Suicidal tendencies

2010-03-10 00:00

SMEAR campaigns, rumour fermentation and gossipmongering define the African National Congress today.

With all its strengths, its complexity and the monstrosity that it is, the ANC leads its life like a wounded snake.

Because it is so frustrated and does not know what to do to ease the pain, the snake madly bites away on its wound until it dies. But the sad fact is that when it bites away on this wound, it’s hardly aware that it’s committing suicide.

The smear campaigns, the jockeying for positions, rumour fermentation, nasty vilification, gossipmongering, surreptitious character-assassination drives and outright misinformation, characterise this animal called the ANC today.

There is never a dull moment. With media leaks after media leaks, you actually wonder if these people have time to run the country.

And front-page lead after front-page lead — if it’s not Jacob Zuma, it is Julius Malema; if it’s not Malema, it is the Lakela Kaundas of this world; if it’s not Kaunda, it is Siphiwe Nyanda; and if it’s not Nyanda, it is Jackie Selebi. The list is long, too long.

And then in the mix, you find the Glenn Agliottis of this world, you find businessmen and women, local professional spies and foreign intelligence operatives.

Worse still, in this mix are our institutions of democracy that are used to fighting people’s personal vendettas. It is a matter of public record that the now-defunct Scorpions were used in the power struggle between the Zuma and the Thabo Mbeki camps. Then the courts were used in the ensuing battle for the soul of the ANC.

When you use the courts, it means you use judges and prosecutors. So, even judges are embroiled in the ANC’s internal battles. What a shame.

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) also gets itself used as an unwitting tool to settle personal scores between ANC leaders.

Recently, SARS has found itself embroiled in ANC Youth League president Malema’s saga, with former employees leaking information to the media. Yes, the media. The media, in this process, are being duped as “useful idiots” aiding and abetting in smear campaigns to destroy certain individuals within the ANC leadership.

In this context, the media are “willing idiots” that help put targeted individuals in the dock of public opinion, rubbishing them in countless ways and thereby fully furthering the aims of certain sections of the ANC.

Recently, we woke up to newspaper headlines that the chief operating officer in Zuma’s office, Jessie Duarte, had resigned due to rivalry that threatened “to cripple” the Presidency.

Apparently, she cited a “smear campaign, rumour-mongering, gossip and vilification” as reasons for her resignation. So, there you are.

What a mess.

The problem with this mess though, is that it affects all South African citizens. For ours and our children’s wellbeing, you and I desire a properly functioning government machinery. Even if you are not an ANC member (you don’t have to be), the behaviour of the ANC, negative or positive, affects your country.

Giving evidence in former police commissioner Selebi’s trial this week, ex-national intelligence co-ordinator Barry Gilder confirmed that the intelligence community “had suffered a lot since 1995, with gossip and misinformation creeping into the intelligence machinery”.

“We were used to this kind of thing and we tried very hard to make sure we based our intelligence on hard facts. In my mind at the time, as I recall my response to this passage, this was just another one of those pieces of gossip or misinformation,” he said, referring to the matter involving the former police commissioner.

You see, this is how coups happen, even civil wars. It will take one idiot to cock his gun and shoot, and the country will be dead and buried.

The ANC should stop this. It’s suicidal. —

• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He has also written for such publications as the Sunday Times, the World Paper in Boston and was employed by the New York Times Group in the United States between 1989 and 1991.

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