Evening politics

We spent an evening with Denis Goldberg and Christo Brand yesterday.
Who they? Well, Goldberg was one of the guys sentenced in the Rivonia Trial in 1964 alongside Nelson Mandela and eight others, and Brand was the prison officer charged with looking after Mandela on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor Prison.

Their memories and stories of Apartheid from different sides were compelling, and it was strangely disturbing that Goldberg, as a commander in Umkhonto we Sizwe, would likely have considered Brand a legitimate target for assassination back in the day. But there was none of that last night.

Brand’s memories – while very interesting – were solely of his time Mandela (and if you’re not going to click through on the link above, then I should perhaps mention that they became good friends, despite their circumstances), with limited extra insight into “The Man”.

Thus, Goldberg was the star of the show, telling us of his childhood influences, his communist parents and the freedom fighters in Europe in World War II, of his inception into the MK, detailing the trial and his time in prison. He also accentuated the leadership qualities of Mandela, but reminded us that the ANC’s struggle against Apartheid was a joint effort and that Mandela’s greatest strength was recognising that many people had a part to play.
Despite being 83, he has an incredibly sharp mind and very dry sense of humour. His tales were factual, but obviously deeply personal too. It was a privilege to hear him speak.

When the opportunity for questions came, they were more on the politics of today than back then – he’d spoken of the past. He came down hard on Zuma and his lying and corruption, but reminded us how much the ANC and South Africa had achieved in the last 23 years, “although they could have done better”. He took the fact that the ANC – his ANC – might not get a majority in the 2019 elections as a triumph that the democracy that they had fought for was working. He warned the audience not to moan about the “polarisation and lack of dialogue” in recent global politics, but rather to become active and do something about it.

I wanted to ask lots. Questions about when or if he felt that terrorism was ever justifiable (especially given the events just a couple of hours earlier in London), about whether he felt that children should necessarily follow their parents’ political views (he did), after all, surely:

Thou shalt choose a political party based on their policies, as opposed to just going with who your family’s always supported; they are not a football team. [link]

Questions about whether he saw that the “collaborative leadership” he had described in Mandela’s ANC anywhere else in the world, and who – if anyone – he saw demonstrating good leadership in South Africa.
And then – given that he had declared himself “left of everyone in the room”, and given that we were all still tiptoeing around the eggshells of the thorny Israeli elephant in the room – maybe a slightly tongue in cheek question about what had gone wrong in Venezuela. Why would he continue to follow and promote a system that clearly has failed given every opportunity to succeed in its purest form?
I’m not quite sure how that would have gone down.

There simply wasn’t the time. Next time. Maybe.
But see here, the thing is, Goldberg is 83 and is one of just three of the Rivonia trialists still with us (Ahmed Kathrada (87) and Andrew Mlangeni (91) being the other two). There might not be a next time.

I learned a lot of things last night, but maybe that’s another important lesson to take home: act while you still can.

On UK politics

As Helen Zille puts foot firmly into mouth with her “Colonialism wasn’t ALL bad” tweet, thus conveniently removing the spotlight of the SASSA scandal from the rotten and rotting ANC, I spotted this on twitter this morning.
Not sure whose words, but… well… yes.

Yep. It’s free rein for the Conservatives at the moment. Theresa May could poo on the front lawn of Buckingham Palace on live TV* and she’d still win the next election by a landslide. Helen Zille? Not so much.

* not a campaign suggestion.  

Where’s The Revolution?

In these turbulent political times, it’s the number one question being asked all over the world (aside from Cape Town, where it’s “Where’s The Rain?” and Barcelona where it’s “How on earth did the referee give that penalty?”).
It’s also the title of Depeche Mode’s new song:

The video, directed by Anton Corbijn, is waist-deep in symbolism and snapshots of recreated political history, Dave Gahan is the impassioned pseudo-dictator, wheeling his mighty soapbox around a monochromatic, dystopian, urban space and imploring his non-existent audience to rise up.

It’s powerful imagery.

On the actual music, much has been made of the production by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco fame, but he’s sensibly not tinkered too much with the traditional Depeche Mode sound. In fact, it sounds like they’ve hardly moved on from 1990’s Violator, but since that was a near perfect offering, there’s no problem with that.

The new album – Spirit – is out next week.

Political statements

What with one thing (Brexit) and another (Trump), Western politics has been quite interesting of late. But that wasn’t always the case.
Still, despite those dramatic anomalies mentioned above – South African politics remains more interesting. And, for me, some of the best bits about South African politics are the enthusiastic media releases from various organisations, characterised by their excessive verbiage and circumlocution.

Who could forget when Blade Nzimande told us about:

the anti-majoritarian, conservative reactive groundswell that seeks to tarnish the whole movement, portraying us all as anti-constitutionalist and as narrow nationalist chauvinists.

Hmm?

Or when Fikile “Fickle” Mbalula waxed lyrical thus:

We were aware of the ultra-leftist tendencies that were aimed at uplifting pseudo-Marxist predispositions at the expense of the revolutionary recognition of the symbiotic link between national liberation and social emancipation; born out of the acknowledgement of the inter-play between the national oppression and class exploitation; in the context of the National Democratic Revolution.

Ah yes. Halcyon days.

This morning, I was greeted (not literally) by a media release from the ANC Women’s League. Now, after they commended the killing of wives in the Eastern Cape, you might not be expecting too much from them, but Secretary General Meokgo Matuba has really stepped up to the plate with this statement on the Land Reform debate in Parliament yesterday.
Here’s an excerpt:

Any delay by the ANC led government in implementing ANC resolutions will give grounds to demagoguery, opportunistic populist formations to throw rhetorics and portrays themselves as the champions of the poor and the working class. The funded mercenaries who are proudly bedfellows of our historical class enemies, will portray themselves as the solution to socio-economic challenges the country is facing whilst they are mere election footsoldiers of the neo-liberal political party that is advancing white supremacy.

I once threw rhetorics. It was a huge error. It turned out to be the gateway to lobbing oratories and from there I got heavily into flinging magniloquence. Still, I’ve been clean for a few years now, and I count it as nothing more than a difficult learning experience.
We all make mistakes.

There’s something about left-wing politics that seems to demand verbosity. And there’s a certain pomposity about South African politicians which gives them free rein – even encourages them – to use that verbosity whenever possible.

Long may it continue. It makes for really entertaining reading.

Political Results

Dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

Barbara Fielding of the Abolish Magna Carta Reinstate Monarchy Party polled 137 votes in the Stoke-on-Trent by-election.

That put her in sixth place behind Labour (7854), UKIP (5233), the Conservatives (5154), the Liberal Democrats (2083) and the Green Party (294).

Barbara finished ahead of The Incredible Flying Brick, who was representing the Monster Raving Loony Party (127), and the candidates from the BNP (124) and the Christian People’s Party (109). Independent Mohammad Akram brought up the rear with 56 votes.

137 votes represents 0.6% of the vote.

Prime Minister not yet, Barbara.