Just political brinkmanship

23rd July 2021

Just political brinkmanship

Mr President, we have to accept that there was no intelligence product generated and distributed ahead of the recent political upheavals, just like there were no Tembisa decuplets, writes our award-winning columnist Bhekisisa Mncube

Sawubona Mongameli, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, the recent political upheavals in KZN and parts of Gauteng manifested through the torching of trucks, industrial looting and setting shopping malls and warehouses on fire weren’t an insurrection.

Neither were they Jacob Zuma inspired “ethnic mobilisation”. Hhayibo, I can’t let uBaba off the hook so quickly. He is my best writing muse by far. Thus, I can confirm that Zuma’s incarceration was the tinder used to lit the fires of an “insurrection” or more appropriately, political pandemonium.

In other words, your use of the inflammatory language of insurrection to characterise the recent events demonstrates an epic failure of our politics, not the state. Put differently, it was a feeble attempt at eliciting sympathy from beyond ANC members and, of course, to gloss over the failures of the security cluster. The “failed insurrection” had all the hallmarks of a game of political brinkmanship between two unequal ANC factions. The ANC factional fight spilt onto the streets, and the Thuma Mina Brigade’s allies, the business lobby, were punished. Just check how quickly the “insurgents” withdrew the minute the soldiers touched down in the warzones, I mean shopping malls.

My contention is supported by the fact that the “insurgents” didn’t attempt to collapse your government, physically harm you or commit a regicide of a sort. The toy soldiers weren’t armed either, well, for most parts. How do you mount an insurrection without armed boots on the ground? Evidence is mounting that critical water infrastructure and communication networks faced no direct assault from the looters/protesters.

Communications infrastructure was affected because maintenance workers could not access sites. Truth be told, what the purported insurgents wanted and achieved was to thoroughly embarrass you in the eyes of the business lobby, the proverbial white monopoly capital. In fact, it can be summed up as nothing more than a series of co-ordinated skirmishes with the capital as government installations were spared. Obviously, it was part inspired by the now legendary angeke sidlale leliVenda (we won’t be played by this) Venda crew. Simply put, everybody else was punished for your political sins, nothing more, nothing less.

Your classification of the political turmoil as a “failed insurrection” is political rhetoric designed to marshal your “Thuma Mina” forces for the titanic battle that lies ahead, the next ANC elective conference. Every politician fears their political Waterloo; you’re no exception.

Having correctly branded the recent events, it came as a no-brainer that there’s no intelligence report (product) to support your insurgency theory. Police Minister Bheki Cele insists that he received no “product” from the guys at the “farm”, the spy agency headquarters warning of an insurrection.

On the other hand, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said: “That information we received, that we analysed and packaged, was handed to the police.” As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough for you, your Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said it’s not an insurrection because wait for it; “... the insurrection must have a face.”

Mr President, we have to accept that there was no intelligence product generated and distributed ahead of the political upheavals, just like there were no Tembisa decuplets. We also must admit that the head honchos in the security cluster are security-wise illiterate and politically clueless.

Political science teaches us that political uprisings are a manifestation of major governance failures that are political in nature, not bureaucratic. Those who believe otherwise and whisper sweet nothings in your ears don’t wish you to succeed, but they are merely perfecting the art of apple-polishing. Till next week my man. “Send me.”

This Letter to Mahlamba Ndlopfu is written by Bhekisisa Mncube, a former senior Witness political journalist, the 2020 regional winner in the Opinion category of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award, and author of The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy, a memoir.

This opinion piece was first published in the Witness/by News24.