The Best of Frenemies

Tea with Julie is an interesting affair. Since it occurred behind closed doors, and the EFF spokesperson was as demonstrating his robotic facility with highfalutin, yet utterly meaningless English, nary an insight into the inner machinations of the happy couple were to be had. So we are left to idle speculation.

It is hardly a secret to the nation at large that the ruling party is divided (for the most part) into two large national factions, who scoured each other’s local representatives with bullets and blades during the 2017 leadership contest, and burned each other’s transport cartels during the public Zondo Punch-and-Judy show (hey, that’s my explanation - the “interministerial committee” is a dead giveaway that party shenanigans are involved). But to figure out what JZ and CR are doing passing Malema about like a little red football, we have to ask ourselves bigger questions about what is going on in South Africa.

The ANC is not a political party. Or rather, its functions far exceed those of the Western institutions prescribed by the Transatlantic establishment. The reality can only be described as a system of two parallel states. Both of which suffer from split loyalties.

The public tax system acquires revenue from the urban middle-class, who constitute only a few percentage points of the population. The ANC has burned all of this revenue away on parties and private accumulation. The rest of their revenue comes from opaque business deals consolidated under Charter House, and the vast and brutal network of violent extortion rackets that take money from the very poor who fall beneath the taxable income bracket, and the special protection received by major violent gangs.

Their continued use of military training camps for an armed wing that never quite retires, and has never fully integrated with the state military, should indicate that at some level, while the ANC has captured many state institutions, it has not captured enough to be comfortable retiring their bands of alcoholic lunchtime guerrillas.

The recent standoff between the Hawks and the military over smuggled Cuban drugs is the most recent indicator of the divisions in the formal government. But equally, the ANC’s major cleft is becoming ever wider. Zuma carries a great deal of loyalty among Umkhonto weSizwe, who are still financed out of the Veterans’ Association. This faction also dominates the eastern trucking unions, and has been consolidating nationalist support by attacking immigrants. This would explain the burned out trucks littering the highway at the height of the Zondo trial.

See, the ANC has perfected a unique form of show-trial. They use it to pantomime a system with rule-of-law to international investors and gullible middle class spectators, while in reality using the threat of prosecution and covert violence as alternating bargaining chips while attempting to broker co-option. This has been their political style since the 1990s – a public appeal to legitimate mechanisms, while using a combination of covert violence and private negotiation to secure new coalitions with rivals and enemies. Public stick, private carrot, secret knife.

But Zuma has seen this movie before. He watched it during Codesa and the TRC, saw the half-baked sequel at Siriti, and even produced a couple of filler episodes himself, for Marikana and FeesMustFall. He has seen the VBS trial which carefully came just short of sending any guilty parties from the EFF or the Zuma faction to prison – after all, there is the mutually-assured destruction of smallanyana skeletons. And Zuma is a survivor – he knows how to run an intelligence unit, and has survived assassination attempts from his own family. Not the usual customer. So while the ashes of Zuma’s trucking fleets blowing farther afield on the highveld, he told the Ramaphosa faction where to shove their summons. Malema was sent in to broker peace.

But Malema has his own agenda. The occasional comparisons to Chris Hani may be hackneyed – whatever you may think of Hani, he was certainly not a crook. But what he and Malema share, is an early start in violent Marxist politics, and a fanatic and unshakeable ambition. Malema is beyond anybody’s control. So why would he agree to visit Jacob Zuma in the political wilderness, the man who stabbed him in the back? Aside from the mysterious suitcase that totally isn’t filled to the brim with untraceable cash bills, that is.

Malema has acquired an interesting position. Since early last year, Ramaphosa and Malema have been in lockstep, with Julius becoming a bulldog for the newly declared Second Phase of the NDR. Their protests go ahead unmolested and unquestioned, and they do not question back. Our dear finance minister, whose cooking, both in terms of books and buillion, are equally suspect, has on occasion threatened to unleash Malema upon the unruly minorities. Clearly, this relationship is very cosy.

But more interesting is the public nature of the meeting. The upside of this, is that it can be made into an advertisement of black solidarity. After all, CR has no natural base - he is a deracinated urbanite from a small and marginalised tribal minority with a reputation for mercantile tendencies, and is well-known to have relied on private slush funds of funding to hose away opposition on his road to victory in the ANC leadership contest. He backed by the pre-eminant mouthpiece of the Atlantic elite themselves, The Economist. Decorating his policy ambitions with Western ambitions and ideologies, he is undoubtedly in debt to what is called the WMC (though most WMC theorists are distracted by the local pale sharks, and never look at the real Great Whites).

But CR is also a serious communist, and will reach out to the Chinese, the UN and the WEF for any policy framework that can justify what he is attempting to do. EWC is justified in the report to the UN on Sustainable Development Goals, and the 4th Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab’s hinky label for centrally controlling and globally planning the products of the 3rd IR for political control, accompany praise for the Chinese system of vertical integration of political control.

Zuma is none of these things. He is a conservative. No, a traditionalist. He is a thief, sure. A gangster, a killer, a thug. But he is also deeply sincerely, an African, and a Zulu. What CR and Malema are dreaming of is mere blackness – Africans reduced to nothing more than pigment and common political subjugation by brutal thugs. Zuma repudiates all international designs – Ramaphosa’s open-borders utopianism, Malema’s childish fantasies of ruling a black continent and invading Europe, and all the fancy language of human rights with which the Atlantic establishment justifies their cruel and selfish interference in small nations’ affairs.

What Zuma offers, is the last serious promise of a genuine nationalism in South Africa. But Malema knows something both men may only fear. By continuing to fight, Zuma and Ramaphosa will tear the country apart. They already have, to such an extent that nobody is capable of maintaining the ludicrous façade of optimism that Ramaphosa and the tame journalists allowed  the public to believe – that Zuma was one rotten apple, and that theft ad corruption only happen when you bring a cynic into power.

But the more they fight, and the more disorganised and uncertain power relations in the party become, the less they receive at the ballot in 2024. And by all accounts, they will lose a majority, and be forced to enter a coalition. Malema has shown he can be both friend and enemy, and turn on a dime to suit the winds of opportunity.

If I were him, I would make myself the indispensable go-between, milking both parties for cash retainers while dividing both with rumours, while promising I am trying my best to bring the other side to their senses. If they are shrewd, they will know that Malema will always pick the winner, so long as he gets closer to the throne in the process. He will be able to dictate terms in a new coalition, and become an unstoppable agent of chaos from within the cabinet.

I can think of a similar electoral pact once upon a time…