SOLD: How Ramaphosa Managed

This picture of former South African President  Jacob Zuma with the newly elected  South African President Cyril Ramaphosa  brought to mind a 1975 transhistorical film by Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene.  It is a story I will never forget.

Xala! (meaning impotence)  is an adaptation of Sembene’s book with the same name.

If you have time to fill in the gaps with regard to recent events in South African politics, you can watch the film here.



Unveiling Democracy: It’s A Mirage

I’m here watching as the brilliant pallet of hopeful colours democracy once painted for us in vivid penetrating hues of bright reds, warm oranges, sunny yellows, soft airy blues which so mesmerized the eye that some of us had to squint just to see the picture clearly;  begins to fade.

The dazzling ideal which democracy once hung in front of our eyes is grey now no longer black or white.  Bold or striking in crisp sparkling white or deep saturated blacks – the colours have bled into each other so much that while we are too petrified to pronounce the words describing what this image is fading into – we know for sure that it is not what we once hoped for. It is not about freedom, equality or justice.

The grey clouds in our democratic winter accomplished something remarkable – they have removed the illusions and pretences which we are so desperate to cling to.

It is about money

The tragic election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has done us, the global public, a favour. In Trump, the true nature of the political system which has been governing our lives has been unveiled in all its raw-callousness.

American prof of Linguistics Noam Chomsky spoke about the construction of a  political system which is  “moving towards a real articulated expression of contempt for the general population,” 30 years ago. In the interview on dissent and democracy in 1988, Chomsky observed a trend in which the political system run by the elite including the intellegencia – increasingly operates without public participation, “where elections have been almost removed from the point where the public takes them seriously as involving a matter of choice.”

In the interview, Chomsky describes a system which we are all too familiar with  by now: A political figure (democratic or republican/ liberal or conservative/ right-wing or left-wing) who represents something, is supported by certain interests, has certain commitments comes before us  produces and says things which the polls  and his advisers tell him  will increase his chances of gaining office; after which he will dispense with everything he has said before to gain office and then proceed with his own commitments,  interests and what is demanded of him by those who supported him and those who provided him with resources. Chomsky noted that while this has always been true  what is interesting now is the extent to which it is recognized to be the “democratic system.”

The election of Donald Trump has caused an uproar among the ruling elite precisely because he has let the cat out of the bag; the political system exists only to protect privilege and power at all costs. Not only has he revealed that the ruling class does not care at all about the so-called ” people” or “general public” –  he has made it clear that it is not in the interest of power for the public to be well-informed, empowered or participate meaningfully in the decisions or choices that government makes. They don’t want that; dissent is a crisis for democracy and since they can’t force people through violent means to do what they want, they have employed sophisticated ways to control what people think; through media propaganda and coercion by pure charm: saying everything we want to hear and then doing the opposite.

While democracies who have bought into the American political ideology of Democratic Capitalism are still pretending that the public has a “choice” – Donald Trump has pulled the hat out of the rabbit.

Even as our politicians continue to say one thing and do something else, we can no longer pretend that the ruling party or opposition parties in our parliaments are there to serve the interests of the public. We cannot pretend that the newly elected president of the ruling ANC in South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, is representing the publics’ interest. No matter what he says in eloquent well-crafted speeches. He is only representing the interests of a privileged class the private sector of which he is a high-ranking member.

It is not a conspiracy

We know now from the events of Marikana where at least 34 striking miners were killed in order for Lonmin to continue production – whose side Ramaphosa is on. We know that he ordered government officials to end the strike by any means necessary. We know whose interests the police served when they opened fire. We know whose interests Ramaphosa will serve once he is sworn into office in 2019. We can’t pretend that he has not been obvious about it. We also know from the incidents surrounding the publication of his sex-scandal story who the mass media in this country will support.

Patrons of Power

The elite class including the media exists to serve the interests of power. Chomsky observed  that in this deck’ If you want to be an expert or part of the specialized class you have to be able to serve the interests of objective power – that’s an institutional role that has to be played and if you do it, if you’re able to articulate the interests of people with power, you’re in ‘

The same applies to journalism -if you want to be a journalist he said,  you have to accord the needs of the institution; imbibe its culture and values. Mass media are major corporations (monopolies)  and like any other business, they have to make a profit.  It doesn’t matter what you say to the people, as long as there’s a profit at the end of the day. In this context then the primary function of mass media is to mobilize public support for the special interest of the dominant class.

The role of the government in a capitalist democracy then is also similar; to make laws which protect the property rights and interests of a minority who own and control natural resources, industry and transport.

So, while we continue to live under an economic system where a few private individuals control the means of production and distribution of an entire country – democracy will remain what it has always been. Just a Mirage.

It’s not real  

We are free to the extent to which our freedom serves (profits) the interests of those with power.  That’s the reality.




It has become phenomenally difficult to retain any level of optimism regarding African politics these days. It’s as if the new wave of cynicism is overshadowing anything positive taking place including an event which at any other time in history would have been cause for enormous celebration throughout the continent. But the removal of the oldest statesman in the world to date, President Robert Mugabe, by the country’s military has been received with mixed emotions. As young Zimbabweans took to the streets in Harare and other major cities around the world celebrating being able to  finally hoist and wrap the Zimbabwean flag around their shoulders with pride – an army of writers, political analysts, historians and arm-chair critics also took to their screens drafting opinion pieces warning the long-suffering nation not to claim easy victories; the newly installed president – Emmerson Mnangagwa – is a ruthless crocodile after-all.

A protégé who had only good things to say about the outgoing President.

In South Africa, ANC presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Deal speech which he practised at the ANC Johannesburg Regional Economic Colloquium in Soweto ten days ago– was overshadowed by the winds of change sweeping over Zimbabwe. Even though the South African press which is only now catching up to the story, were present to report on it, they would have found, like financial journalist Duma Gqubule nothing new in it.

I was disturbed by my former boss’ speech. It said dololo (nothing) on what he would do to get the economy out of its worst post-apartheid crisis. I got the impression he so badly wants to be president he cannot think of anything else. He will decide what to do with the economy when he is elected.” Gqubule went on to share similar sentiments expressed by a former ANC friend who opined in a chat group that; “Not just about the economy, it says nothing about everything. I don’t know what’s wrong with us about detail. It’s drivel, waffle and pointless verbiage. Ramaphosa’s  running mate  for the ANC presidency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who is promising “radical economic transformation” did not inspire confidence in Gqubule either, “ I also listened to NDZ’s interview on ANN7; she also said dololo (nothing) about what she will do to get the economy out of its worst post-apartheid crisis.”

Mervyn Abrahams director of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) shared a similar, though more detailed analysis of Ramaphosa’ New Deal – One million new jobs plan.“It’s not bold” he said,” It is a small vision which does not respond to the economic crisis,” he said in a statement released shortly after his speech.

Good For Few; Bad For Many

With 8.4million black South Africans already unemployed and with an untenable expanded unemployment rate of 41 percent: a target of one million jobs over five years is an inadequate response in terms of the depth of the economic crisis we’re in.” he added that “ one million jobs over five years translates to the creation of 200,000 jobs per year over the next five years”.

The latest jobs statistics out of Statistics South Africa for the third quarter show that while 723 thousand South Africans joined the labour force, 366 thousand became unemployed in the last year.

He also notes that since 2015 poverty rates have increased (reversed) with three-thirds of the black population (64%) living in poverty.

If you are anything like me, perhaps you are starting to see a pattern emerge – a global pattern which has been the mainstay of African politics, almost without exception, since the winds of change swept the continent in the 1960’s.

This pattern is better explained by US Major General Smedley when he appeared before the US congressional to tell what he knew of activities (business plot)  which he believed might lead to an attempt to set up a fascist dictatorship in the US by corporate America. “ A plan which was outlined to me was to form an organization of veterans, to use as a bluff or a club at least to intimidate government and breakdown government and our democratic institutions. The upshot of the whole things was that I was supposed to lead a group of 500,000 men which would be able to take over functions of government. My main interest in this is to maintain our democratic institutions I want to retain the right to vote the right to speak freely and the right to write if we maintain these basic principles our democracy is safe. No dictatorship can exist with suffrage, freedom of speech and the press” he said during a press conference circa 1933. Whether or not Corporate America ever managed to execute this plan, later on, is debatable. But the correlations of this plot with what’s been happing in African states and more recently both in South Africa with Ramaphosa as the highly favoured future president or in Zimbabwe, with Mnangagwa taking over the reins.

I would like to believe that our past, current and perhaps even future presidents succeed or fail on their own terms; that they are not operating at the behest of global multinational corporations with nefarious narcissistic interests, who decide through a variety of blackmails, debt and violent tactics, who stays and who goes. I would love to believe that we are truly independent.

But I  would be dangerously naïve.