Martin Plaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Africa, South Africa

The top 10 bogus ANC conspiracy theories

President Jacob Zuma
by Gareth van Onselen,  25 May 2016, 05:50

Source: Business Day


UNDER pressure the African National Congress (ANC) has historically relied on one red herring above all others to negate responsibility and divert attention from dissatisfaction with its own performance: a “third force”, be it the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or white supremacists, is supposedly the root cause of its many and varied problems.

Always unseen, never proven and yet constantly alluded to, its claims to this effect are the ultimate abdication of agency. The implication is that, inside and outside of the government, secretive foreign forces are at work, manipulating the South African people and causing mayhem and instability.

The end game is always “regime change” and more often than not, “agents of the West”, “western forces” or “western imperialism” serve the “agenda” of the hostile ideological architect behind it all.

In this way the ANC is nothing but a victim. And if anything sells in SA, it is victimhood. We fairly revel in the stuff. You can see it on every level; if not pure, unadulterated conspiracy, then the sublimation of it.

This past weekend student leader Malaika wa Azania wrote “the greatest responsibility for the torching of universities and other forms of violence must be taken by our government…” (Burning of universities is counter-revolutionary) No one is really responsible for anything in SA. It’s always someone else. We are all victims of some third force, in some form or other, acting on us.

Of course, the irony is that, if true, it is a complete and utter indictment of the South African security forces. Routinely our highest security structures are set to work to uncover and investigate these elusive yet omnipresent influences. Routinely, they turn up empty-handed.

If ever one needs proof SA’s security agencies are fundamentally useless, one need only measure their performance against the ability to deliver on the primary problem their political masters set them: a ubiquitous set of saboteurs who are everywhere, manipulating everything, and yet who can never be found.

But then again, that’s not the point. The point is to distract and evade. And it often works a charm. If anything, ours is a land of conspiracy and paranoia, and many indulge these fantasies as great truths. We have no Area 51 in SA, no fake moon landing, instead we have “the West”. It is our unidentified flying object, and it is seen hovering in the night skies on a regular basis.

Little wonder, too, that words like “sabotage” and “treason” are bandied about so frequently these days. They are the product of the same kind of paranoid hysteria. When “the nation” is under attack, “patriotism” becomes the ultimate test of any citizen. So the ANC relies heavily on the ideas of treason and sabotage to sow suspicion and distrust.

But there is a greater irony still. If you’re looking for evidence of a third force, look no further than the surreptitious and destructive influence of the Gupta family, one of its own. Their tentacles are everywhere. . More to the point, their influence is not the product of mere speculation but is well documented and extensively recorded. The real third force is in plain sight. So, naturally, the ANC would have everyone look to the horizon for something more sensational still.

Here follow ten examples of the ANC’s bogus conspiracy theories.

1. The CIA’s agenda to suggest HIV causes AIDS

At the height of his HIV/AIDS dissidence, it was reported former president Thabo Mbeki had addressed an ANC caucus meeting in October 2000 to declare, among other things, that the US’s CIA was part of a conspiracy to promote the view that HIV causes AIDS.

At the time, the Mail & Guardian reported (Mbeki fingers CIA in AIDS conspiracy) that Mbeki had claimed “the CIA is working covertly alongside the big US pharmaceutical manufacturers to undermine him because, by questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, he is thought to pose a risk to the profits of drug companies making antiretroviral treatments”.

Mbeki wasn’t alone in this kind of paranoia. One of his favourite surrogates, the late ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader Peter Mokaba, had claimed the link between HIV and AIDS was part of an “international western plot” to kill black Africans. No evidence for their claims was ever provided by either of them.

2. #FeesMustFall protests driven by white supremacists

“White supremacists are the third force behind this. They enjoy the strikes and disruptions because they think we can’t govern and keep things civilised.”

That was the considered view of Unathi Mtshotwana, ANCYL convener for the Dullah Omar region, who had called a press conference in January 2016 to claim, among other things, that the ANCYL was “the champion of education” (White supremacists ‘third force  behind fees must fall.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) later gave credence to the idea. Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane told Parliament, “Surely it could not have been students on their own?” But, as ever, SA is still waiting for any actual evidence to this effect.

3. “The West” is plotting to assassinate Jacob Zuma

Such is the size of Zuma’s security detail you’d be forgiven for thinking every second person was planning to assassinate him. But, for ANCYL KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo, the real threat is The West.

“I want you comrades to know that we have uncovered such a plot (to assassinate Zuma).… We must start to build the capabilities of the (defence force) to the capacity and capabilities of a world superpower. We must have one million well-trained young soldiers,” he said after a provincial executive meeting in April this year (West plotting Zuma assassination‚ claims KZN ANCYL).

A world superpower? Perhaps just focus on providing electrical power first. It’s remarkable that a provincial youth branch uncovered a plot that has evaded all our national security forces. Not just the champion of education, then, but the champion of international foreign intelligence too. As ever, we await the details.

4. The public protector is a CIA spy

“These Chapter 9 institutions were created by the ANC but are now being used against us, and if you ask why, it’s an agenda of the CIA. Ama (the) Americans want their own CEO in SA and we must not allow that.”

So said Defence and Military Veterans Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe at a funeral in September 2014 (Thuli a CIA spy, says deputy minister). Pressed on the accusation, he would later respond, “We do not have such details. I am going to give full details about the comments I made at the tombstone, including why we believe she is an agent of the CIA.”

No details yet — surprise, surprise. And none have been forthcoming since.

5. Madonsela, Mazibuko, Malema and Mathunjwa are spies

One thing you don’t want is for your surname to start with “M”. The State Security Agency (SSA) seems to have a particular issue with that letter.

In March 2015, the SSA announced (CIA claims: state probes Thuli and Juju), on the back of no more than a quack blog entry on the lunatic fringes of the online universe, it was investigating Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, EFF leader Julius Malema, former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and head of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Joseph Mathunjwa, as American spies.

“I have never heard such madness in my life.… Those people are clowns,” Malema said in response. Remember that.

In October 2015 the SSA said the investigation was at an “advanced stage”. No doubt, in the same way as dementia is described as being at an advanced stage. Almost a year later, SA still awaits the outcome.

6. COPE is an agent of imperialists

Malema’s quote was worth flagging because, as ever with the EFF leader, inevitably he indulged the exact kind of scaremongering he would later feign so much outrage over.

At its outset the Congress of the People (COPE) was billed as a serious threat to the ANC, most of all in the Eastern Cape. This prompted Malema, then ANCYL leader, to say of the party in January 2009 (Cope ‘zoo’ reincarnated as a puppet), “They are working with the imperialists; they are no different from the Movement for Democratic Change and (Kenyan Prime Minister Raila) Odinga’s party; they are puppets of the West.”

He said he was aware of trips by COPE leaders to “London, Nairobi and Namibia” where they were supposedly “working with those who have been opposed to the revolutionary movement”.

But, just like his accusers in 2015, he was not able to provide evidence. The worm turns, they say. But then hypocrisy flows through Malema’s blood. He is by habit a creature of duplicity.

7. The opposition are CIA agents

“If they (the DA and EFF) want to mobilise the people (against Zuma), it will confirm they are part of CIA agents,” said ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala in April this year (ANC rallies around Zuma).

But even he was forced to backtrack a little bit when pushed. “I am saying they are part of the (push for) regime change. I am not saying they are CIA. They are working closely with the CIA. They are working with the regime change forces,” he tried to explain. So just working with the CIA on a voluntary basis. Kind of like charity work. A hobby they do on the side.

That the DA and the EFF are openly campaigning to oust the ANC-led government is hardly a revelation. They are opposition parties. In a democracy, that’s what opposition parties do. But if, like the ANC, you believe you are ordained by God to govern until the end of days, well, any opposition is illegitimate. As for Zikalala’s accusation — there’s zero proof.

8. The CIA is working to topple the government

If the opposition is working with the CIA to oust the government, then it follows the CIA must have an agenda. So, when it was recently revealed the CIA played a role in Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, naturally this confirmed for the ANC a contemporary plan for revolution.

“That revelation confirms what we have always known, that they are working against (us), even today,” ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said this month (Nelson Mandela: CIA tip-off led to 1962 Durban arrest).

Quite frankly the CIA could have coughed and it would have confirmed something or other for the ANC. It should be called the African National Conspiracy.

As ever, no evidence.

9. The American embassy is planting “regime change” students

In February this year, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said: “We are aware of the programme that takes young people to the US for six weeks then bring them back and plant them everywhere in the campuses.” He said “regime-change elements” had gripped SA and they (the students) aimed to “plant the seeds of anarchy” (Mantashe claims US is meddling in SA).

This was met with some bewilderment by US ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard, who pointed out that he had personally invited Mantashe to recommend young leaders from the ANC for the programme, called the Washington Fellowship.

Then again, given the “intelligence” on display from the ANCYL, it is likely no one from the party qualified and Mantashe was just upset. Either way, he has provided no evidence to back up his claim.

10. Service delivery protests are driven by a “third force”

Whether it’s 24 schools being razed in Vuwani, which Zuma suggested recently was influenced by a “third force”, or general discontent across the country, the ANC government’s first port of call is almost always a conspiracy of some sort of another.

When protesters rampaged through Sebokeng, Gauteng, in February 2014, for example, community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko ordered the police to investigate the “invisible hand” of a suspected “third force” (‘Third force’ link to unrest).

Even as far back as 2010, when protests erupted in the same province, it was reported the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was investigating them.

“It seems there is a systematic pattern and that the protests are co-ordinated with a clear objective to destabilise government,” ANC Gauteng spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli said at the time.

But there’s never any evidence, and it is never proven that a third force is behind any of it.

The NIA and SSA spend so much time investigating, so little time corroborating. Perhaps they should co-ordinate with the ANCYL, which seems to have its finger on the real pulse of international espionage.

And so it goes. The ANC has deliberately manufactured an environment in which everything that runs against the party or threatens its legitimacy is blamed on some outside agency. It is a form of behaviour that has become addictive, with many individuals excusing their own abhorrent attitudes and actions in much the same fashion.

No less than King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo himself has blamed a “third force” for his legal predicaments (King Dalindyebo’s victims appeal to Zuma and Madonsela). When King Goodwill Zwelithini contributed to the outbreak of xenophobic violence in 2015, he declared in response to the subsequent outrage, “The government agrees with me that there is a third force and we need to fight against it” (King Zwelithini blames ‘third force’ for violence). Of course they have Zuma, the ultimate victim, as their inspiration.

There’s always a third force. Responsibility left SA a long time ago, and with it, accountability.

We are a nation of victims. The ANC has helped engender and augment that reality on various different levels, least of all by fuelling an atmosphere of paranoia and conspiracy. It is because of this environment that, routinely, it can sprout no end of nonsense in the face of gross negligence and the great political benefit of it, that it is so often indulged.

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