home Featured The Best Form of Defence is Attack! A Response to Minister Gigaba

The Best Form of Defence is Attack! A Response to Minister Gigaba

By Andile Mngxitama

On the 10th of November 2016, the fifth “Motion of No Confidence” against President Jacob Zuma was debated in the National Assembly. In this intervention we shall seek to critically examine one of the most important speeches which was given by Minister Malusi Gigaba in defense of President Zuma. The motion was naturally brought to the house by the opposition parties following the hugely discredited observations of the former Public Protector’s report on “state capture”. Advocate Thuli Madonsela in a great haste strove to release an incomplete report as a gift to the opposition parties and boy did they milk it. The observations by Advocate Madonsela concretized the battle for South Africa (SA) today. This battle is characterized by the regime change agents who on the one hand are horrified by Jacob Zuma’s chutzpa in his brazen “Look East” policy and his disregard for the wishes of South African white monopoly capital and on the other hand want to maintain the white status quo. This reactionary conservative group is led by the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan who was appointed through blackmail by white capital into that position in December 2015. The main opposition parties have joined the reactionary conservative side in the battle to defend the interests of white monopoly capital and Western imperialism.

It is important to bear in mind that the battle for SA today is not fought from outside the ANC, it is essentially a battle waged from within the belly of the ANC. This battle in turn has found able and loud support from the opposition parties, white settler monopoly capital, as well as white controlled and foreign funded “civil society” organizations. The concrete expression of these moves are to be found in such campaigns as the “ZumaMustFall” and “Save South Africa” which are all funded and directed by white capital and promoted by white owned media. The whole move was hatched in London. Imperialism is genuinely concerned about Zuma after he shocked all with the “unilateral” appointment of Des van Rooyen into the most powerful position in the land without prior approval from white capital. Zuma’s move into BRICS and the recent withdrawal of SA from the International Criminal Court (ICC), show that Zuma is no longer taking calls from London, Brussels and Washington DC. Kremlin, New Delhi and Shanghai are the new locations of power and influence and if there was any doubt about how serious imperialism is about those who threaten its interests, that doubt was promptly settled by the “democratic” coup in Brazil.

The outcomes of the 2016 Local Government Elections (LGE) and the ANC’s loss of the main metropolitan cities to the racist, white supremacist Democratic Alliance (DA), with the help of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has complicated the life of the ruling party. While the ANC remains an electoral giant, it no longer controls the urban centers. This loss was a great devastation to the party of Nelson Mandela. It has inaugurated great disorientation within the ruling party. Furthermore, it has emboldened and united the opposition parties outside the ANC and has strengthened the conservatives inside it. Therefore the “Motion of No Confidence” debate occurred in a polarized and confused environment within the ranks of the ruling party.

Up to the debate, there was no coherent and articulate response from the “Look East” group within the ruling party. It is within this milieu that the Minister of Home Affairs, Gigaba, stepped up and provided one of the most articulate defenses of Zuma and his “Look East” project.

Watch Malusi Gigaba’s full speech below:


In his speech, Gigaba, for the first time, perhaps provided a line of argument that acknowledged the imperialist onslaught and its connection to the South African based white monopoly capital and the role of the opposition parties in the quest for regime change. This narrative has steadily been built by the anti-imperialist black consciousness formation, Black First Land First (BLF), which has already embarked upon a campaign named “#HandsOffZuma-EconomicLiberationNow”. Gigaba’s articulation in general affirmed the analysis provided by BLF, but it fell short in very significant ways. This rejoinder seeks to point out the weaknesses of the pro-Zuma camp or the “Look Easters”. Our view is that the Gordhan/Ramaphosa/Manuel-led reactionary conservative faction has to be totally defeated and liquidated. On the other hand the “Look East” group has to abandon its illusions and delusions if it hopes to emerge victorious as part of the revolutionary process.

Gigaba closed his speech on a very high note. He must have sensed that he had to deal his opponents a deadly blow. He was almost triumphant as he declared,
“[w]e will oppose this vote, not because, as we have said it, we take lightly the issues of corruption, integrity and transparency, but because we cannot join the regime change and economic plunder campaign of your global and domestic masters”. Then turning to his interlocutors on the opposition benches he intimated, “[y]ou may be their puppets, but we are not!”. The ruling party benches erupted into a deafening applause. On this occasion Gigaba had pulled one for the Zuma camp and laid siege in both the ANC reactionary conservatives and the opposition regime change project alike.

Gigaba’s speech located the current political conflict within the larger quest for transformation. He was strident – “[t]he truth is that there is a bitter struggle in South Africa between the former oppressors and those whom they had oppressed, for the right and power to determine the political direction of this country as well as the ownership of its economic resources”. The central thesis of Gigaba’s speech is representative of the position of the “Look East” group. This group believes that the reason that the President is under siege is because he has undertaken great revolutionary feats. This is a dangerous misdiagnosis of the problem and consequently leads to wrong prescriptions. For instance Gigaba waxes lyrical that, “[t]he end of the apartheid system constituted the horror of horrors for the racialist political and economic establishment as it elevated the native, long kept at his place as the political underclass and beasts of burden, to political power where they could begin dismantling the system of racial supremacy, occupy the civil service and change the laws and systems that had oppressed them and start systematically to change both the structure of economic ownership and production.”

To Gigaba this is the central problem – the ANC is taking great strides to transform the settler colonial reality and hence the backlash. This is self-delusion. The truth is that after 22 years of ANC rule, the native is still a “beast of burden” and the system of “racial supremacy” is not just alive and kicking but it is protected and promoted by the same Constitution that the “Look East” and the reactionary conservative groups swear by. Here we see that there is no ideological rupture between the two factions at battle. This assertion is borne out more when one looks at the evidence of the supposed great strides the ANC has made. Gigaba lists a litany of achievements worth repeating. He told the National Assembly that “It is under President Zuma’s leadership that,

1. the National Development Plan was drafted and adopted;
2. the National Health Insurance is being piloted;
3. a new HIV and AIDS programme was developed, giving a real chance to long productive life to those living with HIV and AIDS;
4. this country unveiled the largest infrastructure roll-out in its history;
5. focus was changed towards rural development and has spearheaded a radical land reform programme;
6. we now have two new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga;
7. Further Education and Training Colleges have been restructured, their profile raised and billions of rand of investment made to improve their infrastructure;
8. the NSFAS has been increased to over R10bn in 2016/17, and the children of poor parents and the “missing middle” earning less than R600m will continue to receive financial support from government;
9. a bold capital expenditure expansion was announced by State-Owned Companies reflecting the expansionary outlook of this government towards economic investments;
10. the first female AU Commission Chairperson in its 50 years of existence was elected;
11. the energy challenge was resolved and nine-point plan for economic recovery developed.” (numbering has been inserted)

If the above eleven points of achievements were to fall under the slightest critical inquiry, wouldn’t pass muster as an element of destroying the white supremacist structure of South Africa inherited since 1652. The uncritical endorsement of the neo-liberal “Cyril Ramaphosa and Trevor Manuel” crafted National Development Plan (NDP) is the clearest indication of the ideological weaknesses of the “Look East” group. The National Health Insurance scheme is a pipe dream in the midst of the decaying public health system. The HIV/AIDS program is perhaps the biggest achievement however it is not an anti-systemic intervention, nor has it brought about the end to the punitive Intellectual Property Rights regime that makes the pharmaceutical industries parasites that drain our financial resources. Basically, Zuma bought our health from the crooks. The talk of infrastructural development is deceiving because in reality its merely enriching the white owned top five construction companies who continue to get the biggest tenders from the state.

Clearly, Minister Gigaba is misled if he believes that there exists a “radical land reform” programme in South Africa. We don’t have to repeat all the evidence of the shocking absence of anything resembling a land redistribution programme since 1994. Higher education is characterized by a crisis of funding and overcrowding which in turn disputes the spin on the great strides on that front. The truth is that we have the escalation of fees and a student movement which is correctly agitated. Moreover, 2017 may see another national shut down and possible attempts to recruit the students into the regime change agenda.

Gigaba should know that the money spent on SOEs goes right back to white monopoly capital. Its not a small matter that out of the SAA’s R24 billion annual spend, only 2% goes to black business. Whites takes 98% of the procurement budget. Its not a secret that the reason why Brian Molefe, Dudu Myeni and Hlaudi Motsoeneng are in trouble is because they wish to end the capture of the SOEs under the watch of white monopoly capital.

From this quick gentle evaluation of the “achievements” put forward we can see that in fact the commitment for change, if it exists at all, has not been matched with any serious radical policy to transform SA from white hands into a real black majority country. All the interventions made to date obey the same logic and dictates as those of the policy preferences of white monopoly capital and have in fact already been designed by the Gordhan/Ramaphosa/Manuel faction. It makes little difference if we believe that these are indeed achievements, when in reality these “achievements” do not manifest in the lives of the black majority. If Gigaba asked a different question – if he asked, “[h]as the conditions of the black majority fundamentally changed since 1994?”, he would have come to a different conclusion than the one that he had already reached, which in turn amounts to attempts to sell the lack luster performance of the ANC in power as a sterling job.

What is needed is not attempts to sell the past 22 years as years of the “great leap forward”, but rather as the years of stagnation and the death of imagination with regard to the revolutionary process. The admission needed is that the transformation agenda has been colonized by the neo-liberal policy choices made in the early stages of the post-1994 government (the rationale for which no longer matters, the impact is real for most blacks and its negative). The real impact of those policy choices of Mbeki, Manuel and Mboweni through their GEAR was to maintain the white status quo, while buying off a few blacks into the economic mainstream (3% wealth ownership to be precise as reflected in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)) and effecting cosmetic changes for blacks in general. Only such an admission would provide for an analysis which is capable of not just repelling the opposition but also beginning to deal with the internal representatives of the 1996 agenda and its new recruits including the South African Communist Party (SACP).

The pro-Zuma faction must not delude itself into believing that it’s involved in some radical revolutionary process and that the fight is to defend the “gains of democracy” and the Constitution. The reason Zuma is under attack is because of the moves that unsettle white capital but these are not by any stretch of the imagination sufficient as policy to liquidate colonialism and end white supremacy. Zuma has shown a very encouraging attitude against white monopoly capital and imperialism, but there is no tangible pro-black, pro-poor program which has been articulated which can be the basis of a rallying point for the excluded millions to defend and advance. The pro-Zuma group needs to be aware that the fact that reactionaries and imperialism attacks you is not confirmation that you are involved in an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist program. It may just be that imperialism and white monopoly capital no longer trust you and want their trusted jockeys back in the saddle. This happens all the time.

There is no denying that Zuma’s administration is under imperialist attack and also under an assault by white monopoly capital led by Johann Rupert and the Oppenheimer agent, Sipho Pityana. There is also no denying that there are regime change campaigns to remove Zuma. That is why it’s so important to defend Zuma, but to do so in a manner that advances a radical agenda. That is why the BLF campaign is so instructive. It demands a defense against imperialism through advancing a minimum program of demands which can be the basis to liquidate white power. This is solely lacking in the current supporters of President Zuma inside the ANC. Failure to advance such a programme will only lead to a situation that even if the pro-Zuma group emerges triumphant in the 2017 December elective conference, it would not advance a radical agenda and to this end would not eliminate the threat of imperialist onslaught.

There is a truth that cannot be avoided – the ANC has failed to transform SA into a black country. The second truth is that there is a layer of the ANC leadership which does not desire any move from this path. The third truth is that even the Zuma group does not have a radical agenda. What is needed then, is a process akin to Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” inside the ANC and the State. The Zuma faction, if it hopes to win this battle decisively on the side of the people, has to launch a two pronged battle at the same time. It has to quickly and decisively deal with the reactionary conservatives inside the ANC. The regime change agents must be defeated. At the same time, a radical new direction must be pursued which places faith not in the elite leadership but in the masses of the excluded. The Zuma group still has millions of our people who support it, as indicated by the last elections. The masses must be brought back to making history and if there is a program to change their lives they will defend the revolutionary process. Here Sun Tzu’s adage that “[a]ttack is the best form of defense” would apply.

The mass mobilization towards radical change would also overcome the capture of the judiciary by white capital. A program based on mass participation of land redistribution would not be stopped by anyone. President Zuma declaring free education and instructing white capital to pay, would be defended by all the progressive students and academics. A call to end the monopoly of banks, mines and ICT companies through nationalization with the expressed intent of direct benefit of the people shall find massive support amongst the people. It won’t help to keep the battle over the Treasury as a technical fight amongst gentlemen and a matter for the President. The response of white capital last December showed that when its interests are threatened, it unleashes its powers ruthlessly. Let the program to return the Treasury to the people be clearly articulated and the benefits for the ordinary people made obvious so that the masses can rally around and defend such a programme.

President Zuma and his corner cannot expect automatic and unconditional support. The current attack by white capital and imperialism has to be turned into a revolutionary war to address the big questions neglected since 1994. President Zuma has to use his presidential powers in conjunction with a mass programme to advance the course of national liberation. Ministers who are anti-transformation and incompetent must be removed forthwith. For instance what is the current Minister of Land Affairs, Gugile Nkwinti, actually busy with? Dr Blade Nzimande is decisively on the side of the reactionary conservatives. Such ministers must be let go of and a new cohort of progressive and decisive ministers must be appointed. The battle for the transformation of the Treasury needs better management and calibration. Let the nation know whats going on in that Ministry and how it blocks any moves towards transformation. The President doesn’t need to explain himself to capital but he does need to take the masses into his confidence.

A mass based radical program, driven by the State will terrify the elite. It will be condemned by the white owned media. However, such a program would discipline white monopoly capital and it will empower the masses. Mao Zedong, the great Chinese revolutionary, was also confronted with the same problem of a decaying revolutionary process after the revolution. He turned to the masses through the Cultural Revolution. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan radical populist leader, also turned towards the masses to push a revolutionary agenda. The Bolivian state also depended on active mass support and action to drive radical change. As things stand, President Zuma has relied only on the technicist constitutional power he has and white monopoly capital has responded to expose his power as empty. This is true, without the masses President Zuma is a play thing in the hands of white monopoly capital and imperialism. White monopoly capital currently has influence over the Constitution, the Judiciary, the opposition parties and most importantly, the media.

The weakened position of the President was made bare in his pre-Christmas message. He was explaining what happened last December when he was forced to fire his preferred Minister Des van Rooyen. The President said, “[w]e were not there to defend the correct decision. The question is‚ if the president takes another decision‚ are we there to defend it? Are we alert?”.

The President alluded to the fact that his move to remove Nene was linked to the reality that “the economy is in few hands”. This statement is true. However, the pro-Zuma group members like Gigaba must do the work of developing and then breaking down the meaning of the process of addressing the economic apartheid.

Zuma was candid. He told his audience, “[n]ow I can tell you, sitting on my own, being pushed to reverse the decision‚ I said to myself [that] this is what happens when the nation is not alert‚ when they don’t even understand the action you are taking‚ when they listen to the wrong analysis”. Here the President is explaning for the first time that he was pressured and pushed into making a different decision. BLF has opened both a criminal case and lodged a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector about how whites literally captured the Treasury last December. BLF argues in the documents it has submitted to the HAWKS and to the Public Protector that the President was forced to make a decision which was not his. His firing of Des van Rooyen was forced by white capital. Now we have confirmation of this. Of course the media won’t call it state capture.

In this response to Minister Gigaba’s speech, we sought to show the fundamental weakness of the pro-Zuma or the “Look East” faction of the ANC. We have shown that President Zuma is indeed under attack from white monopoly capital and imperialism. We have also shown that the weakness of the President is that he has no offensive programme for radical transformation. We have argued that the defense of the President, on the basis of the ostensible major strides made since 1994, is wrong headed. To this end it is an articulation still operating from within the same ideological framework as the reactionary conservatives led by the triumvirate of Gordhan/Manuel/Ramaphosa. We have tried to present a case for “attack as the best form of defence” and that such an attack must be mass driven and guided by a clear radical programme interfacing with the executive powers that rest with the President. For such a project to succeed the President would also have to undertake a massive purging of the reactionary and incompetent layer of the top leadership in the state.

The alternative to this mass radical line akin to a cultural revolution is the accumulation of steam by the reactionary conservative elements riding on media campaigns claiming to fight corruption. Any fight back which does not deliver material benefits for the masses of our people is likely to end up in defeat. BLF has suggested a minimum programme upon which the masses can be rallied. Such a programme must have as its essential elements:

i) the return of land without paying a cent;
ii) the nationalization of the banks and mines to break the monopoly;
iii) free quality decolonized education;
iv) substantial reparations for Marikana;
v) a living minimum wage;
vi) and freeing of the APLA soldiers.

Such a programme would be able to provide a sufficient basis to build a new radical consensus for the destruction of the current social, political and economic order. In other words, there is no short cut to liberation. Only a thorough going confrontation with white monopoly capital can give us lasting peace with justice. Are the pro-Zuma forces ready for such a leap forward?

Andile Mngxitama is the National Convener of Black First Land First

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