Re­al­ity bit­ing? Reel in the West

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

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.

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