THE African National Congress (ANC) and its communist and trade union allies are busy performing a striptease that reveals more than intended.
The first part of the act was the legislation to stop press reporting of corruption, under the guise of protecting national security. The second was the vituperation directed at Nedbank chairman Reuel Khoza for berating the government for its ineptitude. The third was the violent attack by the Congress of South African Trade Unions on the marchers led by the Democratic Alliance to highlight the fact that the union federation is blocking the government’s proposed youth wage subsidy. The fourth is the intimidation directed at City Press and the Goodman Gallery for displaying a painting, which all but the wi lfully blind know is as truthful about President Jacob Zuma as were Khoza’s remarks about his government.
What is now on show before a global audience is straightforward intolerance by an organisation whose long-term objective seems to be to destroy all opposition, whether in Parliament, on the streets, from the press, or from the judiciary.
There is nothing new about this. Before coming to power in 1994, the ANC and its allies often used terror to enforce political stayaways and consumer boycotts — as part of its revolutionary strategy.
One element of the “people’s war” adopted as part of that strategy was to eliminate black political rivals, notably supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Azanian People’s Organisation, and other black consciousness groupings. Critical black journalists were also a target of this campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were too scared even to name the ANC, referring to it only as “a certain organisation”. And a month or two before the 1994 election, the ANC gunned down IFP marchers in the Shell House massacre.
It suited just about everyone to overlook all of this in the euphoria of the 1994 election. A “third-force” theory was invented to lay all of 20000 fatalities at the door of the then state president, FW de Klerk, and his supposed surrogates.
Then, as now with its reaction to the Brett Murray painting, the ANC is adept at portraying itself as victim. Several whites have penned craven apologies for Murray’s supposedly racist attack on black culture. But many blacks are having none of this. The white apologias have been outweighed by the numerous newspaper articles and letters by blacks deploring the intolerance of the ruling alliance. Indeed, these forthright denunciations have been the most auspicious and significant aspect of this tawdry affair. Murray himself is also interesting. Once he was an avid supporter of the ANC. Now he feels betrayed. Ferial Haffa jee, editor of City Press, clearly feels the same. The threats directed against her are a rerun of all the threats against black journalists before the ANC came to power. And in another field, Nadine Gordimer’s latest novel makes it clear that she too feels betrayed — a sense of betrayal that has been reported in numerous book reviews around the world.
The list of ANC supporters who have become disillusioned is growing day by day. Since we can be certain that bullying party bureaucrats, anachronistic communists, threatening ministers and violent unionists will continue in this vein, we can also be certain that the list will keep on growing as the ANC peels off its outer garments of respectability to reveal the unpleasantness underneath.
The moral high ground on which the ANC has always claimed to stand is thus being eroded. The tiny minority that knew all along how suspect that claim is are now vindicated.
What all this will mean in political terms is at this stage impossible to say. But one of the reasons why the National Party changed course was the erosion of its own support base, partly among the kind of middle-class people who now feel betrayed as the ANC’s ineptitude, corruption, arrogance and intolerance are increasingly revealed for all the world to see.
• Kane-Berman is the CE of the South African Institute of Race Relations