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The ANC’s 108th birthday bash: A masked ball

A splendid distraction from SA’s socio-economic realities.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, singing from an old hymn sheet. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

Pretending has come to be a dominant feature in South Africa.

Citizens continue to vote against their own interest, as if pretending that those in power can actually deliver on their promises will make it come true.

In politics, all parties pretend – acting as though they have no crises, no factions, no demagogic and power-hungry individuals. They put on masks and present false fronts, pretending that the internal problems don’t exist.

If the ANC’s 108th birthday celebration this past weekend and its associated speeches – including President Cyril Ramaphosa’s delivery of the January 8 statement on Saturday (January 11) – are anything go by, it seems the party has become a symbol of pretence and pretension.

Great pretender

We know the reality is difficult to face, but in choosing to again wear a mask, the ruling party has become a victim of the unfortunate reality that playing make-believe can come to hide the truth even from the pretender itself.

Only the ANC could say, with a straight face, that it has declared 2020 to be the “year of unity, socio-economic renewal and nation building”.

Only the ANC could fail to fear shame and embarrassment about claiming to prioritise job creation and economic growth when its actions, decisions and policies as the ruling party have been such that they achieve the opposite.

Pretending has become a coping mechanism, a tool for self-comfort, a way to save face … but mostly an excuse for the party to continue to lie to itself that things are going well.


Given the country’s past, and the current government’s constant failure, a reflection on what is happening inside the ANC – including its role in governing SA – could have been more useful.

It could have shown that it is a party capable of public self-reflection.

This would also have given it an opportunity to refine its eight priorities – including education, healthcare, land reform and growth – instead of repeating them. Ramaphosa’s speech did not mention anything that we didn’t already know to be his party’s priorities, nor did it introduce anything new.

Believing that repeating a story will somehow make it true does not make it true. Trying to hide one’s failures doesn’t turn them into successes.

It is unsurprising that nothing very hopeful came out of the president’s speech, and it seems nothing hopeful is going to happen while the ruling party continues to believe the lie that it tells itself and the public.

The collapse of key institutions and state-owned enterprises, the plundering of state coffers, and the erosion of good governance in the public sector has not only reversed any progress, it has plunged the economy into a crushing rut.

Pretending to be a thriving democracy that is able to accomplish political and social growth does not make it so.

The morning after

When the sugar rush from the birthday celebrations wears off and the exhaustion from partying sets in, it may surprise the ANC and its alliance partners to see that much of what the festivities were trying to mask is still there.

The priorities the party set out for the new era are simply a collection of past plans that were never implemented or failed to lift off.

It can be said that, as the ruling party, the ANC has been riding the wave of an organisation that is forward-looking and in control of its own and the country’s future.

The reality is that it is set in its ways, has been plunged into organisational chaos and, as a government, is less clear about what it is doing than it would have its citizens believe.

The Eskom crisis is good evidence of a president at the helm of a government that is incapable of running things, let alone demonstrating a leadership that is in control.

Moreover, the corroding effect of state capture and corrupt practices is so deeply rooted that it has undermined many of the former good practices in the public sector. And the collective response from the powers that be? Go through the motions, set up commissions and inquiries, act as if action is being taken against those liable, and hope that this will keep the public appeased. In other words, present a false image of a party in control and hope that people will believe this image.

I am not moved by statements from a party that pretends to care about reducing poverty and inequality when in reality, through its actions, it extends them.

For many young people who are the most impacted by structural problems, the ruling party’s birthday celebration means nothing. Many continue to be locked out of the economy and have no way of knowing how they are going to survive daily, let alone in the coming decade.

This past weekend’s birthday celebration was a splendid diversion used to cheer the masses, by keeping the pretence of ‘Batho Pele’ (government’s ‘People First’ initiative) alive. But soon the lies will not hold anymore.

There was a time when the public and even its own members listened closely when the ANC spoke. This is particularly true of the January 8 statement. But the party’s command for attention is diminishing.

And so too, unless things change, will its power over the people.



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“Citizens continue voting against their own interests.”


Logically, it then follows that, their eternal victim mentality notwithstanding, anybody who votes for the ruling party gets the government he deserves, and one should have no sympathy for those who get exactly what they vote for – poverty, misery, poor education, shocking health care, etc. They are doing this to themselves.

Biggest most blatant in your face waste of money. sales of Johnny Blue, condoms and aspirin peaked in Kimberley.

And Ramaphosa sang the same tune as his incompetent predecessors.

“And the citizens continue voting against their own interests” – it shows up the lack of voter education.

We have seen many times how people protest in the streets and then vote for the same party again. In Zim people are still voting for ZANU-PF.

For hundreds of years black people had no experience of democracy, elections and voting – and that is exactly how the liberation parties aim to keep it.

The only people voting for ZANU-PF are ghosts. Just that there are now more ghosts than actual, real people.

Nothing to celebrate. The cakes are bigger but the economic pie is smaller and the average person poorer.

Just wait till we get a downgrade and an IMF bailout. Then reality will set in like the sudden announcement of stage six load shedding.

It’s one of our limited last hopes for sa. We are so close to the precipice and the leaders fiddle while Rome burns

No wonder it had to be a masked ball …. no guest wanted to be recognized for the failures they are!
Celebrating a lack of success has to be the saddest thing for any political party!

Masked. Would anyone want to be seen there, or admit that they were there?

Yes the anc could have opened and closed their bash with “the Great Pretender” song of late Freddie Mercury – would be a good indication where sa is heading to; i stick to it: to date the anc has learned nothing out of the zimbabwian history, if you cant manage a country is doomed – to date they have ride on the back of the Mandela era and what was inherited as an operating government system now messed up into the ground – nothing to be proud of

“The ANC is the single greatest liability to the country in 2020”-Prince Mashele

The ANC is bankrupt. That’s a reason to celebrate.

Democracy is that wonderful system that allows the public to turn their reality into a manifestation of their mindset. This is true in Switzerland, and it is true in Zimbabwe.

If we are truly benevolent, and if we honestly care about the prosperity of all citizens, then we need to protect some individuals against themselves, by restricting their right to harm themselves and others, through the power of their vote. The right to vote is like a loaded shotgun. In the hands of the experienced, it is a great tool, but in the inexperienced and infantile hands, it is utterly destructive.

When a democratic system transfers the power over property rights from a person who owns the property to a person who does not, then the law turns on itself to legalise plunder. Then, the entire might of the state will be used to enforce plunder. When the law is used to enforce plunder, then everybody will fight and burn tyres to attain the right to make laws. Politics will become an all-encompassing issue and a topic in every discussion. Some will fight for the right to make laws that give them the right to loot, while others will fight to stop the looting of their property.

A country becomes a Switzerland or a Zimbabwe, depending on whether the voting majority owns property or not. It is that simple.

I live in a small town in kzn. This morning I went to renew my car license. I spent 2 hours and 25 minutes to get to the till and it took max 4 minutes to get my license as my paperwork was in order.Not one of the other had paperwork sorted and the cashier had to do it all for them.Surely they should have people at the entrance to check that all had the correct forms and filled in correctly. What a complete waste of precious time. I just do not understand their mode of time and work.

It’s the mindset of “it’s not my problem / job” if the work flows or not. As long as they have their job, their tea & lunch breaks and their paycheck, the majority of civil servants could not care less about your time or convenience. It’s a pity that those exceptions, and there are quite a few, are unfortunately not appreciated because they are tarred with the same brush of public criticism and are rewarded at the same rate as the passengers employed to do the same job.

This sounds like an escalation of hysteria, mania and eventually chaos … perhaps we are already there…

The Birthday bash was about who’s constitution is more important – that of the country or the party!

End of comments.


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