Reality biting? Reel in the West
The award for the daftest political statement of the week – and competition was stiff, as always – goes to ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa. Commenting – when he really did not need to – on news that the UK was devising a strategy to help the ANC remain in power, Kodwa outdid the absurdity of the original report.
The Vice.com report had said a delegation from Britain’s Royal College of Defence Studies had visited South Africa to “assess the political threats to continuing ANC rule” to find ways of shoring up the governing party.
Instead of laughing this off – like most sane people would have – Kodwa gave it credence by saying that the report was a ruse by Western powers, which wanted to divert attention from their real intention of overthrowing the ANC.
“It [the UK] has done so in many other countries, working with the USA as part of a Western coalition to unseat democratically elected governments through undemocratic means. They are part of that agenda,” he told News24.
Kodwa knows full well that this is balderdash. He knows this just as much as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe knows that his ramblings this week about Zimbabwe having been a laboratory for regime change were also balderdash. The bearded one returned from a visit to Zanu-PF, warning that the pattern of what he called attempted regime change in Zimbabwe could already be seen here.
He spoke about how that country’s trade union movement had mutated into the Movement for Democratic Change, which then served as the West’s vehicle for regime change. Drawing parallels between the West’s support for democracy in Zimbabwe and the call for the strengthening of democratic institutions here, Mantashe said South Africans should not be complacent about an imperialist-inspired regime-change agenda.
It was interesting hearing this from Mantashe. Perhaps he had forgotten that, during his trade union days, he was part of the Cosatu leadership that mobilised support for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which was being battered by Robert Mugabe’s security apparatus.
And it may have slipped his mind that he was part of a Cosatu delegation that was kicked out of Zimbabwe in 2005, during a visit to pledge support for the trade union movement there.
Amnesia has evidently clouded any recall of his statement in 2008, made a few months after he became secretary-general, that he was “persona non grata” in Zimbabwe because of that abortive Cosatu mission. In that press conference he went further, declaring that “there is a crisis in Zimbabwe ... It does not need a rocket scientist to see that”.
He argued for “space for political activity” and “space for organs of civil society”. “[Zimbabwe] needs an organ like Cosatu is to the ANC, which is a thorn in the flesh. It’s healthy. Once you have a civil society that is vibrant, democracy works better,” Mantashe was quoted as saying at the time.
Eight years later – and with his party facing significant electoral challenges and societal rebellion – he has changed his tune. A vibrant civil society is now a threat to the stability of the nation.
Mantashe was correct to draw parallels between the two countries, albeit for totally different reasons.
The resistance to an increasingly corrupt, out-oftouch and anti-democratic Zanu-PF government was spearheaded by the trade unions and civil society. With the historically Zanu-PF-aligned congress of trade unions as the engine, scores of progressive and mainly left-leaning organisations rallied to form an alternative power centre. These were patriotic (in the true sense) Zimbabweans who were refusing to stand by while their country slid into the abyss and the fruits of liberation went to waste.
Admittedly, they made the mistake of electing a leader who was no intellectual giant and whose looks could frighten off a pack of hyenas.
The response of Zanu-PF and Mugabe’s government to this challenge was to demonise the new opposition party and all civil society as agents of the West. At every turn, the Zanu-PF propaganda machine spewed out the message that those challenging the hegemony of the former liberation movement were imperialist pawns who were aiding the recolonisation of Zimbabwe’s resources. It was a precursor to a reign of terror against those who dared to stand up.
Thus demonised, the opposition, trade unions and civil society activists were fair game for harassment. These internal “enemies of Zimbabwe” – regardless of their liberation pedigree – felt the full might of the security forces, militias and ghost squads. Hitting them was a legitimate act in defence of the nation’s sovereignty. The effects of this era of brutality and destruction of democracy remain.
Now we are hearing this narrative here at home with increased regularity. We are being told that the dissension with the centre is being driven from Western capitals. Unable to think for themselves and discern right from wrong, South Africans are being told by people far away what to think.
If the logic of the narrative is to be followed, the CIA is remote-controlling South Africa’s church leaders, former directors-general of the democratic order, former Umkhonto weSizwe commissars, Robben Island veterans and some of OR Tambo’s surviving top brass. This CIA is good.
We have seen this bioscope before, at a venue near us.