'Hidden hands' collude together not only for the purpose of stealing excessive amounts of money from us, the taxpayer, but also to avert progress. Oscar van Heerden explains why this need for subversion and sedition.
"The ANC is a victim of its own success."
These are the famous words of Jacob Zuma, and I concur. I want to address the matter of "counter-revolution" of the transformation project in South Africa. But before this, I told myself I was not going to respond to an article written by RW Johnson recently but suffice to say, though, it is a gross caricature and filled with falsehoods.
In this regard, I will say only this - all indices post-apartheid indicate that we, as South Africans, live better than in the last 50 years. And, no, nothing was better under apartheid, Mr Johnson, nothing.
I take it when you say things were better under apartheid, you mean for whites only. The lights were on because it was for whites only. Large swathes of black townships were in the dark, good sir.
I say again, all indices tell a different story, including education. Yes, education is much better than under apartheid's 17 different educational departments. When you say better under apartheid, do you take into consideration the Bantustans?
Or are you referring to only the white South Africa that had all these good things and lights remained on? Blacks don't read books? How racist of you, Mr Johnson. Anyway, I'm getting emotional hence my decision not to engage with Johnson’s overt falsehoods comprehensively.
This black majority government inherited a massive deficit and moved the country into surplus territory. This ANC and other liberation organisations ensured universal suffrage to our people, regular elections, a Constitution to be proud of, a Bill of Rights, an independent media, a judiciary and Chapter 9 institutions, but no, according to RW Johnson, life was much better under apartheid.
I am acutely aware of the Engineering Council's state of South Africa’s infrastructure report and the urgent need for interventions in several areas, but to dismiss the massive infrastructure upgrades and new initiatives in preparation for the 2010 soccer World Cup as a mere blip on the screen is to be disingenuous, to say the least. Billions were earmarked and spent, and we still today benefit from these as South Africans. The Gautrain is but one such example. Anyway, I just needed to get that off my mind.
These days there is much talk of a "counter-revolution" under way that clearly undermines the progress we've made as a country.
Former president Thabo Mbeki has, on a number of occasions, reiterated this notion, including in the run-up to the 2017 ANC national elective conference in Nasrec. He warned that if left unchecked, our much hard-fought gains will indeed be rendered obsolete.
Now, before too many of you say the ANC is lost in its own Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, I agree that using such a concept is outdated. After all, it is reminiscent of 18th and 19th-century literature. So, for the purpose of today's discussion, shall we instead of using the term "counter-revolution", we'll rather talk of "hidden hands" of subversion and sedition.
Mark Shaw, director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, states in a recent report that, "It often lies behind and connects (my emphasis) numerous seemingly disparate criminal incidents we see occurring in South Africa every day."
He goes further to say that "South Africa faces a complex, hybrid criminal threat. Having originated in highly constricted conditions under apartheid, in three decades, organised crime has spread across the country and forged links across the world." In other words, due to us becoming more of an open society and embracing the international community of nations, the ANC has exposed us to these new threats.
Were we supposed to remain isolated internationally? Finally, the report states that "organised crime in South Africa ranges from heroin, meth and cocaine trafficking to people-smuggling, rhino poaching and the stripping of metal from state power, water and transport companies. Pipelines are targeted, and syndicates demand contracts from mining and construction companies, which they are paid for but do not fulfil."
Who are these illegal miners stripping for? I contend it's not for their own stomachs. Oh no, it's for much more prominent players who are able to export this ill-gotten produce. A hidden hand, for sure.
Recently, Parliament was considering passing a bill outlawing scrap metal exports, and who do you think seriously objected to this idea? The European Union of all people, since they import scrap metal from South Africa to the tune of billions. Who manufactures our railway lines since we don't do it ourselves anymore? China. Is there a parallel between this fact and the relentless stealing and destruction of our rail infrastructure? Your guess is as good as mine.
"Where are these hidden hands?" I hear you asking. Well, we must ask the question of what motivates these hidden hands?
The answer is simple - interests.
Both foreign and domestic interests drive this destructive agenda. Foreign interest includes foreign governments and international organisations, while domestic interests include organised crime syndicates, gangs and corrupt officials in government and the private sector. The Guptas, Angelo Agrizzi, Adriano Mazzotti and Nafiz Modack, to mention a few, are all interested parties and active players in these hidden hands.
We have observed when cooperation between foreign and domestic interests takes place to further subvert and engage in seditious activities. Here one only has to revert to Trillian, Bell Pottinger, Bain and many more. They collude together not only for the purpose of stealing excessive amounts of money from us, the taxpayer, but also to avert progress. Because progress, in turn, means stability and order, a bureaucracy with rules and regulations, and they can't have that now, can they? In effect, they are against the transformation agenda in South Africa undertaken by the ANC and other progressive players. They are countering this revolution.
There is the revolution of independent producers of energy, and the breakup of Eskom. We are seeing the gradual move away from coal towards a just energy transition worth billions of rands. This is revolutionary. Reviving our criminal justice system by not interfering with the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority, and our courts and introducing a new investigative arm to deal with corruption cases. This is a revolution.
We have to ask ourselves, who are these illegal miners mining for? We now export copper because of the massive cable thefts in our country. How is this allowed? Even our neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) must also bear the brunt of some responsibility. They are also serving their narrow national interest at South Africa's expense. Here's the point, the revolution, any revolution, must secure its gains and successes.
Has the ANC failed to do this, to guard one's successes? Successes as highlighted above, such as moving South Africa from a deficit to a surplus, a globally admired Constitution and Bill of Rights, reconciliation, non-racialism, reintegration into the international constellation of nations as a respected member in sports, arts, culture and many more. It seems to me the ANC was able to secure itself and its gains during the exile years in London, Lusaka, Angola and on many other fronts, yet it opened itself up to all and sundry when it got back home. Is the ANC a centrifugal force being directed away from the centre around which the body politic is moving?
As I have said many times before, the one phenomenon we never considered a threat post-apartheid and hence did not adequately prepare for it was the lure of money. This is the final pillar in this equation. The interests of the individual. The unmitigated scramble for wealth in South Africa.
As Mbeki yet again reminded us while delivering the fourth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture: "Thus every day and during every hour of our time beyond sleep, the demons embedded in our society, that stalk us at every minute, seem always to beckon each one of us towards a realisable dream and nightmare. With every passing second, they advise, with rhythmic and hypnotic regularity – get rich! Get rich! Get rich! And thus, has it come about that many of us accept that our common natural instinct to escape from poverty is but the other side of the same coin on whose reverse side is written the words at all cost, get rich!"
The failure to secure, results in death. The opposition party in South Africa is, in fact, inside the ANC. Fighting against themselves and in the process destroying the very ANC that is supposed to advance this very revolution.
Still not convinced that we are dealing here with multiple hidden hands engaged in subversion and sedition? The threat is real, it is complex and hybrid. You be the judge.
- Dr Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular
*Want to respond to the columnist? Send your letter or article to firstname.lastname@example.org your name and town or province. You are welcome to also send a profile picture. We encourage a diversity of voices and views in our readers' submissions and reserve the right not to publish any and all submissions received.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.