Martin Plaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Africa, South Africa

As President Zuma’s prospects of electoral victory wane, the ANC’s propaganda becomes more racist

This article, by Gareth van Onselen, highlights the depths the ANC has plumbed in the run-up to the 3 August local elections.

Searching Twitter for “knowyourDA” I found several of these examples.


The ANC’s hate factory

by Gareth van Onselen,  22 July 2016, 05:46

Source: Business Day


Citation: The final few weeks of almost any South African electoral campaign are defined by one thing: the ANC goes into race fear-mongering mode. This election is no different, and, led by President Jacob Zuma, like clockwork the party has begun to churn out the kinds of statements you would more readily associate with a 2007 ANC Youth League rally.

Historically, it has worked a treat. The primary target is the DA and, typically, the kinds of sentiments expressed imply the DA is fundamentally racist, born of or embodying the National Party and that black South Africans have an ethnic/historical/cultural/religious obligation to vote for the ANC. If they don’t, well, SA will return to apartheid.

“Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?”, Squealer asks in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Of course, none of the animals do. And so it is in SA. There is a huge, susceptible audience for that kind of threat and, traditionally, the ANC stokes up whatever latent distrust or prejudice is available to it, until it burns red hot. It is true, the formula has lost some of its bite over the past decade but, in the absence of any reasonable, evidence-based argument in its favour, its pretty much all the ANC knows.

“After we liberated ourselves they came together, this name DA, Democratic Alliance, it was an alliance between the Progressive Party and the National Party,” said Zuma last week, “if you are a black person, you join that party really?

“In China, the Chinese rule and in India, Indians are in power. It’s only here in SA that we allow others to govern,” Zuma said this week and according to the Cape Argus, which wins this week’s award for Tweet of the Week.

Aaaaah, “the other”, a favourite refuge of the racially nationalistic scoundrel.

In-between, on July 17, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe would say: “These examples (OR Tambo being in exile) give us the belief that there is anointment and a directive given to us by God that this country should be led by the ANC.”

At this point it starts to become difficult to distinguish Orwell from the ANC. If God has given the ANC a directive, the party certainly can’t seem to agree on what it is. But, really, that is irrelevant. It’s not about logic. It’s about emotional prejudice. And you can expect more of the same in the coming two weeks.

While this sort of nonsense peaks as campaigning comes to a close, it is just a matter of degrees. The ANC more broadly takes its lead from the likes of Zuma and on social media the party faithful have been hard at work for some time now producing no end of racially divisive, callous, bigoted propaganda along these lines. For all the pressure applied to the DA for the conduct of its own supporters online, it is a remarkable fact that ANC supporters enjoy an altogether different kind of reputation, given just how appallingly some of them behave.

Consider this delightful piece of slander:

Or this:

Or this:

These kinds of images crop up on social media all the time. Somewhere out there the ANC has a production factory for hate. It might not be official party propaganda — there is no evidence to suggest the institution itself commissions them — but it is generally propagated by those who align themselves with the party.

And there is no line they are not willing to cross.

Suggesting the DA wishes to return South Africa to apartheid is a singular piece of twisted fantasy; suggesting it is the Ku Klux Klan is quite another. But that’s what happens when you cannot win hearts and minds with evidence and reason. All that remains is fear and many ANC supporters trade exclusively in it.

But there is no outcry, no narrative about how petty, dishonest and disingenuous ANC supporters can be; certainly not an ounce of concern from the ANC itself. The irony is that for the ugliness it tries to attribute to the DA, seen together, it paints the opposite picture: of a majority party support base as one-dimensionally, racially stereotypical as its worst imagined idea of the DA. If it is archetypes and identity-based assumptions SA is currently at war with, the ANC factory of hate should get a bit more attention.

Zuma and Mantashe might drive these sorts of narratives in a detached fashion from the national stage, but ANC representatives in the party and government often waste no time diving straight into the mud, to do some wallowing themselves. One might be hard-pressed to describe Zuma and Mantashe’s remarks as hate but once they have been through the party factory and it has distilled them into their base form, a series of grotesque ideas come out the other end.

For the full extent of these kinds of images, search #knowyourDA on Twitter or do an image search for “Know your DA” on Google. A raft of, basically, lies.

Zuma’s remark about the Chinese governing China was made in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, where he was on the election trail. The ANC’s Cape Town campaign is an utter and complete mess but it hasn’t stopped Zuma suggesting something other than policy or performance should determine how many votes a party gets. And it’s a trick he has tried before, too, also in Cape Town.

In May 2008, he would say, also in Khayelitsha, “God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city (Cape Town) when we are ruling the country.”

Back then, the DA had just formed a seven-party coalition to control Cape Town (see: Anatomy of a coalition coup: Are there lessons ahead of the August election?) and Zuma warned against the ANC losing the Western Cape in 2009.

“Let us rally our forces to win the Western Cape,” ANC Women’s League president Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said, standing next to the president, adding: “Let us stop this fighting. We have a history of division in this province.”

That didn’t work out too well. The DA won Cape Town outright with a majority in 2011 and is set to extend its lead further this year. Likewise, the Western Cape province would fall to the DA in 2009 and, again by an increased majority, in 2016.

There is a lesson in all of that. The ANC’s factory of hate might have a production line that produces only one product, but once the myth of its hegemony is broken, it is unable to adapt. It seems to think, as Zuma demonstrated this week, it can just carry on manufacturing the same thing. There is much evidence to suggest the DA is making similar inroads into ANC support elsewhere, in places such as Gauteng and Nelson Mandela Bay for example. Those inroads mean this kind of message is resonating less and less.

No doubt it will still have some limited impact but the ANC, so wrapped up in its self-declared divinity, can no longer see the wood for the trees. As Cape Town and the Western Cape demonstrate, there is a tipping point for this kind of thing. Once crossed, it starts to work against the party, not for it. And that could be the greatest irony of it all.

Zuma says he doesn’t understand black voters who vote for the DA. That’s a luxury a political party cannot afford. Best he gets his confused mind out of the Bible and into the year 2016 or the ANC’s hate will continue to eat the party up from the inside.

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