President Jacob Zuma speaks during the funeral ceremony for former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu on Sunday. Picture: REUTERS
President Jacob Zuma speaks during the funeral ceremony for former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu. Picture: REUTERS

WE HAVE become quite good at harping about what is going wrong. Unfortunately, we are seldom as good when it comes to shining the light on what is going on in the ANC, the state and our politics.

This condition is made worse by our predilection for confusing preferred outcomes with political reality, something that itself is exacerbated by the constant search for things in our political environment that confirm our bias.

In the current context of battles within the ANC, tripartite alliance and state, our perception of political reality is distorted even further by low levels of appreciation for complexity. Consequently, my enemy’s enemy is my friend and the means justifies the end. If the commander-in-chief of all things evil, base and amoral, also known as the devil, were to become a South African politician who sees the world of ANC politics as we selectively see it, he would be cleansed of his satanic image and reputation. In this context, the evil that is done by political actors we love is expunged from our political consciousness until they switch sides.

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Upon realising that I was beginning to suffer from some of the above symptoms, I decided to consult my intrepid spies, Sore Throat and Undercover Sister who, since the beginning of 2015, have been undercover disguised as ANC leaders. Because their report is too long, I am sharing a short extract from their executive summary:

"In the current battles, particularly the real and perceived proxy war between the president and the finance minister, there are two sides which consist of many two sides. In other words, the Hawks-SARS-Moyane-Gordhan-Zuma-Gupta-state capture imbroglio must be understood in terms of a multiplicity of binaries of tensions. Some of the tensions are historical to the extent that they have their roots in a time when the ANC was underground and in exile. Some of the actors in current battles in the governing party and the state have found themselves on opposite sides of battles in Umkhonto we Sizwe, ANC intelligence, the military-civilian divide in exile, and underground politics, the racial and ethnic divide, the nationalist-communist tension, fights over the allocation of resources, as well as investigations into the allegation of the existence of an Indian cabal that, supposedly, was trying to dislodge noncompliant African leaders and replace them with quislings who would do its bidding in attempts to capture the ANC and change its orientation.

"Some dimensions of current battles in the ANC are but an extension of battles that started taking shape in the decades prior to the advent of democracy in 1994. State power has created new tensions and sharpened some of the old conflicts. The new post-apartheid conflicts come with their own binaries of tensions between those for whom the struggle against apartheid was a struggle for the creation of a democratic state and those for whom democracy and the struggle against apartheid were mere coincidence.

"It also does not help that some of the actors were never bona fide members of the ANC. They are moles who infiltrated the ANC in both the conventional and unconventional sense. Some were apartheid moles while others simply joined the ANC to infiltrate it with values and a political culture that has a lot to do with self-aggrandisement and little to do with revolutionary goals.

"What the good, the bad and the ugly have in common is their willingness to enlist the help of actors outside the ANC who have never been friends of the revolution. In effect, what they all have in common is a willingness to betray the revolution, some in pursuit of goals that are noble, with their opponents doing this in pursuit of goals ignoble. Identifying them is not easy unless one thinks the battle between the president and the finance minister is a straightforward fight between sheep and wolves in designer sheepskin. However, in any attempt to be objective and balanced, we must not make the mistake of thinking that all sides in this battle are morally equivalent.

"There is a side which, in terms of moral repugnance, is better or worse than the other. Irrespective of who we think are our moral twins, we must not find ourselves defending the indefensible.

"If we do this, those for whom the struggle against apartheid colonialism was not about democracy and those who have succeeded in prostituting democratic values for profit in monetary and nonmonetary terms will certainly win the day."

Matshiqi is an independent political analyst.