Road to 2019: How to fight like a boxer

2017-08-15 11:09
Fracas in the National Assembly. Picture: Lerato Maduna

Fracas in the National Assembly. Picture: Lerato Maduna

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The year 2019 is on the horizon and in South Africa it will be the year of national elections. It is a big moment that can radically transform the tempo of this country.

The three dominant political parties (ANC, DA, EFF) have been acting on the public stage and we know their thrusts, tactics and strategies.

They all look competitive. But there are areas where there is a need for tightening and improvements. And I would like to highlight those areas.

Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put an emphasis on the need to “sharpen the saw”. How can the ANC improve its defence of its dominance? What can the DA and EFF do to make a successful claim of power?

In school I was a boxer, and for a very brief period was also a boxing judge. Boxing is not an objective sport like say soccer and rugby. In soccer and rugby the team that scores more goals is automatically the winner. There are no interpretations. A soccer or rugby team can dominate the game but if it fails to score it loses, simple, no questions asked.

It is different in boxing. In boxing it is up to the judges to determine who wins, after considering the different factors, the most important factors being: Effective aggression, ring generalship and defence.

Let us consider these three factors in reviewing the DA, EFF and ANC.

I see the DA like a boxer who has settled on effective aggression; going forward and landing a flurry of punches. That’s good. But the question is, are those punches “hard and clean”? In boxing you can throw a lot of punches and still not get a single credit for them.

The Association of Boxing Commissions’ Official Certification Program for Judges and Referees states that: “If an attack is not effective, the boxer cannot receive credit for it.”

Let’s look at a recent example. Soon after the vote of no confidence, the DA held a press conference to say that they will collapse Parliament. That was not an effective punch. In fact, if this was boxing and I were a judge, not only would I not give the DA credit, I would go a step further and deduct two points from them for throwing that punch. Simply throwing punches does not mean anything in boxing. You can even be penalised for it.

The EFF I see as a boxer orientated on ring generalship. In ring generalship a fighter has the ability to dominate the ring and control the action. He enforces his will and style on the fight, employing a strategy to make his opponent fight his fight.

If a boxer is fearless and walks around the ring bold like EFF does in Parliament, that boxer is allocated points by the judges. He gets credits for walking towards the opponent and pinning him on the ropes. The judges greatly favour a fighter who controls the pace and style of the fight.

The ANC of course should adopt a defensive formation so that the opposition parties will not take power from it in 2019. It must always be on guard, in total defence. And what is the best defence strategy in boxing? That is obvious. The best defence in boxing is to run away (complete evasion).

Running away is the easiest way to avoid getting punched. The ANC is not using this strategy. I propose that it should. The defence strategy the ANC uses is blocking. Blocking punches is still good, but you can get caught by a sucker punch from nowhere.

We can look at many cases, but let us consider only one case as an example. During the Nkandla scandal, instead of ANC running away by simply stating the truth and making corrections, they created a fire pool movie complete with water sprinklers showing how fire pools work. It was a way of defending itself, blocking the punches of the opposition. And what happened? They got a powerful swinging sucker punch from the EFF.

Resorting to blocking punches in boxing is very a dangerous defence tactic. You end up being knocked out by a punch from nowhere. The ANC will do well when under attack just to state the truth, what has happened, and stop resorting to lies. With lies you end up being caught.

The DA is throwing a lot of punches but there is a need to ensure those punches are “hard and clean”, otherwise they are meaningless.

For the EFF, the dominance strategy is good. But the party can up the ante. The EFF has the skill to fight the ANC at close range. Fighting inside (close range – revealing secrets) can be a messy affair and sometimes the boxer ends up hitting their opponent below the belt. It also involves a lot of pushing and your opponent and the spectators (voters out there) might think you are reckless. But there are world champions who are good at close range fighting; the late Baby Jake Matlala is one example.

The ANC will do well to note that lie telling is the worst form of defence. Just state the truth of what happened. Doing that not only saves your skin but also generates respect and dignity. Respect and dignity is the only way the ANC can defend itself in 2019.

Note: This was just discussing boxing at a very basic level, reality is far more complex for every issue stated here.

- Chris Kanyane is an MBA graduate with a focus in marketing and strategy. He is director at and has managing high level research at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) that fed into the National Development Plan (NDP).

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Read more on:    politics 2017  |  election

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