SA forced into playing ‘Survivor’

The first week of the new year has been a humdinger. It started with the funeral of Archbishop Desmond Tutu last Saturday, with the arch becoming the first person to be aquamated (the ecofriendly way of getting cremated) after lying in state in the cheapest coffin available – as his final wish.

That was a high point. A low point was the burning down of parliament, saved by firefighters in the one city that is functional, according to no less than the president himself. Cyril Ramaphosa had a point, if the blaze had happened in Johannesburg it would still be burning as you read this, but at least a homeless vagrant wouldn’t have been paraded in the dock. 

Further plumbing the depths, was the unfeigned delight of faux revolutionaries Duduzane DeFarge and the EFF. It gave the ANC parliamentary caucus a problem with the state of the nation address less than a month away. They were determined not to give in to the Teletubbies and have it in Tshwane, but they also slammed the Mayor of Cape Town’s offer of the city facilities as political opportunism. 

Then acting chief Justice Raymond Zondo handed over the first instalment of his three-part State Capture report. You know it’s damning when Carl Niehaus tells you it’s crap. That was a high note, in fact both were. 

Last night, the ANC held its bash of the year. 

The optics weren’t great – two days after Zondo – in fact everyone will be fascinated to see who splurged R1,2-m for a seat next to the pres at the big table. That was the ANC’s Titanium option, which also included a kiddies table for four more guests than the six at the main table. There was also a platinum option, which the party’s Progressive Business Forum narrowly managed to sidestep the Marikana connotation by giving it to the Cat to host instead. That was a snip at R1-m a head with a kiddies’ table option too.

For those who love the party (and tenders) but not as much, there was a sliding scale: R95k a seat for gold to be hosted by the party chair, treasurer general or deputy secretary general (because the SG is still officially suspended). Silver would have cost R37 500 for a minister or premier, while bronze (R25k) would have got you a deputy minister or an MEC. And then there was nickel: R10k for a seat at a table with a ‘distinguished guest’. 

Cynics might be forgiven for wondering if the ANC, Zondo notwithstanding, hadn’t just mainstreamed state capture. Yet, astonishingly despite a decade of kleptocracy, the party can’t even pay its salary bill these days. Pre-pandemic, the January 8 statement delivered by the party president to the bussed-in faithful would be a very important portent of what the nation’s president would say at the State of the Nation Address in mid-February.

This year, January 8 is the season prequel to the December grand finale of ANC Survivor mashed up with the Walking Dead. The problem is the rest of South Africa isn’t just a captive audience but potential collateral damage.

There’s no off button, we all need to outwit, outlast and outplay.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 8 January 2022.