Dark forces or dark horses?

2014-06-17 10:00

Believe it, it is true. There are sinister, dark forces out there.

They are hard at work, striving to wreck our democratic order.

Do believe it. The ANC told us so. After a weekend meeting, the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) emerged with the incredible news that the five-month platinum strike was being driven by these “forces”.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a media briefing after an NEC meeting that leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were being manipulated by foreign forces.

Or, as Mantashe put it: “The articulation of the Amcu position by white foreign nationals, signalling interest of foreign forces in the destabilisation of our economy.”

He also hinted at the involvement of the Economic Freedom Fighters in the matter, “in collaboration with the foreign forces”.

This is not the first time the notion of dark forces controlling local political developments has come to the fore. The ANC brings it up every time it fails to explain events it cannot control or give direction to.

These “forces” have been blamed for internal ANC battles, the fall of the rand, xenophobic violence, discord in the security establishment and a host of other ills. More recently, government and ANC leaders have attributed the surge in service-delivery protests to an “invisible hand” and a “third force”, which has a “clear objective to destabilise government”.

The war that is tearing labour federation Cosatu apart is also apparently being fanned by “international forces opposed to our movement”.

Government’s spy agencies have reportedly even sent out teams of spooks to protest-stricken areas to ferret out these “forces”.

This obsession with “forces” would be funny if it were not being propagated by serious people who run a country. Take service-delivery protests, for instance. If the ANC’s belief that “forces” seeking to destabilise the country were behind them, this country and the party that runs it must be in very serious trouble. The “agitators” are usually ANC-aligned community leaders or even branch members. The communities who support the protests are ANC members or supporters.

So if we were to follow the ANC’s logic, these “forces” have infiltrated our society to unimaginable levels.

They are in all corners of the state. They run ANC branches, have agents in almost all communities and are seemingly more in tune with the people’s needs than the governing party’s public representatives.

And, if we are to take this further, the tripartite alliance is firmly in the grip of foreign agencies.

South Africans should be afraid. Very afraid. But of course we know this is all poppycock.

South Africa’s problems do not need to be explained via conspiracy theories. They are quite straightforward and can be explained logically.

The rise of the ungovernable Amcu is the direct result of the neglect of workers’ interests by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). It has been well documented that as the NUM leadership cosied up to the political and business elite, it gradually lost touch with its membership and opened the way for Amcu to champion workers’ struggles against exploitative conditions.

The presence of foreigners has never been a secret or a mystery. International solidarity has always been the hallmark of trade unions and socialist movements.

You will find left-wing activists from across the world fighting the Palestinian cause, joining anti-World Cup protests on the streets of Brazil and aiding the anti-austerity struggles in southern Europe.

In pursuit of this principle of international solidarity, these activists also played a significant role in South Africa’s liberation struggle. So the international activism in the North West platinum belt also rests on this principle. Their ultra-left ideologies might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are not there secretly or pursuing some nefarious agenda.

Are some opposition parties opportunistically getting involved in the conflict, as Mantashe claims? Of course they are. Opportunism is part and parcel of the game we call politics.

The ANC did exactly the same when Cape farm workers revolted in the Western Cape in 2012. The presence of political parties is open and above board.

The strike will soon be over, but a long-term solution to damaging labour conflict in South Africa will be a more complex matter to resolve.

It will require a revision of South Africa’s industrial relations infrastructure and a change

of thinking among employers, workers and government. This rethinking will require the building of trust and a belief in one another’s bona fides among all the parties involved.

This trust will be nigh impossible to build if the paranoid decision makers in the governing party continue to believe other travellers on this journey are being controlled by an alien species.

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