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As South Africa slowly comes to terms with the widespread looting of the past week, there have been many explanations for why this has happened and who is behind it, with fingers pointing in every direction. Some have attributed it to Zulu or ‘ethnic mobilisation’ and an ‘attempted insurrection’. However, political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki rejects these theories, saying they are ghosts that the ANC (and President Cyril Ramaphosa) pull out when the party is in trouble. He gives an interesting take on the matter and believes that while Jacob Zuma’s incarceration was certainly the spark, the actual explosion was inevitable. “Cyril was targeting the whites – the white prejudices, let me say. He wanted to tell the whites that they are these Zulu bloodthirsty savages, but he’s going to deal with them using the army and the police. So that was his strategy for allaying the white fears,” Mbeki says. – Linda van Tilburg
Moeletsi Mbeki on the riots not being an example of ethnic mobilisation:
Well, I was the first person to attack Cyril for saying this is ethnic mobilisation. There’s no such thing but it was deliberate because he has since withdrawn it. In my view, Cyril was targeting the whites, the white prejudices, let me say. He wanted to tell the whites that they are these Zulu bloodthirsty savages, but he’s going to deal with them using the army and the police. That was his strategy for allaying the white fears. Of course, the whites believed that they are Zulu bloodthirsty savages who have to be dealt with [by deploying] the army. That was the intention. He knows there was no such ethnic mobilisation.
Cyril knows how to manipulate the white population. He plays on their prejudices. He manipulates the black population as well. He was caught on camera a couple of years ago. He was on a campaign in Polokwane and this old lady in the townships said to him that she is not going to vote for the ANC anymore for service delivery reasons. [Ramaphosa] thought the camera was far away and wouldn’t hear his reply, he told her, “you know, if you don’t vote for the ANC, the Boers will come back and take the land back”. He’s a real racial opportunist who manipulates both the whites by playing on their fears and prejudices and the blacks by playing on their fears and their prejudices. By the time he withdrew his ethnic mobilisation, the damage had been done. The whites had believed him so he didn’t need to continue with it. I don’t think he expected people like me to raise a lot of noise about it.
The spark came from where Jacob Zuma lives, whether it’s Zulu or not Zulu. It came from where he lives, which is his own province. That doesn’t make ethnic mobilisation. For him to get support from his province doesn’t add up to ethnic mobilisation. It doesn’t even add up to Zulu support.
On a third force or it being an attempted insurrection:
These are the ghosts that the ANC leadership pulls out whenever it has problems. In the past, there was a third force, which was one of the ghosts that the ANC used to explain a whole lot of things which was really directed at the Afrikaners. It was a code word for what the ANC perceived as Afrikaner rejectionists, and it called them the third force. These are code words, but did the Afrikaner people object to democracy? Of course not. Most of them supported De Klerk in introducing the changes that he introduced. Of course, there was those who disagreed but that was their right.
On the list of Zuma’s supposed supporters:
Number one on the list: Thulani Dlamini, the guy who was ambassador to Japan. He has already said he’s actually working with the government, so he doesn’t know where his name comes from, but he’s top of the list of these 12 insurrectionist organisers.
I don’t think he has been arrested. What is very clear is that the strategy of the government is to tell the population that this is a conspiracy. It is not because of poverty. This is an old trick the National Party used to use. The National Party used to say our blacks are happy, it is the communists who are creating trouble. The ANC is saying our blacks are happy. It’s either the Zulus or – then they realise that’s not quite kosher (the Zulu thing) – they say, “oh, it’s insurrectionists”.
On why Zuma’s incarceration was the spark:
Zuma has support amongst the poor. We have always known this. Everybody has known except his enemies within the ANC. When Zuma walked into a stadium, there was a huge welcome uproar for him. Then he will start singing and dancing and all sorts. The poor who go to these rallies to get free food parcels and free T-shirts will be singing and dancing with him. So they see him as one of them. He has no education. He doesn’t come from the elite, like the Eastern Cape, like my brother and Mandela. He is not a son of a policeman like Cyril Ramaphosa. He is just an ordinary person who was a migrant worker. That’s why they identify with him – there was bound to be a response when he got arrested. They have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by raiding a shopping mall.
On the role of taxi associations in helping communities:
There are so many players in South Africa who have so many different motives. I don’t know what the taxi owners’ motives are, but there are many people who have many motives.
On the real cause of the unrest:
I wrote an article in February 2011 saying that there is going to be an explosion in South Africa within the coming 10 years. It’s predictable. There’s nothing mysterious about it. When you have levels of youth unemployment of 50% plus – people between the ages of 15 and 24 – when you have levels of unemployment of 30 to 40, when you have a level of poverty of 50% of your population, you know this is a powder keg that’s gonna explode. There was absolutely nothing unpredictable about the explosion that happened last week. It was totally predictable.
What was not predictable was the spark which would set it off – but it could be any spark. It was the arrest of Jacob Zuma but it could have been fans fighting outside a football match. This is not the first time, by the way, these explosions have happened. When the National Party introduced the Tricameral Parliament, there was a huge explosion and PW Botha was shocked and eventually had to introduce the state of emergency. He was surprised there was a spark, but everybody could have told him there would be.
On the relationship between the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa:
Ramaphosa, remember he’s part of the ANC. The ANC is an institution. People keep thinking Ramaphosa owns the ANC. The ANC is not the private property of Cyril Ramaphosa. The ANC is a 110-year-old institution which has policies, which has practices and its policies have failed. Cyril Ramaphosa cannot change ANC policies. So many people keep thinking, “oh, Ramaphosa is going to save South Africa.” Ramaphosa cannot save South Africa and, anyway, the policies that are being pursued by the ANC – which is to advance the interests of the black middle class – are not Ramaphosa policies, those are ANC policies.
Black economic empowerment, which is one of the major drivers of corruption, is also the major driver of inequality amongst blacks in South Africa. It’s not Ramaphosa’s policy. It’s an ANC policy and Ramaphosa cannot change it. People keep thinking Ramaphosa has a magic wand which will solve the world’s problems. I guess he loves to think he has one but he hasn’t. The ANC is an institution, behaves like an institution and it operates like [one]. That’s why it is having National Executive Committee meetings and why it has congresses where resolutions are passed.
The business community has been saying to the government, look, you have to do something about these non-performing state-owned enterprises. The burning of these trucks, for example, on the N3 – there wouldn’t be any issue, in fact, they wouldn’t have been a target if our railway system was working between Johannesburg and Durban. But the railway system is not working. So now you have a vulnerable logistics system, which are the trucks on the N3. Those trucks shouldn’t be on the N3.
The volume of trucks that we have in South Africa is because of non-functioning railway infrastructure and that is ANC policy. The British government did a study at the request of the ANC government in 2004. It financed a study on how to manage our railway system in an efficient way and introduce private train operators. They’ve done nothing about it and that’s ANC. It’s not Cyril. It’s not Thabo Mbeki. It’s not Nelson Mandela. It’s ANC policy. Do you think the ANC policy is going to change? No, it’s going to continue.
On what the solution could be:
The solution is to have a properly functioning democracy where we have two or three parties that are of similar strength so that when the policies of one party fail, the voters have a choice to choose another party with different policies.
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Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.