Graham Sell: Cloud Cuckoo Land – Maggie Thatcher so wrong then, so right now

In this heart of the matter contribution, Graham Sell tears into both the African National Congress and Democratic Alliance for having lived in Cloud Cuckoo Land for 22 years. Partly for having lived in the belief that the current political golden goose would keep on laying forever, but more so for giving the Economic Freedom Fighters the grounds on which to flourish, allowing such rhetoric as calling for change through the ‘barrel of a gun’. Sell also strips out some of the EFF’s election manifesto talk, which he says puts them onto the same Cloud Cuckoo Land as the other two parties. He calls on the people of South Africa to embrace a peaceful revolution, one that will break the stranglehold of traditional parties. A change in electoral system that may save South Africa from an entirely different revolution. – Stuart Lowman

By Graham Sell*

(Cloud-cuckoo-land (mass-noun): a state of absurdly over-optimistic fantasy, rather than understanding how things really are. Translation of Greek Nephelokokkugia, the name of the city built by the birds in Aristophanes’ comedy Birds, from nephelē ‘cloud’ + kokkux ‘cuckoo’.

Graham Sell
Graham Sell

In 1987 Margaret Thatcher, then UK Prime Minister, was incorrectly attributed with saying that anyone who believed the ANC would ever rule South Africa was living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Contrary to this assertion, apocryphal or not, in 1994 most of us migrated to the ANC-led Rainbow Nation perhaps with some trepidation if white, but also with much hope that interracial harmony would indeed provide a better life for all. In 2016 we have returned to Cloud Cuckoo Land with a vengeance, courtesy of the ANC, the DA, and Julius Malema with his Red Berets.

There is no doubt that the EFF have shaken our traditional establishment to its core and irreversibly changed the political landscape in South Africa, in some ways for the better.

Julius Malema is also undoubtedly a first rate orator, even though he deliberately tailors his speeches to be inflammatory and racially divisive; speeches that stir very positive or highly negative emotions in people, depending upon which side of his argument you are on. His tactic of continually stepping over the line and then retreating again before anyone can process what has happened, is also working well for him. By the time the ANC or DA react to one outrageous declaration, Malema and the EFF are already on to the next one, leaving their opponents off-balance and scrambling to keep up.

Through this “moving target” strategy, the EFF are rapidly gaining political ground without ever having to provide any substantive evidence that they have the capability or capacity to govern anything. Spouting revolutionary rhetoric and being generally disruptive is easy, whereas presenting pragmatic solutions to the problems we face at local government level is incredibly difficult.

Their 2016 election manifesto contains some practical ambitions, but in the main it can be seen as either a Cloud Cuckoo Land document, or as a cynically populist document deliberately designed to woo the electorate with false promises. Either way, irrespective of how many times they repeat themselves in the 32 pages, some of their main “commitments” will breach the Municipal Finance Management Act, or the Municipal Systems Act, or both. Not forgetting a couple more that will land them back in the Constitutional Court, this time on the wrong end of a judgement.

Read also: Know what you’re voting for: ANC, DA, EFF 2016 Election Manifestos compared

But of more concern than the viability of their election manifesto, and in accordance with their Marxist-Leninist Fanonian doctrine, the EFF are steadily voicing various justifications for employing revolutionary violence in their quest for regime change.

If you are sceptical of their intentions and still think the EFF are harmless, consider this:  In his opening remarks to their local government election manifesto Malema says “The EFF’s contestation of political power through elections should however not be mistaken with our revolutionary determination to remove the current government by any other revolutionary means.” followed by: “The forms in which the EFF contests political power will, from time to time, be reviewed in the light of prevailing circumstances”. Will those prevailing circumstances include not doing as well as they would like in the 2016 Local Government Elections?

Malema’s “barrel of a gun” statement during his Al Jazeera interview is at the very least alarming, and possibly even treasonous. In addition, by deliberately and continually provoking their physical ejection from parliament at every available opportunity, the EFF are creating a self-inflicted impression of victimhood that they may ultimately be able to use as an excuse for violent retaliation.

If all the above and other more veiled threats are not enough to spark concern, take a quick look at some quotes from the EFF’s revolutionary role models V I Lenin[1], Chairman Mao Zedong[2] and Frantz Fanon[3]. These should trigger a basic comprehension of where the EFF are coming from, and the potential threat they therefore pose to our fledgling democracy.

But can we really blame them for wanting revolution when it is the ANC and DA who are primarily guilty of creating the environment in which an organisation such as the EFF can flourish?

Read also: Graham Sell: Dishonourably Honourable – Politician self interests hurt SA

For the past 22 years, particularly in local government, traditional parties including the DA have used legislative flaws in the Constitution to avoid direct accountability to the electorate. Poor service delivery as a result of cadre deployment, nepotism, tender fraud, financial mismanagement and corruption can be directly attributed to the unaccountability inherent in the Proportional Representation party list system. Essentially too many unaccountable politicians taking too much from the public purse while making no contribution to service delivery. For 22 years, the ANC and DA have lived in Cloud Cuckoo Land, believing that this particular political golden goose would keep on laying forever, when they should rather have been concentrating on their responsibility to deliver a better life for all.

Municipal elections

The Rainbow Nation may or may not be on its last legs, but the one thing we really don’t need is an EFF-inspired revolution that feeds on racial division and hatred, where they will eventually subjugate, or should that read sub-juju-gate all of us, both black and white, to the whims of a self-styled dictator-in-waiting.

Even if we avoid a violent revolution, nothing will change in local government until the electoral system itself is changed: five yearly cycles of casting a vote, only to be ignored until the next voting cycle comes around.  Another round of cadre deployment, nepotism, corruption etc. and to believe otherwise is to be living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. So stop the negative protests against lack of service delivery, or against Jacob Zuma and his ANC. Fly the coop and use your positive energy to march for changes to the electoral system. March for a peaceful revolution that will break the stranglehold traditional political parties have over us; one that may also rescue us from a revolution of an entirely different kind.

[1] “Marxists have never forgotten that violence will be an inevitable accompaniment of the collapse of capitalism”: and then “One man with a gun can control 100 without a gun” – VI Lenin

[2] “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”: “The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the highest form of revolution. This Marxist/Leninist principle holds well universally….” –Mao Zedong

[3] “Violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex, and from his despair and inaction. It makes him fearless and restores his self-respect” – Frantz Fanon.