Charles Cilliers
Journalist
4 minute read
10 May 2021
2:46 pm

Ace may have a point, but I can’t find my little violin for him

Charles Cilliers

I could only laugh at the thought of the suspended ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule, bleating about all the unfairness around his being asked to step aside and then his suspension when he refused to.

Ace Magashule. Picture: Deaan Vivier

If you are someone with any patience for “whataboutism”, then you must surely be feeling great sympathy for Comrade Ace. Sure, he’s probably guilty of a whole laundry list of dirty deeds and misdemeanours, but then how many in the ANC are not?

“What about (insert almost any top ANC name here)?”

Sure, what about them? Tell us all about it, Ace.

As the secretary-general, you can no doubt anatomically name each of the 206 bones of every individual smallanyana skeleton in every closet of the ANC.

But, while we’re here, what about you?

The truth is it’s difficult for me to go to Bloemfontein these days and see what’s left of the place. That’s where I went to school and university. And while it was never going to turn into Dubai, it was a place of many charms, a pretty little binneland city that could get under your skin; it was hard not to fall in love with the place.

There was much worth preserving there and building on. But it clearly hasn’t developed according to its promise, and it genuinely does look worse today than I remember. Like so many of the dots and circles on the Free State map under the years of Ace Magashule’s premiership, it deserved better. I read recently about how a former resident went back to Bloem after not seeing it for a decade, and she simply burst into tears.

So forgive me if I fail to summon up much sympathy for Ace Magashule’s problems. You could call what’s happening to him unfair because someone like David Mabuza is equally culpable (possibly more so), and he’s flying carefully under the radar after handing the presidency to Cyril Ramaphosa in 2017.

Sure, it would be great if all the other rotten apples could be tossed out along with the likes of Ace. But at this stage, one takes what one can get, whether it’s “fair karma” or just blind karma.

Ace may be right to try to broaden the 2017 elective conference resolutions at Nasrec that declared that those charged with corruption should step aside along with those alleged, reported and accused of corruption. But I doubt that he is right on that score. For the record, the ANC conference only resolved that anyone alleged, reported or accused of corruption should face the integrity committee so that their individual cases could be assessed. That’s a long way from being obliged to step aside, as Magashule has been.

However, Ace is genuinely right if he’s feeling there hasn’t been any consistency in how the 2017 Nasrec resolutions have been implemented. We must surely feel his pain that at this very same conference it was resolved that “the land” should be expropriated without compensation and that the Reserve Bank should be nationalised. The same conference equally sang the praises of “radical economic transformation”.

Three and a half years later and it should be obvious that the Reserve Bank is not being nationalised. The land expropriation issue is still between here and nowhere and Ramaphosa recently announced that people describing themselves as backing radical economic transformation would be barred from using the ANC’s resources and premises to do so.

Much to the astonishment of Carl Niehaus, Ramaphosa described them as a “faction”.

They are a faction, sure, but in 2017 they may have been forgiven for convincing themselves that they were the winning faction, at least on the policy front, despite their chosen leader, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, not having won the presidency.

But that’s the thing. Life ain’t fair. Ag shame, Ace, we know. Its rough out there.

Ramaphosa has clearly now swung the levers of power his way, and he’s making sure that his enemies are sent packing. In a quote famously (and incorrectly) attributed to Winston Churchill, the victors write the history books. In the case of Ramaphosa and his allies, they may actually be rewriting recent ANC history in the hope that they can keep getting away with it.

Those on their side and even those who are just looking for a glimmer of hope that this country can be saved from the ANC itself will be hoping this ends up working out for them. But there are deeper question marks, always, about whether life for the average South African will improve regardless of which faction in the ANC ultimately triumphs.

Poor old Ace is indeed being “victimised” in all this, which led me on a brief search for the tiny violin I like to keep around to play at moments like this as a way to eulogise his pain. But I couldn’t find it. I recently moved house, you see, and it’s honestly very small.