Billionaires write and workers work

PHAKAMISA MAYABA  / Following pointed swipes at incumbent president Cyril Ramaphosa, former national supremo Thabo Mbeki has undergone a startling change of heart. A surprising Damascus moment for a man who is usually known to stick to his guns and summarily fire – or klap – those who would challenge his smarts, or the top job he wanted to hold on to for an unprecedented three terms — apparently because he couldn’t identify a worthy heir.

But now it seems that Mbeki, who until recently fired increasingly vicious broadsides at the ANC, and and even threw Ramaphosa under the bus for failing to implement its supposed renewal project, will wear the gear and punch the air while telling the fodder to remember to vote ANC.

So it’s the silly season, dear reader, and comrades across the board are saying their sorries, discreetly sliding dubious parcels under tables and being extremely careful not to be caught WhatsApping the wrong people. Now is hardly the time to be seen on the off-side of the balance of forces.

Msholozi at a meeting of his new party, Mkhonto weSizwe (MK). Image: MK Facebook page.

In the meantime, while the other ex-commander-in-chief from KZN is stopping just short of calling for pregnant teenagers to be imprisoned on Robben Island, as one of his new party’s de facto election promises, the pitch is full of faces who are making a comeback, just as many are being shown the red card. Into the dugout, or changing room, because come May 29, the parliamentary seats may be fewer, and everybody is quite aware that life is very cold for those who are out in the ‘extra strongs’ (slang for the cheapest seating area in a venue).

As such, the long knives have been drawn, and perceived liabilities are walking with big targets on their backs. Those too tainted to fit through ‘the eye of the needle’ (remember the ANC’s 2001 policy document?) are sweating bullets – not because they don’t want to be seen fighting corruption, or walking along the straight and narrow path towards organisational renewal, but simply because they don’t want to lose their jobs.

The writing has been on the wall since Ace Magashule was handed his ‘don’t come in on Monday’ last year. Showing the ANC secretary-general the door rattled some cages – hence nobody has felt really safe, and the message is being driven home as the casualties start to pile up. One-time darlings of the movement, like former public works minister Nathi Nhleko, who became (in)famous for defending the building of Msholozi’s palatial rural homestead, has been wise enough to resign before being shown his own Section 189 retrenchment notice. He’s been tained by too much scandal, even though when Zuma was the boss, the comrades unwaveringly agreed with him that indeed the swimming pool at Nkandla was a fire pool, and necessary for the president’s safety. Now, Nhleko is seemingly on his own; no phone calls or SMSs except maybe from the guy whose hide he was trying to save all those years ago.

Then public works minister Nkosinathi Nhleko during an awkward moment in die Nkandla firepool saga. Image: X.

As the Multi-Party Charter was hobbled when two of its member parties (the obscure Spectrum National Party and Unemployed People’s Movement) didn’t meet the requirements to run in the upcoming election, one of its signatories, the IFP was getting ready for its own manifesto launch. On the back of impressive by-election wins in Newcastle, it will certainly wish to make an impressive showing at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban – the Mecca of political grandstanding. This being its former stronghold, and with some of the highest voter numbers, KZN is a vital province, and the IFP will pull out all the stops to reclaim it from the ANC and keep MK and the EFF at bay.

But as media attention centred on all this poli-tricking, far more interesting things were unfolding on The Daily Friend, the online publication of the Institute for Race Relations. Rather oddly, they came from an unlikely source. Rob Hersov, a tongue-in-cheek billionaire with a penchant for the lifestyle of the ultra wealthy was vehemently sticking up for … you wouldn’t have guessed … the Patriotic Alliance’s Gayton McKenzie. Or maybe that was just how it looked on the surface.

Billionaire Rob Hersov with podcaster Penuel Mlotshwa. Image: Instagram.

We felt mildly vindicated. We’ve written repeatedly about how the IRR – which doesn’t differ all that much from outfits like Afriforum – had descended into an incubator of paranoia about the swart gevaar and all those other tropes we’d thought exterminated all of 30 years ago. In a reply to the DF columnist Ivo Vegter, Hersov seemed to put forth an unpopular take on an otherwise one-dimensional (as per the DF’s comments section) narrative.

Not to deprive the reader of some wonderful writing, Vegter basically exposed McKenzie as a self-serving individual whose kingmakership had betrayed the DA and laid waste to all the constituencies in which his party had put the ANC in power. As a result, he wroter: ‘Beaufort West had to be put under administration. Last weekend, the premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, said he was committed to pursuing full administration for Knysna, too, if the municipality rejected its third and final rescue offer.’

Having ripped into McKenzie, Vegter then quoted a post by Hersov on a Plettenberg Bay social media group, as follows: ‘It is very easy to save Plett and solve this problem. Get the PA to join the multi-party coalition like Corné Mulder and Herman Mashaba (and a number of top DA execs) have asked.’ This viewpoint clearly did not go down well with Vegter, members of the said group, as well as the DF’s readership.

Daily Friend columnist Ivo Vegter. Image: LinkedIn.

Hersov, on the other hand, was just getting warmed up. In a subsequent video, Vegter quoted him as saying: ‘I’m actually quite happy to be kicked off the Protecting Plett group, because I just think, you know, there are too many people that are bored housewives, keyboard warriors or whatever, who just will never, ever, listen or see the truth for what it is. And the reality is that Gayton McKenzie is anti-communist, pro-democracy, one of us.

‘He wants to join the multi-party coalition, and he’d bring a huge amount of value. Corné Mulder, [provincial leader of the Freedom Front Plus in the Western Cape], Inkatha [Freedom Party] and Herman Mashaba [leader of ActionSA] want him to join. But Helen Zille [chairperson of the Federal Council of the DA] and Leon Schreiber [DA shadow minister of public service and administration] don’t, because they’re threatened by him, they’re trying to push him away because he threatens them in the Western Cape, so Gayton has correctly said: “Let me show you what I can do.”.’

Hersov continued: ‘Now I don’t really care. I’m trying to save the country. I’m trying to get the multi-party coalition elected, but I think without the PA it’s going to be very, very hard. And with closed-minded people like the people on the Plett group – not all of them, but you know who I’m talking about – I just think South Africa’s got a problem. It’s not going to happen and we’re going to end up with the ANC, the EFF and Zuma for the next four or five years.’

This isn’t an entirely baseless argument, when you consider McKenzie’s seemingly growing popularity among Coloured voters. (The party boasts a membership of well over 400 000 people.) The PA is not only poses a serious threat to the DA in the Western Cape, but has also become a kingmaker in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni metros.

Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie. Image: PA Facebook page.

But McKenzie’s criminal past as well as his shrewd political ways seem to irk liberal voters. Despite hostile comments, Hersov shrugged off the negative perceptions of McKenzie, and appears to be looking at a bigger picture. In his view (quoted verbatim);

The DA is imploding due to the arrogance of Helen Zille and Leon Schreiber and will get the same number of votes as last time, circa 23%.

ActionSA is going sideways/nowhere. IFP is on the back foot in KZN due to Zuma. And VF+ will never get over 5% even on a good day. Both Mmusi/BOSA and Rise/Zibi are too late and too “soft”, despite getting solid funding from the Oppenheimer family and others. Collectively, all of these will deliver 15%.

The Multiparty Coalition will be a damp squib and will therefore get, at most, 38% of the national vote. Helen Zille and Leon Schreiber will be forever blamed for not allowing the PA into the multiparty coalition, despite the PA being invited in by Herman Mashaba, Dr. Corne Mulder and the IFP.

The ANC will fall from above 50% to 35%. The evil EFF will end up at 10%. Zuma won’t have time to get his logistics and funding in place (the main reason Cyril called the election as soon as May 29th was to hobble Zuma) and will get, at most, 5%. But he and the ANC and EFF won’t ever team up as there is too much hatred and hidden bodies between them.

The rats and mice will be too hard to cobble together and the kingmaker will therefore be Gayton McKenzie/PA with 6-8%.

Therefore, the likely coalitions are either:

  1. ANC plus DA (the death knell for both parties). But this is still an unlikely coalition,, as Cyril (who would support this) has been reined in by the radicals in the ANC (Cyril was saved in 2017 mainly by Steve Kosseff raising R2 bil for him from mainly Jewish funders, but look at how he rolled over recently to be anti-Israel. once the Iran money came pouring in via MTN).
  2. ⁠ANC plus EFF plus PA. And we will thank the lord the PA are there as Gayton McKenzie will defend property rights against the EFF as his main call to action.

The feud didn’t stop there – Hersov claimed a right of reply on both BizNews as well as the Daily Friend. It would seem that the liberal desire to transfer power from what they consider to be a socialist ANC government to a pro-market, laissez faire entity comes with T&Cs. It should be achieved with the DA firmly calling the shots, and certainly with no shady characters in the fold. Fair enough. But whether this is achievable in a country with such complex demographics, and whether – in the face of obstinance – Hersov will not ultimately have the last laugh is a story for tomorrow.

One thing is certain; it all gets weirder and sillier as the big day approaches. Even in our small enclave, one encounters some astonishing gestures ostensibly aimed at twisting one’s arm to vote this way or that way. On a recent walk about town, this writer stumbled on a surprising if welcome sight: men and women in overalls revamping the steep road next to the NG Kerk.

In recent years it had started to look shabby, and out of nowhere it was undergoing a revamp. Similar scenes have been playing out at various municipalities across the country. Even small parties have used their own money to get in on the action. Sadly, as history has shown, the likelihood of such assiduous work continuing post-March 29 are unlikely. And right there is the saddest part of it all.

FEATURED IMAGE: All of a sudden, Colesberg’s roads are being fixed … Image: eParkeni.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on Phakamisa Mayaba’s website, eParkeni. Used with permission.

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