The zealous passion of a political convert

2014-01-06 10:00

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Rescued by the ANC, the former PAC man is now spreading the gospel of Zuma

The decent among us say you must always play the ball and not the man. The decent ones also warn about the role of turncoats as this species tends to embrace new causes with such passion that they become a danger to society.

It is because of this danger that, in this instance, one feels a little more comfortable about treating the ball and the man as the same object.

The man in question is called Thami ka Plaatjie. Ka Plaatjie, it will be remembered, was once the firebrand leader of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) whose rhetoric suggested that the prerequisite for joining the ANC was a hairy tail and a pair of red horns.

Today, Ka Plaatjie, who goes by the title “ANC head of research” is one of the governing party’s chief hatchet men.

A man who spurned the ANC’s ideology during the struggle years, Thami ka Plaatjie, is now firmly entrenched in the party and wastes no opportunity to sing its praises. Picture: Herman Verwey/Foto24

Last month, the Sunday Independent published an article by Ka Plaatjie in which his turncoat qualities were 0n full display. The article sought to reappropriate Nelson Mandela for the ANC and deal once and for all with those who saw him outside the paradigm of the ANC. This, in itself, is a fair thing to do as Mandela lived his whole life as a member of the ANC and swore that he would carry his allegiance to his heavenly abode.

In doing so, Ka Plaatjie was as crude as only a turncoat could be. “Mandela was as ANC as much as the pope is Catholic. There is a silly, arrogant and often repugnant tendency to want to view, understand, appreciate and interpret Nelson Mandela outside his historical and political home base, the ANC,” he wrote.

The weakness in Ka Plaatjie’s narrow interpretation of Mandela was to pigeonhole him into the party to which he belonged rather than to celebrate him as the greatest figure in modern times.

History elevated him above South African domestic politics. Even we as a nation no longer owned him. He belonged to the whole of humanity.

Rather than begrudge others for embracing Mandela as their own, the ANC should be glowing with pride that it produced so great an individual and redoubling its efforts to produce more like him.

But then a hatchet man has a job to do and one cannot expect any level of finesse.

This finesse was particularly lacking in an ad hominem attack on businessman and ANC veteran Oyama Mabandla last year. Responding to a critical piece about the ANC that Mabandla had written, Ka Plaatjie went for the jugular.

He sought to educate Mabandla, who had spent decades in the ANC, about the philosophies and objectives of the governing party.

“This neoliberal convert or fellow traveller has become a screeching megaphone seeking to gain favour and attention from the capitalist head prefects. Clearly, he craves a pat on the back from his capitalist handlers. Mabandla’s intellectual indolence is self-evident when he scavenges for an assortment of opaque reasons to fault the ruling party,” he wrote.

He added it was “high time the ruling party properly publicised its gains to deny the neoliberals like Mabandla the opportunity to urinate on the gains of the struggle”.

Not long thereafter, he turned his attention to then recently expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who had indicated his intention to form a political party.

In an open letter to Malema, the erstwhile Pan Africanist sought to convince Malema why the ANC was the right home for him. In that piece, he even questioned PAC founder Robert Sobukwe’s decision to break away from the ANC in 1959.

“My counsel to you, son of Africa, is to stay within the ranks of the glorious movement, lick your wounds, regain your resolve, up your chin and submit to organisational discipline and fate will be the best arbiter. Your views ring true and reverberate throughout a troubled generation, but to fight against the people’s movement hoping to win will be as impossible as presiding over your own cremation,” a concerned Ka Plaatjie advised Malema.

Very wise counsel indeed from a man who spurned the “glorious movement’s” ideology during the struggle years. A man who, during the negotiation period and the early years of democracy, would have stopped just short of calling the ANC sellouts.

Ka Plaatjie’s need for love in his new home is understandable.

After being expelled from a moribund PAC for allegedly causing divisions, the then secretary-general of the shrinking party formed the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM).

When his followers in PAM turned against him, he jumped ship. In 2010, the ANC rescued him from the political wilderness.

He then swallowed the gospel according to Jacob Zuma hook, line and sinker. With that came rewards. An SABC board seat and a deputy position at the public broadcaster landed in his lap. There, he and chairperson Ben Ngubane were protectors of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the ANC’s point man at the SABC.

When they could no longer protect Motsoeneng from action by other board members, they resigned. Ka Plaatjie did not have to wait long before the post of adviser to Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu came along.

He is singing nicely and his supper is coming along just as nicely.

Ka Plaatjie may have genuinely had a Damascus moment back in 2010 and has really come to love the ANC.

But, time and again, history has shown how deadly the zealotry of political converts can be.

»?Makhanya is editor at large

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