SLR: Covid-19 withers global sympathy for the ANC

If our acerbic columnist’s cogent argument that the ANC is fast running out of credible international friends to lean on is correct, it might ironically spur on the rampant feeding at the SA trough, now filled with Covid-19 funds. The pandemic has focused the minds of politicians at the helm of formerly friendly countries away from the ANC, whose decrepit behaviour has them at the end of their tether – even China. That leaves the ruling party to lean only on countries whose regimes, Simon Lincoln Reader suggests, are equally decrepit. The extent to which the patience of the ANC’s former allies and financial supporters has been stretched is best summed up in this eloquent sentence which most SA taxpayers will identify with: “surely, now, of all times, given its reputation, the potential financial damage of the pandemic, its weakened economy and the exhausted restraint of its sympathizers, surely the ANC will behave…?” The short answer is no. Reader cites some high-profile recent events that illustrate the point, with President Cyril Ramaphosa seemingly impotent to stem the endemic rot that defines the quality of the water he’s floundering in. – Chris Bateman 

By Simon Lincoln Reader* 

Within a mile’s radius of where I live there are probably dozens of households that, at some point in history, donated money to the ANC. Had it not been for their generosity, and that of ordinary Swedes, the exiled party would have almost certainly gone bust (at the same time, its operatives in Eastern Europe were virtually begging). North London, once home to the ANC headquarters, was legendary for sympathy in the form of two profiles; there was the empathetic Jew quietly identifying with persecution, and there was the demented, banner-waving, shrieking Jeremy Corbyn radical. These combined into a point made by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007, that “the ANC and the Labour Party were soul mates”.

The Zuma catastrophe did tremendous damage to this romance. But other trends were already grinding away at the solidarity. Surprisingly this had nothing to do with ANC corruption – which was initially dismissed as veiled racism – and more to do with chasms developing between the two profiles of the ANC’s traditional UK support.

Here the rise of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party coincided with Palestine becoming the international cause célèbre so the ANC, now without the veneer of liberation, was relegated to the point where it would be judged exclusively on its administrative abilities. At this point, to paraphrase Hemingway, the relationship was f***ed; until a few months ago, only fragments of it remained in the sight of Peter Hain enjoying a subsided lunch with Jackson Mthembu in the House of Lords.

Read also: ANC: ‘We are embarrassed by corruption’ – see full statement

Few other political parties have been afforded the kind of patience the ANC has. Some came from goodwill but most from guilt. The majority of local and media commentary, largely occupied by useless, unimaginative and cowardly progressives, has long defied standards by practising obvious leniency. Coupled to this was a hugely successful campaign, parts of which are currently enjoying renewed application in the west, to smear all critics as bigots. Only a hurtling asteroid, it appeared, could destroy the routine of ANC corruption being aggressively defended by counter-accusations of racism.

Courtesy of China’s Communist Party, one arrived in 2020 and quickly set in motion every man for himself. The international community dumped some parting benevolence before exiting down the fire escape. But there was an expectation: surely, now, of all times, given its reputation, the potential financial damage of the pandemic, its weakened economy and the exhausted restraint of its sympathizers, surely the ANC will behave…?

This past weekend, the ANC met to discuss its behaviour. We know that Ace Magashule, whose two young sons were the subject of some of the discussion, was at best disingenuous when he read a statement expressing horror at the discovery of the Covid tender carcass. We know that during the meeting, supporters of Magashule aggressively defended the frenzy, that familiar finger-pointing erupted. We also know that the party has had a bad war, that charity for the President is being diminished by Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife – to say nothing of the grotesque spectacle of Andrew Mlangeni’s funeral being stiffed by Zuma himself.

Read also: ANC rule will be over by end of decade, helped by Covid-19 – Frans Cronjé, Ralph Mathekga

So, for the ANC, where to find friends in the new world when all the others have left? Britain is set for generations of pre-occupation with bad Covid decisions. Australia? Canada? Both are now protectorates of China. New Zealand? Apparently too sensible. Europe? Too shagged out. America’s direction will be determined by November’s election result. Irrespective of who wins, it’s unlikely either party will seek association. As for China, they’re fed up too, as the Ambassador told Reuters in a rare interview in August last year. Unlike the ANC’S north London liberal allies however, they don’t feel a need to mask their fatigue. Which leaves North Korea (if Kim Jong-Un hasn’t Gruyère-d himself to death), Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, possibly Azerbaijan and one or two others. But this lot would be horrified by the ANC’s recent decision to approach the IMF, to which it is now required to report annually. Looks a bit like antifa applying to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for a grant.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Medium.
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