Friends & Friction: Like a blind dog in a meat market

2014-06-17 10:00

You have to hand it to Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

He has single-handedly defeated the ANC and created the impression that this government is unable to create a predictable and productive environment in which businesses can thrive.

We can bury our heads in the sand, but we cannot deny the strike has devastated small businesses that feed off the mining industry.

Poor President Jacob Zuma – 50 years from now, no one will remember the unionists or the mining bosses. His Nkandla palace will be in ruins and a monument to his failures.

If popular soapie Muvhango is anything to go by, it will be the subject of family feuds for generations to come, a bit like the way the Porsche family had a bitter and public feud about who should control Volkswagen.

The rest of South Africa’s future is not as certain. The prospects for mining remain unclear. Mathunjwa has already destroyed the career of the new minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, in the first month of his five-year term.

In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins says: “The actions you take during the first few months in a new role will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.”

Ramatlhodi tried to mediate and failed. He may have done it half-heartedly or was told to stop, as some rumours suggest. Too bad. He should have heeded the Shona saying: “Kudye mbwa hudye bono” (if you choose to eat a dog then eat a big one).

It means that when you decide to do something unpopular, get the maximum benefit.

If you order dog shank, ask them to cook it slow and long until it is soft and melts in your mouth. Be prepared to leave your best table manners behind. Ask for an extra-large white napkin.

Scholars of etiquette say you must never wipe your lips with your napkin during the meal, but I suppose all is forgiven when you’re dealing with the dog on your?plate.

We have a term in South Africa that goes: “Angeke ang’tshele usibanibani wahlulwa ukuthi nokuthi” (So and so can’t tell me a thing, he was defeated by such and such). It is a South African malady and is incurable. So by failing to finish the “dog”, Ramatlhodi has lost his power.

Understandably, the minister’s hands were tied. If Amcu wins, the ANC’s partner, the National Union of Mineworkers, will be seen as the loser. So Amcu must be seen to lose at all costs. Don’t shake your head. This is politics and has nothing to do with kindness.

Carl von Clausewitz put it coldly when he said: “The mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst.”

So people will starve, small businesses will close down and feuds will continue. All the while, South Africa will suffer. Don’t despair, history never wastes a good crisis.

A new leader will emerge and it won’t be Mathunjwa.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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