well seek to run his successor as State President from Luthuli House. There are no structures within the ANC independent of Zuma’s control, so for the “ANC” to dismiss Zuma, as various silly white right-wing commentators have fantasised, would be equivalent to Zuma dismissing himself. This is almost inconceivable. It is likely to grow even more improbable with every passing year that Zuma enriches himself at the state’s expense, and as he grows older and more set in the ways of power. (One must not be seduced the racist fantasies of Western imperialism, but this latter matter is probably the reason why Mugabe has not stood down — and Zuma is certainly not as much of a democrat or a patriot as Mugabe is.)
Very well, then; as before, the white ruling class is wrong. But this means that those of us who are not in the white ruling class are in very big trouble. To oversimplify a bit, the whites set up Zuma to fail in the anticipation that his failure would place power in their hands. Zuma is going to fail catastrophically as a national leader, because his policies are proving increasingly disastrous in every way — although (because) his economic and social and foreign policy policies are largely dictated by white power. But failure as a national leader is not going to translate into failure as a party leader; he will continue to hold on to party power, and therefore the ANC will not be plunged into ostentatious chaos and will not lose control. Therefore we will have a complete failure remaining in office, increasingly isolated from reality, ever less responsible for his actions, but obsessed with hanging on to control. It is the worst imaginable consequence of the white plot, and it is entirely a product of whites imagining that they had control over things which they did not control.
There is, of course, Cyril Ramaphosa, the Great White Hope. Even the whites are getting a little disappointed by his utter passivity and subservience to Zuma. They put him there to take over — why isn’t he taking over, as he doubtless promised to do when they offered him the job? But, of course, Zuma also offered him the job. Ramaphosa has stepped into a little Deputy Presidential capsule, and the political life-support systems connected to that luxurious capsule have their controls on Jacob Zuma’s and Gwede Mantashe’s desks. Ramaphosa has not the slightest political capacity to sustain himself without their support. Hence, when his former white employers shout in the media “Do something, Cyril!” it is not in his interest to do anything.
Of course Zuma knows Ramaphosa’s connections — that was why he appointed the man, so as to disarm the hostility of the white business community while having a man in the number two slot who posed no political threat to his control. He also, probably, knows that Ramaphosa has no original ideas and no wish to run risks — he has won the second-largest jackpot in the political casino without even putting his own money at stake, and now wishes to walk away with the pot without any losses. But he could only do that because the casino was rigged, and the owner of the casino is Jacob Zuma. Calls for Cyril to be unleashed on Zuma, which are popping up throughout the media, are futile. One does not unleash a poodle as if it were a Rottweiler. (Metaphor only — apologies to actually existing noble canines — Ramaphosa is more of a stuffed plush animal resting on Zuma’s bed than like anything in the living state.)
What this means is that almost everybody is living in a state of pretense. The white ruling class cannot admit that it has stuffed up by installing Zuma in power possibly forever, nor can it admit that the policies it has imposed through Zuma are bringing socio-economic disaster without bringing any political improvements. (Instead, many of the white ruling class pundits like Steven Friedman and Adam Habib — honorary white, like Seepe and Gumede and Ramphele — are making the best of the situation by pretending that everything is going according to plan.) Zuma is not admitting anything. The ANC is not free to speak. All that we hear, therefore, are lies, either comforting or fantasising. And while the riders in the national wagon are squalling pointlessly about whose false claims should be imposed rather than some other false claims, the wheels of the wagon are coming off and we are plunging off the road into a ditch, drowning in ordure.
Perhaps, after what we have allowed to happen, that is where we belong.