Spies Tell Lies.

May 19, 2016

Police spies have, historically, been deemed the most contemptible of people. The “copper’s nark” of Britain was traditionally seen as an enemy not only of the criminal fraternity but even of the working class, and richly deserved the savage kicking he received in prisons. In Paris, police spies were on the same level as pimps, but not as valuable members of society. In South Africa, of course, the police spy was necessarily tied in with the apartheid state, and to be called an “impimpi” was as much as one’s life was worth (provided that one was weak, unprotected and unarmed — ideally an elderly female whom the brave young lions could boldly burn to death).

The exception in the West is the middle-class perspective on the political police spy. Of course Verloc in Conrad’s The Secret Agent is an unattractive figure — but then he is an agent provocateur, and working for the Czarist government whom Konrad Korteniowski necessarily disliked. But in a lot of cases the attitude is more that of I Was a Communist for the FBI — focussing on the courage of the political police spy in betraying the spy’s friends and allies on behalf of the centres of power. The same was true under the apartheid regime in South Africa, when police spies were honoured (except by those against whom they were used) — except that some felt that there was something a little problematic about them, not that anybody in authority minded.

Olivia Forsyth’s Agent 407 is, thus, interesting as being a voice from within the problematic stuff. The question is whether anybody will admire it, and also, of course, whether anybody will believe a professional deceiver.

Forsyth was mildly famous at one stage. She was a campus spy — a fairly lowly form of life, but extremely common; it was particularly easy to recruit conservative white people and get them to pretend to be left-wingers in exchange for a free university education. Such people, if they were caught, would not be necklaced or shot, but would simply be embarrassed and might have to go to some other institution. So they risked little and all they had to do was deceive the people who surrounded them, which was usually easy, and pleasing for them because conservative whites naturally despised white left-wingers even more than they despised blacks.

Forsyth comes from a fairly familiar background — part colonial, having been partly brought up in Zambia, part official, since her biological father worked for the government, living some of her time in conservative white Natal, some of her time in conservative white Pietersburg (now Polokwane, of course). So it is not very surprising that someone of this schizophrenic reactionary origin should have sought out a job with the government, first supposedly with the Foreign Service, then with the National Intelligence Service, and then with the Security Branch of the South African Police. Or maybe she was always angling for an SB job — who can say for sure?

What one can say for sure is that this is not a person whom one would trust under any circumstances. You twig this on the first page, when she is talking about how she was getting ready to be sent off to Russia for training, and how she was being escorted out of Luanda by some MK troops, thinking that they were there to defend her against FRELIMO bandits. FRELIMO were, of course, the government of Mozambique at that time, and so had they been there in Angola they would not have been bandits but allies. Also, they were the government which the South African government was trying to overthrow by sponsoring RENAMO guerrillas. In fact the people she is talking about was UNITA, who were certainly bandits, but who were enjoying the full and unqualified support of the South African and United States governments at the time. So someone who can’t tell the difference between her friends and her enemies, who gets her acronyms wrong, can hardly be trusted to know when she is telling the truth — and very probably she is being sloppy anyway because she assumes that her audience is a bunch of ignorant and politically gullible Britons.

Anyway, after a reactionary life and a brief bit of university training she was recruited as Agent RS407. She claims not to know what the initials stand for, but wonders if it meant “Republican Servant”. Unlikely, since it would have been in Afrikaans, and in Afrikaans that would be “Republikeinse Bediende”. More probably it stands for “Republikeinse Spioen”, and the fact that she didn’t think of that suggests how she is completely running away from the realities of her actual trade of treachery and falsification.

Why should she? Why should she be so inaccurate regarding details where she could check the facts with a single act of Googling? Presumably, because the truth does not matter, because what matters is something else. But what?

She started out, with apparently very limited training, as a simple spy on Rhodes campus, the most interesting campus from the perspective of the secret police in the 1980s because it was an extremely right-wing university in an extremely right-wing area, and therefore the destruction of NUSAS, the principal leftist organisation, was always a possibility; the university had already disaffiliated from NUSAS once. (NUSAS depended heavily, and ironically, on the subsidies of institutions, in return for NUSAS members largely keeping students quiet in respect of the corruption and mismanagement of academics and university authorities; it was, thus, a pensionary of the power-structure.)

However, she wanted more. She says this was her own initiative, but it seems likely that the secret police were grooming her for more. It was always assumed that white people rose rapidly within the ANC because black people had an intrinsic respect for whiteness. (While there may have been some truth to this, a reason which the racist secret police failed to consider was that whites who joined the ANC tended to be people with much more initiative and political understanding than the average, and were thus better qualified to rise.) So a white leftist inserted into the ANC might be expected to get into a significant position.

Forsyth also seems to have had one significant advantage. She was young, pretty and would fuck any man within reach. This apparent utter lack of self-respect naturally made her attractive to the thoroughly sexist males of the leadership of the white left, protecting her against exposure as a police spy — for by making herself absolutely available she proved her political virtue. It also distinguished her from the women of the white left who were usually more subordinate dogsbodies and generally had a distaste for such abjection, as a result of exposure to feminism which never troubled Forsyth. (Also, just at the time when Forsyth was becoming active, sexualised “post-feminism” was beginning to raise its head, which could have been used by Forsyth had she so wished.)

Another advantage was that since Forsyth was simply playing a part, and had no liking or respect for any of the people who surrounded her (she claims otherwise, but provides no evidence for why she might have evolved liking or respect for the people she betrayed to prison or death under the increasingly repressive politics of the era) having sex with any of them was of no more significance than the sexual activities of a porn actress; it simply didn’t count as real sex because her partners were not human.

So, having successfully betrayed NUSAS and the End Conscription Campaign at Rhodes, there was nothing for it but to go on to fight against the African National Congress, using her contacts in the white left to gain access to the ANC underground and thus make her way to Luanda and become part of the external ANC, with the possibility of a huge betrayal of the liberation movement — which, of course, for her, was not a betrayal, but simply undermining the enemy. However, unmentioned in the background of one of Forsyth’s trophy photographs of all the young people whom she was informing on to the apartheid police force is the cheerful face of the sprightly, bumptious, self-centred aspirant journalist Gavin Evans, who unbeknownst to people like Forsyth was one of the main ANC counterintelligence officers inserted into the white left. It seems quite likely that Evans was the man who recognised that Forsyth was an actor, and was probably at best a stooge and, most probably, a traitor.

Forsyth was playing in a whole new game, again unbeknownst to her; the white left inside South Africa had long ago given up all hope of curbing the vast flood of police spies (they were considered quite useful for stuffing envelopes and making platform-parties seem larger) whereas the ANC took spies seriously, partly because they were useful in maintaining an atmosphere of paranoia which benefited many of the more repressive leaders of the organisation.

So when Forsyth arrived in Luanda she was monitored, and then scrutinised, and then chucked into Quattro, a.k.a Number Four Camp, the prison camp where ANC dissidents and spies were held, abused, re-educated and sometimes debriefed. And this is the point at which the narrative really goes off the rails.

Forsyth claims that she did a deal with Ronnie Kasrils, the head of MK Intelligence (as opposed to Mbokhodo, ANC Security, which ran Quattro and was generally of much higher status and lower quality than MK Intelligence). Under this deal, she would eventually be swapped for some or other captured SWAPO or MK guerrilla, but she would really be working for MK, and would therefore be an ANC intelligence agent at the heart of the white establishment. In fact, she hints that while she had been busy betraying NUSAS at Rhodes she had undergone a complete change of heart and thereafter wanted nothing more than to be posted to spy on the ANC so that she could betray the apartheid establishment to them.

This is, of course, entirely her claim, which no conceivable evidence could substantiate. It is naturally what she might be expected to claim thirty years after the fact, when virtually everyone who could refute her claims is dead or senile. Of course it is possible that she might have so fallen in love with treachery and become so detached from reality and moral good sense that she might have pursued such an agenda for its own sake. (It is inconceivable that she might have somehow developed actual moral sense; nothing in her entire career suggests this.)

However, she obviously did some kind of deal, presumably under pressure, for she was taken out of Quattro again and placed under house arrest in Luanda. Conceivably Kasrils, who was always rather gullible and something of a grandstander, although honest according to his lights and more competent than most of those around him, was fooled by her line. Of course this would not have been a great accomplishment — she was an insignificant part of the South African espionage machinery and would not have known much more than gossip, nor been able to learn much — but MK and its allies were desperate for some modest success at this stage, their machinery in South Africa having been heavily penetrated or broken up. She then escaped from her safe-house to the British Embassy in that city. (Supposedly, the British government was highly indignant that the Angolans did not fast-track the rapid and easy repatriation of a spy from the South African government, which was then occupying and bombarding large parts of their country.)

Of course this escape makes nonsense of her claim to have wished to be a double agent for the ANC. There was no cause for such an escape unless one assumes that she remained loyal to the regime. After that she participated in a ludicrous pretense undertaken by the Security Branch under which she would pretend to have been a top agent who had successfully penetrated the ANC’s heartland and made it back with vital information, a pretense which fooled nobody who didn’t want to be fooled. Part of the deal was an arranged marriage with another secret policeman (probably the lick of truth in Forsyth’s narrative is that the Security Branch no longer trusted her) which, like the rest of her career and life, gradually faded away into the obscurity and misery which she had always richly deserved.

Why bother to write the book? Perhaps for the money, but who thought that the disingenuous fantasies of a dishonest reactionary would sell? Or was it sponsored by someone seeking to sanitise the odious history of the apartheid regime’s police spies? There are a few vague hints in the book that Forsyth would like to present herself as an anti-Communist – although this is ill-constructed and also decidedly implausible. Arguably, this is the kind of political stance which modern reactionaries try to take, and perhaps the wish to sanitise its own record on behalf of the old apartheid regime matched Forsyth’s desire to justify herself and possibly confuse the public enough to escape too much historical odium – for in the end Forsyth’s apparent lies and distortions are as likely as anything more honest and accurate to get into the history books.

Sad, really, but hardly surprising.


Same Game, Different Rules.

May 19, 2016

The last decade has seen a dramatic deterioration in South African economic and political conditions. In this modern world very little attention is paid to memory, so the world of 2005 seems misty and vague, but in retrospect it was a national Utopia; we had a strong and popular government which was working to solve problems like inequality and HIV and foreign affairs with vigour and efficacy, we had a booming economy, and the nation was cohesive; the poor expected that someone would look after them, the rich expected to be left alone with their wealth, blacks and whites were gradually moving away from the hostilities of the apartheid era. In contrast, nowadays things seem to be falling apart; even the Parliamentary opposition has fallen into desuetude.

But in 2005 many were convinced that South African economic and political conditions were simply not good enough — which was a fair enough claim if anybody had been able to prove that they had a better alternative. There was a strong groundswell calling for radical change within the Tripartite Alliance, as if this long national nightmare of peace and prosperity needed to be brought to an end, to make room for strife and poverty. And, lo, that was exactly what came to pass. Now, in 2015, there seems to be another groundswell within the Tripartite Alliance, calling, if not for radical change because nobody would believe in that any more, at least for regime change.

Basically, the SACP and COSATU are threatening, as they did between 1998 and 2007, to withdraw support from the ANC until their demands are met. They are also, increasingly, criticising the government’s policies, and are throwing their weight behind a candidacy for the Presidency of the ANC not favoured by its current President. This all looks like a re-run of the Mbeki-Zuma struggle of 2005-8, but it is actually very different in practice although the actors and agendas are very similar.

The SACP and COSATU are aware that their influence within the ANC must decline with the departure of Zuma, who leaned on them and their capacity for manipulating elections very heavily in order to seize control of the party. Now the rest of the ANC leadership at provincial level is as good at rigging votes and faking credential challenges as anyone in the alliance, and they don’t need the SACP and COSATU. Therefore, the formerly indispensible cheaters are naturally looking for other allies. However, the process of looking for other allies makes them behave unreliably from the perspective of Zuma supporters. Therefore, increasingly, the SACP and COSATU are distancing themselves from Zuma – and thus makes others eager to step into their shoes as the gofers and hit-men for Zuma. In other words, they are making themselves dispensible, and meanwhile, since they have until recently been the utterly unthinking supporters of Zuma, nobody imagines that they are in any way principled.

Their weakness might not seem to be a problem. When they attacked Mbeki in 2005, he was completely independent of them, since they had withdrawn support for him for the previous seven years. Yet the hostility which they showed overthrew him – so can’t this be done again?

In 2005-7, however, the SACP and COSATU operated in alliance with the sleazeballs and derelicts who’d been flung from power, and with agents of Zuma who had hidden their real allegiances until it was too later for Mbeki to act against them in any principled way. There are still plenty of sleazeballs and derelicts, but the ones who opposed Zuma, or didn’t support him enough, have been turfed out of all positions and made a horrible example of, and that doesn’t encourage anybody to follow their example. So the SACP and COSATU may not have as many allies as they need, even though obviously think they have them.

The SACP and COSATU can no lonber pretend that they stand for anything positive. Both are so tainted with their unquestioning support for Zuma’s antics, especially where it contradicted everything they pretended to stand for, that they can’t get much in the way of disinterested public support any more. Therefore it’s harder for them to fool people into supporting whatever clown they decide to support, except for those whom they can bribe with cash (of which they don’t have much these days) or offers of jobs (and they have difficulty being trusted even with that.).

Much of the big business community supports the same person that the SACP and COSATU support — namely, Cyril Ramaphosa — so it is possible that the SACP and COSATU might be able to garner their support. However, the alternative to Cyril Ramaphosa is not a figure like Mbeki, whom the neoliberal elite hated and feared; it is, instead, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom the neoliberal elite know that they can do business with. So, although the elite might like Cyril, they don’t like him so much that they feel the need to do any favours for the SACP and COSATU. Moreover, the neoliberal elite ultimately does not like Communists or the organised working class, and would like to see them both eliminated; they were happy to offer them rope with which they could hang themselves, but now much of the big business community thinks that it’s gallows-time.

The general situation is also very different. Under Mbeki, the economy was doing tolerably well and the illusion of success was widespread in the global economy as well. Administration appeared to be functioning. It seemed easy to throw everything into chaos without long-term consequences; it seemed so easy to run South Africa, once one assumed that Mbeki was a corrupt and incompetent windbag; even a disaster like him could accomplish much.

But now the economy is deteriorating weekly, the world a combination of bloodbath and banking crisis, the administration of the country is inept on so many levels, leaderless and bankrupt. We know that bad times are coming. Therefore, disruption and disaster no longer seem like fun episodes without consequence, but rather seem like things liable to precipitate the catastrophe which even the ruling class is a little worried about, for fear that they might not get their cash out before it is looted or becomes valueless. Therefore, the ruling-class struggle against Zuma is not playing out in the same way that the ruling-class struggle against Mbeki played out.

There is not going to be a massive uprising. There is not going to be a mobilisation of the ANC’s leadership against Zuma. This is partly because Zuma has been there before and knows how it is done; in this sense he is more shrewd than Mbeki because he does not suffer from any illusion about how the members of his party or of the alliance might be motivated by any idealism. Like Stalin, he knows that politicians are motivated by greed, spite and fear, and therefore Zuma prevailed over Mbeki as Stalin prevailed over Trotsky, and any competitor to Zuma who does not have everything in the ANC sewn up in advance will fail as Bukharin and Zinoviev failed against Stalin after Trotsky’s fall.

But in that case, the ruling class attempt to overthrow Zuma will necessarily fail, because it is half-hearted. The ruling class doesn’t really care who rules South Africa so long as they rule whoever that person is. They know that the difference between Zuma or Dlamini-Zuma or Ramaphosa or even Maimane is not all that significant — certainly much less significant than any South African journalist would like people to believe. But meanwhile, Zuma very desperately doesn’t want Ramaphosa to take over, and meanwhile, a lot of Zuma’s supporters, and even his opponents, very well remember the slights and bullying and backstabbing which the SACP and COSATU perpetrated back in their days of glory. The fact that they want Ramaphosa to win is almost, in itself, a reason to oppose Ramaphosa. Wouldn’t it be nice, they ask themselves, if the SACP and COSATU went down to hell, dragged down by the concrete lifebelt of Ramaphosa?

As a result, current South African politics is strangely content-free. The savage and well-justified attacks on Zuma late last year, the frantic wish to have him removed for his temerity in deposing the ruling-class’s own man in the Ministry of Finance, blazed up but then died down again as soon as Zuma had appointed the ruling-class a new man in the same Ministry. Nobody cared that the new new man had a track record of incompetence identical to the old new man’s. The fury was just stage fire, created for the purpose and sustained by the incoherent and inchoate hatred which a politically ignorant media establishment is obliged to feel for anyone against whom their masters tell them to turn their hatred. When the ruling class walked away from the fire they had started, of course it guttered out; there was no fuel for it at all.

So we are stuck in a meaningless political transition between alternatives, none of whom are of any use to us. It is like the American Presidential elections, a mass of sound and fury and fanatical declarations that this empty suit or that empty suit represents the greatest hope or the vilest betrayal that ever existed in the history of what was once a Republic. Truly, our politics are now normal, driven, like everyone else’s, by Twitter and Facebook.

And without hope, of course.


Dowling’s Good Bad Book.

May 19, 2016

Finuala Dowling is one of the more interesting writers working within the white community in South Africa at the moment, largely because she is working for her own amusement rather than seeking to fulfil the expectations of a market in return for cash. Therefore it is possible to read her work without devoting too much time to identifying the familiar political buttons being pressed by the writer so as to manipulate the reader, and which are so irritating when one reads, say, Deon Meyer.

But since she is serving herself rather than market, it is natural that she should draw on her own life. Although Dowling’s life has been interesting enough to be worth writing about, it also leads to a certain repetitious self-consciousness — even self-indulgence — in her works. Also, where she is making use of painful memories, there is a certain manifest difficulty in what she is producing, a degree of blockage and distance between the creative writing and the material being utilised. This blockage is probably not artistic but is likely to be produced by Dowling’s own sense of hurt and loss.

This was already present in Home-Making For the Down-At-Heart, where she was writing about the dementia and death of her mother. She had already written most of a volume of poems about this, and the novel seemed to be a way of addressing the issue in a sustained way. The poems were usually short vignettes depicting her mother’s bizarre behaviour or utterances. The novel was a sustained depiction of decline and death (seen from the perspective of a person who had her own problems with coming to terms with daily life.)

However, both of these volumes managed to evade the essential horror of the issue by exploiting the dark, ironic humour which could be derived from living with someone who has lost touch with reality. As a result, although Dowling was managing to make the painful episodes of her life appear entertaining for the reader (and not so painful as to be difficult to read, which would have been commercial suicide) it’s a moot point whether the end product was therapeutic. Perhaps art shouldn’t be therapeutic.

So is this true of her most recent book, The Fetch?

Well, the work is interesting because it is an attempt to break out of the Hout Bay Bohemian-suburban environment which is the setting for her earlier novels. Instead it is set in Slangkop, an imaginary village across False Bay from Hout Bay, making it the mirror-image of her hometown. Daringly, in a sense, there is a tough, no-nonsense, elderly black person who acts as foil to the central character, a naïf librarian who stumbles into the inner circle of both the village’s only aesthete and the village’s only hippie.

But these characters are distinctly stereotypical and their interactions are not coherently motivated; nobody seems to have any real desire to do anything other than fulfil their role as defined by their status in the book. They bounce between each other like billiard-balls, remaining completely unaffected by being bounced (as when the hippie is obliged to adopt an abandoned baby). It is not really possible to engage with these characters as people; the problem isn’t so much that Dowling is trying to appeal to her audience, as that she needs these characters to provide a background for the central feature of the story which is the relationship between the librarian and the aesthete. Therefore, although the characters are supposed to be human, they are actually mechanical dolls.

The trouble with Slangkop itself is that it is not a realised place. There are occasional references to location and to events, but it is not a community; there is none of the subtle interaction between people which exists in small towns. Everybody is isolated, but this is not social commentary, it is rather a lack of development. Again, a place was needed to provide a background for the relationship between the central character and the aesthete, but it is not described in a way which would make the reader want to visit it, let alone believe that it exists.

The narrative is a series of vignettes, often stylised (as with the lone baboon which has lost its troop, which is obviously a metaphor for the doomed male homosexual character). The book is similarly fragmented into episodes which appear arranged to show the innocence of the central character and the way in which harsh reality crushes it. She does not understand the world, but the more she tries to engage with it by falling in love with the aesthete and then becoming his dogsbody, the more she is setting herself up to show that the world is not prepared to conform to her expectations.

This is a fair enough point. Of course, it is a very old story, the story of the romantic young person who imposes her own values on the world and thus manages to kid herself that she has attained her goal, when she is simply living in a fantasy. The person who tries to risk all for love — and it is always tempting to give in to the deliriums of desire — is going to be disappointed in the object of the love, because nobody is as perfect as a fantasy partner. The more the lover gives to the object of desire, the more the lover surrenders, the greater the eventual disaster is likely to be when reality breaks in. It is well resolved in the book; the aesthete is (of course) bisexual and runs off with a beautiful boy, and the beautiful boy is (of course) a psychopathic manipulator who steals all the aesthete’s money. It is a familiar white middle-class Cape Town story, and the bulk of it is the story of Dowling’s own disastrous marriage.

And then what? Dowling makes the librarian a rather hapless figure (actually everybody in the book is rather hapless, but she stands out in this respect), easily threatened by dangerous urban women her age in expensive outfits which they are more willing to take off than she is. This is slightly Jamesian (and in a way perhaps Dowling is trying to be a bit Michiel Heyns). For a contrast to this we therefore need a corrupt but fascinating central character, which it seems likely that the aesthete is meant to be. But in the book, he isn’t; unlike the corrupt milieu figures in Heyns’ Invisible Furies, Dowling’s aesthete isn’t sufficiently strongly constructed to bear the weight of being a tragic hero.

It seems likely that he is loosely modelled on some of the figures at the English Department at UCT where Dowling studied, some of whom tried to fulfil the role of being life-artists and big frogs in tiny artistic ponds. Slangkop, however, cannot provide a background like this because nobody there cares about aesthetics or life-artists, and the aesthete is thus suspended in a void; only his parties and his journalism exist to impress anybody (and what pitiful accomplishments these are, getting an article published somewhere or getting some pretty people to come and drink your whisky). Nothing that happens seems unusual or interesting enough to justify making this person the centre of attention. Therefore his fall, and his subsequent death from AIDS, appear both inevitable and insignificant; since the central character is no longer in love with him and nobody cares about him, and nothing he has done suggests that the planet is losing a giant talent or intellect, however much compassion Dowling pours into the last part of the text it still amounts to very little impact.

Again, perhaps this is part of the problem. Dowling seems, on one hand, to be offering a kind of tribute to her ex-husband. On the other hand, her ex-husband was himself a master of illusion, creating the impression of being a giant talent on the basis of very little accomplishment, so this is a fair representation. But it’s in a sense sad and squalid, and it’s never quite clear in the text whether the aesthete is indeed a no-talent, delusional loser, or whether he is indeed a great talent gone to seed and ultimately to waste.

Perhaps, then, Dowling is torn between the artistic need of the text and the truth of the material which she is dealing with. But still more important is the problem that she is dealing with her own sense of pain and loss, making it difficult for her to engage with anything; on one hand the other characters in the work are foils for the aesthete and the librarian, yet on the other hand if the aesthete and the librarian’s interaction is made too powerful then this opens all the wounds of her marriage. Thus if the book had been more of a success as a narrative, it might also have been horribly painful for its author — and maybe she wasn’t ready, or even able, to go there.

Maybe the moral of the story is that Dowling made a mistake in trying to do this in the first place. It’s an honourable failure; the book is reasonably well-constructed and written with Dowling’s customary skill and there is a lot of potential there, even if it has its trivial and manipulative side. But it does seem to be a failure, and the failure does seem to arise from trying to exorcise a ghost who simply won’t go away however much Dowling tries to drive him out.


Na-na-na-na-na Nene, nê?

January 12, 2016

Nyaaaaah. So the President has sacked his Finance Minister. Big, fat, hairy deal. Presidents sack Finance Ministers all the time, don’t they?

Well, not really, comes the refrain. Finance Ministers are frontline soldiers in the global war against the working class. Sacking your Finance Minister is like sacking your boss general in wartime. The French did that in May 1940, when they fired General Gamelin for losing the Battle of Sedan and brought in General Weygand, who proceeded to lose all of northern France, Paris and Bordeaux, after which he blamed the politicians and handed power over to the French Fascists who set up a Commission of Inquiry which exonerated them and explained that France had been stabbed in the back by Communists, Jews and Freemasons, who were all handed over to the Nazi occupiers as soon as convenient.

Um, maybe that’s not a very comforting analogy.

What did Nhlanhla Nene do wrong? Not really anything much — in fact, Nene hasn’t done anything. He was made Deputy Minister after Manuel was purged, when Gordhan was dragged out of SARS and shoved into Finance. When Gordhan, after half a decade of comprehensive failure, was kicked sideways into Local Government (where he has made a dog’s breakfast) Nene rose without trace into Gordhan’s ballet-boots. Of course he has presided over the decline of the economy. Five years of declining economy gradually erased all the accomplishments of the previous ten years.

But, as Dali Mpofu of the EFF observed, this isn’t simply Nene’s fault, or Gordhan’s either. Of course, as neoliberals and agents of the ruling plutocracy, they are complicit in the immiseration of South Africans and the degeneration of our economy. However, because the government and the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance are in league with the local and global ruling class in pursuing policies which further those objectives, nothing else can be expected. As Mpofu happily said, you could appoint Jesus Christ as Finance Minister and you’d get the same result; the moneylenders would still be in full control of the temple.

So there isn’t an obvious logical reason related to Nene’s performance which accounts for his dismissal. Nor does his “redeployment” to the South African branch of the BRICS Development Bank make any real sense; the South Africans are an insignificant element of the Bank even though it is based in South Africa, and there were already quite enough competent people involved in it. So there must be some other reason, and since Zuma hasn’t bothered to invent a plausible one, speculation is, as the saying goes, rife. (What else is rife? As the Chinese would say, rife is for the riving.)

One logical conclusion is that it’s all about Dudu Myeni, Zuma’s lass at South African Airways. (It is claimed that she’s his mistress, because newspapers need to be sold.) Apparently Nene refused to recapitalise SAA again (as it has been recapitalised so often before). So naturally the argument is that Zuma fired Nene because Nene was nasty to his chick.

Now, obviously this is possible. Myeni appears to be a strikingly incompetent person to run SAA and is certainly not the right person to run the airline. On the other hand, she is clearly not the only person to have run the airline into the ground.  So why particularly focus on her? Is there any other reason why certain people, especially in the corporate-owned media, should want to attack her stewardship of SAA at this particular time? Obviously there is; there is a concerted campaign to call for the privatization of SAA. The incompetent management of SAA is not essential to SAA; it is a product of the distortion of South African politics and economics by Zuma and his cronies. However, by pretending that nothing more can be done to save SAA, it is possible to claim that the only solution is privatization – which will probably be for asset-stripping purposes and thus will make a lot of money for the patrons of the corporate media, as well as setting a promising precedent for the profitable privatization of other state-owned enterprises. Yippee!

Now, Nene has been quite emphatic about not being willing to offer SAA money. This is fair enough, so long as Nene was saying that the Treasury was not willing to do this without a sensible business plan administered by a person who could handle the task. Not really hard to envisage. (Actually a little hard to envisage under the current climate – airlines are in fairly desperate circumstances and the South African economy is in the proverbial tailspin anyway.) But there’s no real sign that he was going to make such conditions, so presumably Nene was in league with whoever wants to privatise SAA. Maybe not a bad thing. Maybe even a good idea. But violently opposed to government policy, like his hostility to the nuclear deal (which was opposed by the ruling class before it was even arranged, let alone decided on.) In other words, it seems likely that Nene was trying to use his position to shove Zuma even further to the right than he has already moved – which surely helps to explain why the ruling-class media and propagandists generally responded with such preposterous outrage to Nene’s removal, and why they panicked when someone unknown was brought in, fearing that Zuma was about to nationalize everything, impose exchange controls and Africanise the economy.

He won’t ever do that, but that won’t stop the right-wing loonies who dominate debate on economic matters from shitting their breeches. Therefore they set up a vast clamour that the economy was declining too fast — apparently if the value of the currency, and the value of the stock exchange, and the rate of economic growth, and the rate of employment, all decline steadily, that’s a good thing; the Bad Thing is when it all happens so fast that even the middle class notices it.

What this did, of course, was to telegraph to the speculators all over the planet that the South African economy was vulnerable, and therefore to announce that those speculators could make some money by betting against it, and in doing so they precipitated the collapse of the rand, a massive spike in bond interest rates (because to keep people holding South African bonds they have to be bribed with higher returns) and a general financial panic in the country. This was Zuma’s fault, of course, but it was also the fault of the system which permits this to happen — but since the right-wing loonies who precipitated the crisis are totally invested in preserving the system, this will never be mentioned.

So Zuma, with the cowardice with which he has consistently performed in government, sacked the nonentity with which he had replaced Nene. Of course, he couldn’t put Nene back, for that would be to declare that what he had done was utterly wrong. Therefore he brought Gordhan back, and the economy immediately went into another nosedive while the media sang hosannas about how the economy was now booming thanks to this safe pair of hands on the tiller. If you were writing a fantasy about an utterly corrupt society where nobody had any integrity and no action was ever taken for altruistic motives while nobody told the truth under any circumstances except by accident, you would be depicting what was happening in this horrible case. Since Nene’s replacement couldn’t simply be turfed out of the Cabinet, he was sent to replace Gordhan in Local Government — a field in which he has at least some experience and a track record (though, alas, not a good one).

Does any of this matter, really? Isn’t Mpofu’s point still valid? Indeed it is; the ruling class is determined to keep ruling, and it rules because it wants to make a truckload of money. Gordhan and Nene’s job was to keep on making them that money, and they will continue to do so regardless of what happens to the economic indicators, up to and until the point at which the economy implodes, which will probably take several years. Zuma had to back down because he was interfering with the interests of the ruling class, or at least they could pretend that he was. However, now that the ruling class has pointed out to its friends all over the world that the South African economy is vulnerable and will not be protected, we can expect our economy to decline much more rapidly.

This is, of course, partly Zuma’s fault, but we shouldn’t forget that Zuma is only the patsy here; the real incompetence is the incompetence of the ruling class who are trying to game the system (including trying to replace Zuma with someone even less competent and more subordinate) and are, more or less by accident, finding themselves obliged to ruin our country.

 


The Two Stooges.

November 28, 2015

An apocalyptic battle, an Armageddon indeed, is looming for the soul of the ANC.

That’s a joke, if you didn’t guess. The battle is between two contenders for the Presidency of the ANC, namely Cyril Ramaphosa, who was installed as Deputy President at the Mangaung Conference to the surprise of almost everybody except the business community, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, erstwhile Minister of Health and current Chair of the African Union Commission.

On the face of it the two are uncontroversial. Ramaphosa was ANC Secretary-General during Mandela’s elected term of office. Dlamini-Zuma was Minister of Health at the same time, but was shifted to Foreign Affairs under Mbeki. There appears to be not a lot to choose between them.

Yet the ominously nicknamed “Premier League” of pro-Zuma provincial premiers have declared that they don’t want Ramaphosa to succeed as President of the ANC the way that Zuma succeeded Mbeki and Mbeki succeeded Mandela. They have thrown their support, which incidentally surely means Zuma’s personal support, behind Dlamini-Zuma. On the other hand, the South African Communist Party have come out staunchly in support of Ramaphosa. What is this apparent conflict all about?

Obviously, it isn’t about competence. On a purely technical level, both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma are able people. Ramaphosa was an early financial supporter of Zuma, although never as enthusiastically so as someone like Sexwale. Dlamini-Zuma, meanwhile, was Zuma’s wife, although she divorced him on grounds which are murky but reflect little credit on Zuma. Thus, if it comes down to loyalty, one might expect Zuma to back Ramaphosa rather than the reverse.

What is Zuma’s agenda? Not to carry on the Zuma legacy, for there is no Zuma legacy. His agenda is to ensure that, once he has withdrawn from the scene, he is able to ensure that he will not be sent to prison for his crimes. The problem is that any future President faced with the problems which Zuma is leaving behind will be sorely tempted to blame it all on Zuma — which is quite deserved. In which case, the best way to blame Zuma would be to attack him directly for his corruption, and in order to prove that corruption it would be easy to have him hauled into court.

This, presumably, is what Zuma is afraid of, and it is certainly something that Ramaphosa is capable of. As a managerial bureaucrat in the private sector, there is nothing that Ramaphosa does not know about blame-shifting and double-crossing. But why would Zuma assume that the consummate political operator, Dlamini-Zuma, would be incapable of screening herself with Zuma when she gets into trouble, as she undoubtedly will? It could be that he believes that Dlamini-Zuma’s family ties with Zuma would prevent that. In that case he is probably mistaken, but it is at least a more plausible option than the notion that Ramaphosa would ever show any gratitude for the man who allowed him to be installed in power.

What, though, are these two people doing there? Ramaphosa has done nothing of substance since leaving politics in 1997 — his career since he was stuck in the Deputy Presidency has been a tour de waffle. Dlamini-Zuma’s time in the African Union Commission has been little better; she has basically served as a groom of neocolonialism and a useful stooge for the imperialists — reversing any anticipation which might ever have existed that her support for Mbeki’s policies meant that she had any of Mbeki’s principles. So neither of them has a record of substantial accomplishment within the ANC.

Meanwhile, however, both of them have records of substantial service to forces outside the ANC, and indeed outside anything really to do with the interests of South Africa or its people. Ramaphosa, of course, has been a servant of the mining industry and the white ruling class virtually since the ANC was unbanned. Dlamini-Zuma once seemed more impressive as a minister under Mbeki – which is the main argument used against her by her enemies – but on the whole she has accomplished very little since leaving office. Indeed, her activities within the AU have largely served to legitimate Western imperialism in Africa, largely in the interests of the NATO countries.

So the rise of this particular pair to prominence within the ANC possibly has nothing much to do with the value either for the elite of the ANC or with their popularity with the rank and file.

Of course, to the extent to which the rank and file has anything to do with it, given the choice they probably would not select Ramaphosa. At least Dlamini-Zuma hasn’t been demonised to the extent that Ramaphosa has, both by such forces as the EFF and by Ramaphosa’s supporters whose uncritical and ludicrous praise makes him look exactly like the toady of power that he is. And it’s just possible that Dlamini-Zuma has enough pride in herself to be prepared to take some kind of independent action. She might surprise us. She can hardly be worse than Ramaphosa, at least.

The argument that we need a woman for President is, of course, pitiful and should be discarded. It’s as loathesome as the argument that the psychopathic crook Hillary Clinton should be elected President of the US because she has ovaries. (Most of the women making this argument in Hillary’s case, and probably many making this argument in Nkosazana’s case, are probably making it because they like the fact that these women are problematic as human beings. Not that Nkosazana is anywhere near as hideous as Hillary)

All the same, however, nobody should assume that either of these stooges represents a substantial improvement on Zuma. No Messiah is coming to rescue us from the crises we are in. If we are to be rescued, we must rescue ourselves.


The Privileged Demand More Privileges.

November 12, 2015

#FEESMUSTFALL is, by no real coincidence, a product of the 1% — the proportion of the population who actually go to university, and whose access to university provides many of them with employment (often thoroughly unproductive employment, but who’s asking such questions any more?).

Most of these protesting students are, relative to the rest, privileged; they are at worst the cream of the working class, but more often they are petit-bourgeois. They are studying towards degrees which qualify them to serve the exploitative, neoliberal capitalist system, which they intend to do.

Their campaign, then, is that their families should be more extensively subsidised towards their privileges and towards their goal of becoming servants of the bourgeoisie, by reducing how much they have to pay. There are other demands, but these are essentially smokescreens which are insignificant, as is shown by the disintegration of the movement the moment that they received a promise of financial incentives to stop.

All this is not to say that it would not be a good idea to reform the university system. However, there is not the slightest prospect of sustainably reforming the university system while the national socio-economic system is in its current state. If that were done, it would not last, for the plutocrats control the academic institutions and would mould them to serve their private gain, as they have been doing over recent decades. So at the very least the universities must be placed institutionally outside the capitalist system — which is probably impossible — or else the all-pervasive dominance of neoliberal plutocratic capitalism must be removed, which is what the EFF wants, or at least claims to want.

But there is no plan for this, nor should anyone expect the students to plan for this, because the students are not remotely interested in such planning. Why should they be? They are not being paid to improve the institutions in which they are being badly educated. They have no special interest in instituting improvements which will only bear fruit long after they have left. So therefore, allowing the students to lead the transformation of the institutions in which they are being abused is problematic – especially because the students themselves are not a united body; within each institution there are rich and poor students, and there are rich and poor institutions, institutions which have privileges within the privilege enjoyed by all universities. The students have no capacity to work together in eliminating the special privileges of the elite universities, nor do they desire to, since these universities provide the royal road to the neoliberal social privileges which the students aspire to.

Therefore, the whole student protest movement is a chamber-pot full of diarrhoea. No doubt most of the students are well-intentioned, but they are ignorant, unskilled, politically uneducated, led by morons and misled by charlatans. Their public statements display a moneyed arrogance and a bubble-dwelling insouciant disengagement from the realities of South African working-class or even lower-middle-class life which is naturally to be expected from the protected children of petit-bourgeois families whose political education is provided by Mmusi Maimane and Business Day.

This is not, however, a tremendously bad thing. On the contrary, it is the best which can be expected under the current terrible circumstances. At least a handful of students have come out and said that they are not happy with the way things are happening. Like the inept and co-opted service delivery protests, like the incompetent and often ludicrously mismanaged anti-COSATU trade union movement, it is not much, it is not good, but at least it is something.

Far more worrying, however, is the way in which the ruling class has responded to the student protests.

More or less from the beginning the ruling class media, the SABC radio, the neoliberal press and the corporate-managed blogs, as well as the horde of corporate-sponsored pundits who pretend to be independent commentators and have usurped the position of the intelligentsia, has supported the student protests with a fervour ranging from obscene (SAFM, for instance) to psychotic (the Mail and Guardian). This is very strange given that the students are, supposedly, left-wing, and are calling for more money to be taken out of the fiscus and given to public institutions – universities, that is – and some of them are also calling for universities to hire and manage their support staff directly instead of doing so through outsourced companies, as is the all but universal practice. These ruling-class media normally demand lower public spending and, of course, greater privatization and casualisation as a matter of course. Why should they change their tune regarding universities?

They badly need left-wing credibility. This is because they are speaking to a left-wing audience, an audience which has grown increasingly cynical about its right-wing government. If the corporate propaganda tools are too ostentatious about being corporate propaganda tools – and usually they are – then the public will tune out. On the other hand, they are the self-declared voice of the ruling class, since all others are censored and silenced. Therefore, when they speak, if they speak in a way which seems remotely tolerable, given that they have money and power, people listen. Therefore they need an issue on which to sound leftist, and thus disarm their critics.

So the support for the students is exactly the same as the reason why right-wingers pretend to support other left-wing causes – and sometimes even do support them if they are completely devoid of principle and lacking in support from anywhere else.

But unfortunately this situation is more sinister than the ruling class offering tacit support to powerless leftists. By supporting the students’ demands, the ruling class are waging a form of class warfare against the working class and on behalf of themselves; there is a strong chance that they can ensure that money is shifted from services which the working class use, to the universities which are virtually only used by petit-bourgeois and bourgeois people (and those children of workers who are sponsored to get there are aspirant petit-bourgeois and bourgeois people, however much they may deny it – which accounts for NUMSA’s bizarre statements on the issue; NUMSA’s leadership is petit-bourgeois however much they might pretend otherwise).

There’s another side to it which is more difficult to discuss. However, the press has raised it by comparing the student protests to June 1976 – a bizarre comparison which has almost no merit other than the fact that the students, like the scholars of Soweto, have no power to enforce their demands and therefore depend on the goodwill of the government (which in 1976 was absent, unlike now). The point about those protests was that although they were supposedly about getting the government to stop imposing Afrikaans on black education, they were actually about getting rid of the government – and only the abject weakness of the scholars and the nonexistence of effective political organizations at the time prevented them from directly raising the issue. The courage of the scholars was undeniable; their efficacy less so, and to talk about students scampering about on their campuses in the same breath as the scholars shot down on the streets of Soweto is to deface the memory of the anti-apartheid struggle – a handy plus for the South African ruling class, which dislikes that memory.

It’s interesting that the press is refusing to compare these protests with the campus uprisings of the 1980s, which are in some ways similar – except that those uprisings came out of a highly coherent political tradition, were more or less disciplined, and were directly and explicitly linked to off-campus struggles with which the students sympathized. These are things which the South African ruling class definitely doesn’t want to encourage. What they want is indoctrination and, failing that, incoherence and chaos which can be exploited.

Even more alarmingly, some are comparing the protests with the Arab Spring and hoping that they will lead to something similar. Given that the Arab Spring was a disaster in which corrupt global powers installed tyranny and chaos in the Middle East by brutal force, leading to the current hideous state of affairs there, this is not altogether inappropriate. But this is their vision for South Africa? Apparently, some of the right wing in the ruling class hate the ANC so much that they would be prepared to hand the country over to odious foreign despots rather than see it rule any longer.

Meanwhile, virtually no capital has been made out of any of this. The students are not accomplishing anything of substance, none of the opportunistic fake-leftists have really made any capital out of it apart from the usual temporary hyped “victories”. The scary revelation is how little political significance universities have any more.


What Is The Ruling Class Agenda?

November 12, 2015

What is the ruling class out to do in respect of Jacob Zuma’s shenanigans?

Since the ruling class don’t telegraph their punches, and since their control of the ideological state apparatus means that this apparatus doesn’t cover the ruling class qua ruling class, it follows that all one can do is monitor what the ISA does tell us and then try to figure out what it means.

The Mail and Guardian has a headline about Zuma being “off the hook” regarding Nkandla. Meanwhile, the Mail and Guardian‘s “Thoughtleader” website carries a syndicated article by William Saunderson-Meyer about how it is perfectly understandable that principled journalists are entitled to change their minds when they feel they have been wrong. This article concerns the editor of the Citizen, who wrote a mea culpa article about how he had conspired against Zuma, along with various other unnamed journalists, and now wanted to come clean. And the Sunday Times has had an article about the odiousness and childishness of the Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament.

Perhaps these are unconnected. Perhaps not.

Zuma was never actually on the hook regarding Nkandla. What appears to have happened was that Zuma rather astutely organised that a quarter of a billion rand would be spent on “security upgrades” at his private residence — without leaving any fingerprints of his own, so that those who authorised the expenditure would be at pains to conceal what had happened, or at worst, could be sacrificed if a sacrifice were needed. Meanwhile, the money appears not to have been spent, but rather, to have been laundered, either going into Zuma’s purse through devious means or into the accounts of Zuma allies for unknown purposes.

The interesting thing about this process is that the Public Protector, who supposedly looked into the matter, did not actually notice that the bulk of the allocated money had not been spent on what it had supposedly been spent on. The jerry-built and absurdly overpriced structures concerned passed her by, somehow. She made no attempt to trace where the money had gone; essentially, her task was to attack President Zuma, on behalf of her friends in the Democratic Alliance, and not to attack big businesspeople who might have benefited but whose hostility the DA definitely did not need. Of course, she believed that this would harm Zuma, which would work only if the DA took the matter in hand.

Unfortunately, Zuma managed to delay and distract matters, being a consummate politician and good at procedural wrangling. As a result, everybody is now heartily sick of Nkandla, and meantime, a raft of prominent people have come out in support of Zuma’s right to have all the public money spent on his private residence that he pleases — meaning that a large number of people would go down with Zuma if Nkandla took him down, and they don’t want to go down.

Of course, Zuma accepted the money, for his own personal use in his private residence, and he should not have done so since it was misspent and he knew it was misspent because he could see it being misspent every time he went home, so he should pay back the money — but not even the Public Protector actually claimed that (she said “a portion of” the money, and you can argue that zero is actually a portion even if infinitely small).

But for that to be an issue, it has to be made into an issue, and the DA in Parliament, from the moment they decided to serve on the second Nkandla Committee, have been temporising and moderating their language and generally making it seem that they don’t think it’s such a big deal after all. It’s the EFF which has taken a stand, and the EFF which has tried to go to court to demand that the money be paid back — the DA is simply calling on the report of the second Nkandla Committee to be declared unconstitutional, which will probably turn out to be a no-hoper, in which case the DA is giving itself an excuse for letting the whole matter drop. And meanwhile the Public Protector, who has been putting on airs and throwing weight around which she doesn’t actually possess, is being hung out to dry, discovering now that it’s too late that the DA are not trustworthy friends if you don’t have money and are not white.

The Saunderson-Meyer article is interesting only because Saunderson-Meyer only produces stuff which is received wisdom for the right wing of the plutocratic elite, and makes them laugh because the plutocratic elite has no sense of humour at all. His article is, however, fairly serious; it praises a journalist for declaring his undying shame about having been nasty to Jacob Zuma. A couple of years ago, even a few months ago, such lickspittle behaviour would have aroused contempt in everybody, and the fact that Saunderson-Meyer stands up for the editor of the Citizen suggests that there has indeed been a sea-change.

The return of the repressed is what it is — the deservedly, and rightly, repressed. What the editor said was that he was very bad to criticise Jacob Zuma over the Shaik judgement, back in 2005. He shouldn’t have done it, he said. He was influenced by other foolish journalists! He was wrong! Jacob Zuma was innocent!

No, Jacob Zuma was not innocent. Judge Hilary Squires found Schabir Shaik guilty of soliciting bribes for Deputy President Zuma from the French company Thint. The bribes were duly paid, and Zuma carried out services in return for the bribes, by arranging for Shaik’s company to get the contract for credit-card driver’s licences, although the actual work would be done by Thint who would get the lion’s share of the money, but via Shaik’s company, which was incapable of fulfilling the contract itself. In other words, simple fronting, plain corruption for all to see, and Zuma was guilty, guilty, guilty, and the editor of the Citizen is a corrupt bullshitter, peddling bullshit which was last peddled in about 2008-9 when this bullshit had to be peddled in order to distract attention from the charges being dropped by a corrupt Director of Public Prosecutions. And Saunderson-Meyer is supporting this corrupt, much-discredited bullshit. Presumably it is being trotted out to distract attention from Nkandla and so forth.

So it would seem that the ruling elite has turned around and decided that Zuma is to be protected — or, at least, is not to be attacked as violently as before. Nkandla, like the bribery, and like so many of the other criminal activities which Zuma and his friends have undertaken, is to be swept partly under the carpet — it will remain, no doubt, rhetorically in the public eye, but it will no longer be represented as a tool which might remove Zuma. Perhaps it was already not such a tool — the ruling class is not homogeneous, and perhaps some of them decided not to use the judiciary against Zuma and therefore he cannot be charged with anything.

Meanwhile, after all the fuss which has been made about the former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and her perjury and fraud, and being put on trial for perjury and fraud, and accused of many other shenanigans, and basically held up as the main thing which is wrong with the DPP (although there is a hell of a lot wrong with it, and wrong with the whole South African legal, judicial, and criminal justice system) — suddenly everybody is soft-pedalling the fact that charges have been dropped by Zuma’s new Director of Public Prosecutions. What’s the big fuss? Hey, everybody — over there — look, it’s Oscar Pistorius! With no sign of a locator cuff padlocked to his blade! Pay attention to that, and to whatever else we tell you, but not to the crimes of the Zuma administration, we’re going to draw a line under those — for now.

What’s going on? Why row back? Zuma can’t actually hurt members of the ruling class, he is too afraid of them and they are too powerful, so why not attack him? Why not use him to undermine the ANC, and perhaps to install Cyril Ramaphosa in power a couple of years early, ensuring that a fully neoliberal figure is in office and ready to serve the elite? Only a couple of months ago it was the end of the world, Omar al-Bashir had escaped from the clutches of the torturers and murderers of the imperial elite and the local elite who serve the imperial elite were screaming blue murder — but now the tumult and the shouting has been artificially suppressed, as if the conductor has turned on the illuminated SILENCE sign.

The Sunday Times attack on the EFF (alongside the general attack on the EFF launched not only by the press but also by the DA itself) is suggestive. The article basically says that a few months ago it was acceptable to have the EFF attacking the ANC, but that this is no longer desirable and now such attacks, and the EFF’s criticism of Parliament as being no more than a front for state power, are childish and undesirable and to be condemned by everybody who is anybody — that is, by those who serve the ruling class. And, just to make the parallel plainer, the Saunderson-Meyer article also denounces the EFF and points out that the press used to uncritically support them, and that this was wrong, but that now the press has seen the light and is attacking them, as it should, just like the Citizen now realising that Zuma must be supported at all costs. Which is complete balderdash because the press has always attacked the EFF except for momentary periods when the EFF’s attacks on the government happen to coincide with ruling-class interests. But it casts a glaring light on what is going on.

It would appear that the ruling class has belatedly realised that in their adoption of campaigns like the Nkandla issue and the Marikana issue, they were furthering the aims of the EFF, who were much more sincerely concerned about such issues than the neoliberal parties, and whose constituency was much more sincerely incensed about such issues. When the DA preached about such matters, their audience blinked, but the EFF’s audience heard, and cheered, but did not decide to vote DA on that account — instead, they were delighted that the EFF’s stance was being confirmed even by their class enemies, and that the DA was going along with them. Hence the DA’s decision to support the repressive new Parliamentary rules which will facilitate the arrest and expulsion of MPs who dare to expose the misconduct of the Zuma gang in ways unseemly to ruling-class eyes. The idea is to settle the EFF’s hash, however much it makes nonsense of the DA’s pretense to support democracy and the rule of law.

What makes this urgent, probably, is the 2016 municipal elections. The ruling class was expecting to see the DA make big gains there, and perhaps issues like Nkandla were supposed to facilitate that. The assumption was that the EFF’s accomplishment in 2014 would be a momentary lapse, like CoPe’s success in 2009, and the DA would be able to swiftly collar their support. This doesn’t seem to be happening; installing a black dressmaker’s dummy as supposed head of the DA hasn’t been the triumphant success which was hoped for, and the attempt to wreck the EFF by using PAC entryists like Mngxitama to disrupt it has failed. Instead, the EFF may be using its PR gained through Parliament to set up some modest structures and, perhaps, get some more support — in which case it might actually do better in 2016 than in 2014, especially in areas of the Eastern Cape where it ought to have done well in 2014.

The DA’s big hope for 2016 is Port Elizabeth, and if the EFF does reasonably well there and gets, say, 7%, it might be able to prevent the DA from getting an overall majority. This is rather horrible for the DA, for it would then mean that it could only govern in collaboration with the ANC (since governing in collaboration with the EFF is unthinkable). In which case the DA’s supporters have to be prepped for the inevitable collusion with the ANC, and have to be weaned away from the automatic anti-ANC perspective which they’ve held for some time. So it’s necessary to make nice with Zuma again, for fear that otherwise some kind of radical leftist or liberal organisation might succeed.

And that’s our ruling class in a nutshell — bungling, opportunistic, corrupt political ignoramuses. Just the people into whose hands we should all put our lives!