Opinion

ANC goes feral and brings ‘Lord of the Flies’ to life

Simple plot about a movement stolen by a corrupt clique

21 August 2017 - 05:51
President Jacob Zuma shakes hands with ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 05, 2017 in Johannesburg.
President Jacob Zuma shakes hands with ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 05, 2017 in Johannesburg.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier

Our government leaders should read. I would say they should read more, but that would be polishing the turds - many don't read at all and those who do seem to have their noses deep in bogus intelligence reports used in the factional battles tearing the ANC and our country apart.

Former ANC leader Thabo Mbeki was a voracious reader. Nelson Mandela was a reader, as were Oliver Tambo and Albert Luthuli. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the EFF just got his PhD from Wits. Reading expanded all these leaders' horizons and made them see their roles in a global context.

What does Gwede Mantashe read? What does he think when he demotes someone like Makhosi Khoza from her position as chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on the public service and does nothing about Faith Muthambi and Mosebenzi Zwane?

Our leaders should read. Then they would realise they are not original - many others have confronted these challenges. In these confusing times I would recommend ANC leaders in particular should dip into the slim classic novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In this 1954 book a group of schoolboys survives a plane crash and finds itself abandoned on a small island.

First the boys try to govern themselves through democratic means, but soon enough it all falls apart. Divisions appear in the group. Corruption, laziness and dictatorial tendencies grip some leaders. Petty jealousies rise up. Cliques and factions form. Soon enough the island is divided and a war between two main groupings ensues.

Law and order totally collapses the way it has in South Africa. The law works favourably for the rich, connected and powerful, such as Grace Mugabe, Mduduzi Manana, the Gupta family and Omar al-Bashir, but it is brutal and murderous for the likes of the Marikana mineworkers.

On the island in Lord of the Flies, some of the boys die at the hands of their comrades. When, finally, the group is rescued, the boys have turned feral, hunting and killing one another. They are dirty, unwashed and wild. Chaos reigns.

Lord of the Flies has been read again and again by generations of children, literature lovers, philosophers and business and political leaders. It holds powerful lessons for all of us. It is unclear if the ANC's leaders have read this or many other books that may hold some lessons for their current predicament. Every government worker should be given Chinua Achebe's best, but unheralded novel, No Longer At Ease, on his or her first day at work. It was written, about 60 years ago, with people like Muthambi in mind.

The demotion of Khoza, the witch-hunt under way to punish the likes of Derek Hanekom, Mondli Gungubele and others - all these point to nothing but an organisation that lacks the knowledge and self-reflection to realise what is happening to it. These things do not need a genius to fathom: a cursory acquaintance with the books of Ngugi wa Thiongo through the 1970s, Achebe in the 1960s, or the very simple Lord of the Flies would suffice.

The problem is that when the ANC chose its current leaders in 2007 and 2012, it made a very definite choice. It chose singing and dancing over reading; it chose noise over substance; it chose slogans above quiet reflection; it chose immolation over renewal and rejuvenation.

The next few months are really nothing but a movie in South Africa. We are all sitting here, in this massive outdoor cinema, watching a movie we have read about before. We have seen it in many other parts of the world. The plot is straight and simple: a beloved liberation movement has been stolen by a small, corrupt clique and is now in the process of being hollowed out and destroyed.

We cannot stop this movie. We can only watch as it plays itself out. In the next few months the ANC will get closer to implosion as it is ripped by division, suspicion, violence and hatred.

The challenge to the opposition is whether it can ensure the ANC's implosion engulfs just that party and not the rest of us South Africans.

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