SLR: The deluded fantasy of ANC RET / EFF

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

Do you remember the charliefoxtrot of Dec 9 2015? In hindsight it was more a festering coil charliefoxtrot squeezed through the bowel mechanics of a methylated spirits and government white loaf (“blue train”) enthusiast – the day Jacob Zuma went full Jacob Zuma and sacked Nhlanhla Nene. But as it relates to the dreadful prospect of an ANC RET/EFF coalition, I remember the events of Friday 11th more. 

Something highly unusual happened – which has complicated the enduring debate as to whether it was the icy precision of the markets’ response that snookered Zuma into sacking some village’s missing idiot, David or Des van Rooyen, and rushing Pravin Gordhan into the portfolio – or something else. That something else was Chairman Xi’s point man in South Africa, charged to oversee, amongst other things, China’s Commercial and Industrial Development Bank’s interests in Standard Bank. A sequence of events were suddenly – unnecessarily – lively, and Xi’s dude was big mad. On that Friday he reportedly picked up the phone and dialled Pretoria. 

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China doesn’t possess the habit of forgetting. Up until this moment, they sought stability, but this event would have prompted them to reconsider. Agnostically they would have followed closely the Zondo Commission and the political interference in Eskom, possibly concluding that without the support of the unhinged 10% party, electoral defeat for the ANC was almost certain within a decade. 

In the present, ANC RET/EFF see (what they consider) promising signs. The decision to deliberately escalate events in Eastern Europe, coupled to a domestic agenda contaminated by identity politics are symptoms of desperation. A declining America, they calculate – not entirely incorrectly – is forcing Russia into China’s hands; China is playing both the role of the diplomat (“peace”) as well as the commercial partner to an isolated Vladimir Putin. Couple this to Mohammed bin Salman’s stagecraft, which could impact the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the potential coalition has assured themselves that monumental shifts the traditional power centres and a windfall from BRICs association will mitigate the losses of capital flight should their arrangement formalised. Basically the end of white supremacy capitalism, as they see it. 

Only it doesn’t work like that. China doesn’t do load shedding – it doesn’t even do municipal ineptitude or corruption. So perhaps it’s useful for ANC RETT/EFF to go back before 2015 – to 2008, when an earthquake strikes the Sichuan province and hundreds of schoolchildren are killed instantly in Dujiangyan. The central committee despatches investigators, and four days later a representative appears on prime time, explaining that initial results indicate sub-standard equipment has been used in the construction of the schools that imploded so rapidly, that developers and officials are suspected to have entertained corrupt relationships. Therefore, says the official, we are urgently seeking expedited charges against all parties involved – and on basis that parties are successfully prosecuted, they will all be executed. 

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Now, that’s more like the China we know, and since then, its arguably gotten worse – particularly if you are a minority Uyghur. Worse for ANC RET/EFF is that Zuma fisted the game once already, so they’re wise to it. If an ANC RET/EFF coalition prevails, the Chinese are likely to wait – to swoop only the moment the fire sale begins, but irrespective of tanked cost they’ll still expect from this enhanced “partnership” exactly what they expect from other beneficiaries of belt-and-road largesse, including the Italians and now the Argentinians. Chief amongst which, it’s fair to assume, will be managerial competence – there will still be a country to run, and the country will need to be competitive. 

If the ANC RETT/EFF arrangement seriously believes the emerging power centres more trustworthy or equitable, then it is their stupidest fantasy yet; at the moment, they’re just dreaming of a game they don’t even know how to play. 

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*Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Substack.