Last Friday, Lindiwe Sisulu penned a scathing retrospective on the state of the country; the yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots and the desperately high levels of unemployment. Which is all very well and good. It should be said. It should be shouted from the rooftops. It should be discussed in shebeens, over the dinner tables and around the braais – every single day.
But when we have this conversation, we need to check our privilege (and our Louis Vuitton accessories) at the door and look at what we can do to make a change. To paraphrase the good book; to those to whom much has been given, much is expected. Which makes Sisulu’s essay more Marie Antoinette than Eva Peron because she’s literally part of the system. She’s been an ANC MP since 1994; a deputy minister in 1996 and from 2001 a cabinet minister. She’s currently in her eighth portfolio. She’s directly served under four different presidents.
It’s an incredible record. As such, her words should carry great weight. Except they don’t. If she felt that strongly that the country was on the wrong track, she should in good conscience have refused to serve as a minister if she felt she could make no real change.
Her words don’t carry much weight because they are in direct contradiction from her previous public utterances on very much the same subject. They don’t carry any weight in the context of her personal track record in ministerial portfolios which could have had a profound effect on the lives of the most vulnerable. Social media reminded her as much this week – and brutally so. As puppet comedian Chester Missing pointed out, it’s like Eskom protesting against Eskom for load shedding.
It is no secret that Sisulu wants to become president of the ANC. She’s tried before – without success. Her last bid pivoted in an 11th hour bid to become Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy president at Nasrec five years ago only to lose out to DD Mabuza.
Having her statement published last Friday on the eve of the January 8 statement, was a not-so subtle announcement of her latest attempt, this time in the colours of the RET faction. It was complete with what will be the 2022 RET identity politics pejorative: whether it’s calling writers ‘colonial clerks’ or speaking of ‘colonised capital’ instead of Bell Pottinger’s White Monopoly Capital and now ‘colonised justice’. The target is now no longer just the white minority but rather any black South Africans in the elite echelons of the country who don’t share the RET ‘ideology’. Anyone who dares say otherwise is an ‘askari’, an apartheid turncoat.
After the weekend, the RET-istas were frothing at the audacity of some ANC branches to publicly back Ramaphosa on Sunday for a second term come the elective conference in December, given that the weekend bash is never supposed to be about individual ambition but the welfare of the party.
Hypocrisy has always been the RET’s strong suit. Perhaps that’s why Sisulu seems such a perfect fit for them.
Originally published by the Saturday Star on 15 January 2022.