Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Unpreparedness of the Educated Classes in South Africa

by Himal Ramji

It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps” (Fanon, 1963: 119).

How has this statement been proven true in post-apartheid South Africa?

This essay seeks to unpack the statement by Fanon, seeking to understand in what ways the educated classes have proven to be ‘unprepared’, ‘lazy’ and ‘cowardly’ in the face of liberation, how they have failed to continue the struggle through a dialectic with the people, and how these failures have led to the current situation South Africa is in. This piece takes ‘laziness’ as an unwillingness or inability to engage in conversation; indeed, it is much easier to speak to those you know, those with the same interests as you than it is to enter into an egalitarian discussion with those with different backgrounds, needs, interests.

What this essay does not seek to do is to deny that the ANC had any positive role to play in the liberation struggle. That is beyond question. But the extent to which ANC ideology is parallel to or the same as or even allied to a liberation ideology is profoundly questionable. Indeed, they seem to be quite opposed to one another, with liberation ideology being almost thoroughly obliterated in the face of a hegemonic party-state discourse which has effectively ushered in the continuation of many apartheid structures as well as political stagnation.  

Critical here is the failure of the educated classes to formulate a ‘liberation ideology’. It would only be possible to formulate an authentic liberation ideology through a dialectic between those who lead and the people who act as the revolutionary body that provides the strength behind social change. What should have occurred after 1994 in South Africa, according to Fanon’s theory, was a conversation, a dialogue between the powers of the new administration and the people. What we find occurring instead is a monologue between the party and its corporate affiliates. The people are excluded.  

We see liberation ideology being substituted by party ideology – an ideology that views the ANC as the prime liberatory force and despotic holder of power. In part, my task is to map out how the interests or pursuit of interests of government, ANC and party elites have manifested since the 1980s when we find the ANC transforming alongside the collapse of the USSR and its ideological and material backing. This is not to say that the ANC is the sole driving force behind South Africa’s mainstream political stagnation; multinational corporations like Anglo-American, foreign state’s with their own interests, and wealthy individuals have all played a role in the pitfalls of South Africa’s liberation. Nevertheless, for the sake of a more focused, structured piece, this essay will focus heavily on the inner-workings of the party that claims itself to be South Africa’s liberatory force.  


First, it is imperative to understand the importance of writing one’s own history. In “On National Culture” in The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon articulates the need for colonised people to write their own history, to define their past, their present and the irremovable future for themselves, instead of having these things dictated for them by first-world experts from the colonial motherland, or native bourgeois intellectuals who are so far detached from their own roots that they seem to have forgotten the aims of the initial struggle. What also becomes apparent is the idea that the struggle has ended; as if people do not continue to live in the most bitter forms of poverty and oppression.

“Struggle” is emptied from our present reality, as if the struggle simply ended in 1994 with the election of Mandela and the ANC into power. What we hear is one story, or a set of similar ideological tales, from very select mouths or pens or cameras. What we hear is not the full tale of the nation and its people. What we receive, particularly in the opening pages of many news publications, is a ‘party update’. Consider this series of Mail & Guardian (2012) front-page headlines: ‘Mdluli cops bugged Cele’ (Apr. 13-19), ‘ANC politics behind e-toll fiasco’ (Apr. 26-May 3), ‘Mdluli: ‘It’s a racist plot’ (May 11-17), ‘Zumaville in chaos’ (Aug. 10-16), ‘R238-million: The Nkandla scandal grows’ (Oct. 5-11), ‘Tokyo’s pound of flesh’ (Nov. 12-22), ‘Zuma’s home economics’ (Nov. 23-29). Certainly, it is useful to know what South Africa’s celebrities of politics are up to. And it is useful to know the scale of the corruption that plagues the country. But whose story do we read? Whose tale is told and recorded? And, importantly, who is able to engage through these potential avenues of dialogue?

However, what has occurred since 1994 seems to emulate the anti-dialectical nature of colonial and apartheid history. What reoccurs is an extreme exclusion of a massive portion of the population; what occurs is a continuation of the old system and many of its limitations.


Ato Sekyi-Otu’s Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience (1996) provides a useful understanding of Fanon’s insistence on the dialectic required for fundamental change to occur, and for the colonial oppression that has been retained in our society to finally be dissolved. It is a dialectic – a conversation between two sides – that is required so as to move forward; to transcend our respective situations in a profoundly racist, colonially-structured society.

For Sekyi-Otu, and certainly for Fanon, colonial history is ‘anti-dialectical’. It is a monologue that is dominated by one side (the dominant side being understood as a Husserlian, spiritual, non-geographical Europe [Gordon, 1995: 4]). When a man or woman is viewed simply as ‘labourer’ or ‘producer’ or ‘slave’, then s/he is emptied of his/her existential complexity (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 60): a voiceless body for extraction whether for labour or votes or violence. The potential dialectic is transformed into a monologue of history, defined by those in power – our political elites – essentially disregarding the history of the other as if they had never had a history, as if they do not continue to produce a history, as if their history had to and still has to be written by those in power, those who stand as gate-keepers of history. In colonial and apartheid times we see white folk standing as those with the power, with the authority, to write history. Thus black history, the history of the African continent and the people of Africa comes to be written from the perspective of those who could not possibly understand the lived experience of those they seek to represent. In contemporary times, specifically after 1994, we see in South Africa a change of faces in the space of power. With the ANC taking control, we find an expansion of those with the authority to write history. Black folk are now capable of writing their own history. But what has occurred? What history is being written? Is it the history of the people themselves? Or has what has been written been suffused with the rhetoric of the party?


Fanon’s articulation of the aims of the national bourgeoisie in The Wretched of the Earth proves useful in an analysis of the archiving that has taken place thus far in contemporary South Africa.

For Fanon, the national bourgeoisie exists as a business class, not a class that is able to accumulate capital. He writes:

“The national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalised into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket” (Fanon, 1963: 120).
Essentially, the national bourgeoisie that comes into power upon independence lacks the positioning in the economic structures of the nation to actually take full control of the country. They remain answerable to neo-colonial powers – ‘donors’ – that define their aims, their goals, their policies.

Sekyi-Otu (1996: 106) provides a useful quotation of Fanon’s critique of a “mean-spirited and predatory ‘national bourgeoisie’” which he refers to as a ‘kleptocratic bourgeoisie’ (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 107): “Spoilt children of yesterday’s colonialism and today’s national governments, they organise the loot of whatever national resources exist. Without pity, they use today’s national distress as a means of getting on through scheming and legal robbery… they proclaim the pressing necessity of nationalising the robbery of the nation”. Those we find as our leaders, according to Fanon and Sekyi-Otu, are part of a class that, by its very structure, by virtue of the political space they exist and flourish within, is essentially an extractive class.  

What occurs, then, is not fundamental structural change. Indeed, as Fanon writes: “The change-over will not take place at the level of structures set up by the bourgeoisie during its reign, since that caste has done nothing more than take over unchanged the legacy of the economy, the thought and the institutions left by the colonialists” (Fanon, 1963: 142). They merely fill the spaces left gaping by the colonials who left their offices in 1994. For Sekyi-Otu, the national bourgeoisie, those native elites who rise to power through the party act as ‘substitutes’ for the colonial administration (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 96). Sekyi-Otu quotes Fanon on the psychology of the native who seeks to take the position of the coloniser: “The colonised is a persecuted person who dreams eternally of becoming the persecutor” (Fanon in Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 88). Sekyi-Otu continues, drawing on Fanon to argue that “these ‘affranchised slaves’ intent on accommodation with colonialism are to be distinguished from ‘the majority of the colonised’… For them, there is no question of entering into competition with the coloniser. They want to take his place” (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 109).

What occurs then is not revolution but a continuation of the very structures of colonialism. What occurs is a form of neo-colonialism that, through their intimate links with colonial authority, the national bourgeoisie remains powerless to destroy or alter fundamentally.

Because no such fundamental change has occurred, we find our own leaders filling the positions, the political positions, previously occupied by colonial administrators. What I mean here is more than just the fact that white ministers have been replaced by black ministers or that the NP is replaced by the ANC. What I mean here is that the approach of government towards popular action – towards those Fanon refers to as ‘the people’ – has not changed. What has continued is a repression of the very people who were and will always be the historical force behind fundamental social change, behind revolution. The people of South Africa have been virtually silenced in mainstream political dialogue. Indeed, when Abahlali baseMjondolo or the Unemployed People’s Movement or the miners of Marikana attempt to make their voices heard, they are quickly and often violently silenced and deemed criminal. What we also find is the amplification of the bourgeois voices of the educated classes: national bourgeois voices that extract and condemn popular action, and alternative bourgeois voices that criticise from varying standpoints; both of which are quite far detached from the realities of the people. In fact, what will be discovered is that the realities of the people become a footnote in newspapers, something forgotten amid what are regarded as larger, more important issues.

Fanon articulates this political situation quite nicely: “It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps” (Fanon, 1963: 119). Once 1994 came and ‘democracy’ born in South Africa, there seems to have come a distancing of the political elite (the national bourgeoisie) from the people who have historically performed as catalyst in political movement. In this essay, as with Fanon’s work, we will find that “such retrograde steps…are the historical result of the incapacity of the national middle class to rationalise popular action, that is to say their incapacity to see into the reasons for that action” (ibid). What we find in post-1994 South Africa is a pattern of chastisement of mass political movement on the part of our political leaders.

Sekyi-Otu quotes a statement of Fanon’s which clearly defines the peasantry from the national bourgeoisie. It is a statement which defines ‘the people’ who strive for emancipation from the elites who seek to dominate and extract:

“The peasantry is systematically disregarded for the most part by the propaganda put out by the nationalist party. Now, it is clear that in colonial countries the peasantry alone is revolutionary. It has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The peasant, the déclassé, the starving person, is the first among the exploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possibility of coming to terms” (Fanon in Sekyi-Otu, ibid).
We find in the struggles in and around the Marikana Massacre a perfect example of the division between the interests of the people and those of the national bourgeoisie.

In an article by Kwanele Sosibo entitled ‘Mine on edge again after arrests’ (M&G, Oct.19-25, p12) we see the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) supporting not their members, but the interests of Lonmin and big international capital. Sosibo writes that “the NUM criticised the police for what it deemed inefficient policing, particularly for the lack of arrests… NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the arrests had brought some relief to the organisation, but the union would be happy only after a successful prosecution. He said lawlessness was the order of the day in Rustenburg. “If people are a danger to society, they shouldn’t be given bail””. Similarly, Cyril Ramaphosa – former NUM leader, millionaire businessman, member of the ANC executive and allegedly COSATU’s favoured presidential candidate –  is quoted as writing in an email to Lonmin’s chief commercial officer Albert Jamieson that, “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such” (‘South Africa’s unions use mass sackings and murder to suppress miners’, Of course, this fits in exactly with Fanon’s articulation of a national bourgeoisie that condemns mass action, seeing it as criminal, as treasonous and something to be necessarily punished, claiming it as dangerous to society.

What we see here is a divergence of the interests of the NUM and those it assumes to represent. We find that the representative body, led by national bourgeois elites, no longer represents its constituents, rather seeking to pursue the interests of its bourgeois leaders’ own wealth, positional security, and the interests of big capital.
What we also find in the article is a distinct lack of communication – of dialogue, of dialectic – between the parties involved. We find that Sosibo chooses to speak to the heads of the NUM, the management of Lonmin, and President Jacob Zuma. What Sosibo fails to do is speak to the mineworkers themselves; those most intimately affected by the situation itself.

And in an article that appears just below the aforementioned report, Sosibo does exactly the same thing. The article, entitled ‘Mine workers’ hope lies in mass action’ (M&G, Oct.19-25, p12), Sosibo looks to the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) as a potential organiser of the mass movement which began at Marikana. According to the report, the DSM argues that “the only way for the mine workers to maintain momentum is to link themselves to the broader workforce and working class communities who have already taken their discontent to the streets”. In a rather Fanonian or perhaps more Marxist turn, Mametlwe Sebei, executive member of the DSM, argues that “the DSM cannot instruct the workers to struggle because they are compelled by their own conditions”. He goes on to say that “[w]ith or without us, they will struggle”. But Sosibo notes that “Sebei’s words can be read as an attempt to disguise the distance between the workers’ immediate aspirations and the movement’s agenda” and that “he appeared to be speaking more for himself and his organisation than for the crowd of strikers”. What we find here, then, is an example of an educated man (Sebei, the native bourgeois intellectual) with what we could perhaps assume to be revolutionary intentions, but who himself is so distanced from the people who he seeks to organise that his argument becomes only a footnote in the tale of Marikana.  

What is even more striking, for the purposes of this essay, is the fact that once again Sosibo fails to seek the views of any mineworkers. Indeed, it seems as if they are exactly what he has described them as: a crowd, a mass that remains virtually faceless and voiceless. Thus in two articles revolving around the aftermath of Marikana we find the following views represented: 1) those of the NUM; 2) those of Lonmin; 3) those of the South African government; 4) those of a leftist party. The view we do not find represented is that of the mineworkers themselves. Essentially, what Sosibo has achieved – whether on purpose or through pure neglect – is the effective silencing of the masses. In the two articles referred to, we are not given the opportunity to hear ‘the voice of South Africa’, merely select voices from official spaces.

But is this not how news is reported? Is it not – as things are currently conceived – the duty of the reporter to find expert opinions on issues so as to give the reader greater understanding? But then, could it not be argued that the true expert on Marikana and the ensuing strikes is the participant, not the official in the safe, secure, air-conditioned office? Is not the expert on struggle the person who is in the process of struggle? And is not the expert on the relations between the miners and the NUM and the DSM and ACTU not the miner himself? Or is it not the case that the miner has been so thoroughly disempowered that he does not even know the true nature of this relation, since such discussions have occurred behind closed doors, that he is no longer an expert on this relation? It seems that so thoroughly has the miner – has the ordinary person – been silenced that s/he no longer has the authority to speak of their own situation, according the media, according to those in official offices.

In fact, we the people have been interpellated as a mass to be muted to such a degree that it has been said that we should not criticise the president outside of the official avenues of the national protector or parliament (M&G Nov.16-22 2012, p16). Essentially, according to such logic, we cannot speak outside of official forums. We must then ask: who actually has access to these avenues.


We find, also, in a statement by an SACP official, the extremity of the party’s attempts to silence the voice of the people. In a recent article entitled ‘Hands off our revered president’ by Fatima Asmal-Motala (M&G Nov.16-22 2012, p16), the reporter references the SACP’s KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson, Nomarashiya Dolly Caluza, who is critical of those who have dared to criticise President Zuma. Asmal-Motala quotes Caluza: “When we say criticism and self-criticism, there is a platform where these things can happen. There is parliament where these issues must be raised. There’s also a public protector. People are aware of these platforms where they can engage positively”. Clearly, it is not for the average, political disempowered citizen to criticise the president, or any other official for that matter. Let us consider the ease of access of parliament and the public protector. It is not very often that, for example, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo are allowed into parliament or are able to engage in a positive interaction with the public protector. In fact, there are few citizens who appear in parliament which seems to have always existed as a meeting place for government elites to discuss national affairs behind closed doors. 

What does this piece of our South African historical archive tell us? At an uneducated glance, one could quite easily assume that things are all right in South Africa, that everyone has equal voice in parliament or in front of the public protector. Indeed, it would seem, from the words of Caluza, that we are all quite capable of voicing our criticisms in official domains, and that we have no reason for ill-conceived dissent. But, as has already been stated, this is not the case.
What we find in such statements as those of Caluza is the fact that those in power – those members of the national bourgeois elite, those members of the ANC and its affiliates – actively insist on the silencing of most of the nation. Either that, or they are completely ignorant of the realities of this nation.


An article by Matuma Letsoalo entitled ‘SABC chief takes control’ (M&G, Oct.5-11 2012, p7) proves a useful example of the distance between the national broadcaster and the people, as well as the hegemonic role the party plays in the dissemination of information. The article focuses on the handing over of control of the SABC’s news, television, radio and sport to the SABC’s chief operation officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, replacing SABC groups chief executive Lulama Mokhobo who had been acting in the position since the departure of Phil Molefe. The article begins by sizing up two contending views on the power change. Some have said that the change is a function of the ANC’s recent meeting in Mangaung. Letsoalo writes that it “has been interpreted by some in the broadcaster as a calculated strategy to ensure that an ANC faction close to President Jacob Zuma is given enough coverage”. Others, however, have argued that the change has “nothing to do with Mangaung and everything to do with the business interests of those close to Motsoeneng and some SABC board members”. Motsoeneng himself argues that the change was merely a part of the SABC’s “turnaround strategy” and that his role “is to make news more interesting” or “more appealing”, not to ‘interfere’ in what appears as news.

We can draw out several things from this news report. Firstly, that the change in authority at the SABC is a contentious issue and, more importantly for this essay, it is an issue that is either 1) a function of the ANC’s stranglehold on power or 2) a function of certain business interests which one finds rather difficult to detach from the ANC’s stranglehold on power. What we find is that what little change that does occur on the level of the SABC’s highest offices is generally defined by the movements within the ANC, its factions, its divergent interests.

Let us take a moment to read into these two points through the observations or theorisations of Fanon. In the case of the first, we find a hegemonic party taking control of the media, contorted its reportage for its own ends. In fact, we find that this contortion is a function of warring factions within the same party. Thus, the image that is constructed is one of the media tied to a string, being fought over between contending factions within the very same party. What occurs, then, is that the actual interests of the masses of the population are forgotten amid the tumult of inter-party conflicts and divergent interests. We find that problems with housing, water, electricity, living and working conditions in general are forgotten and replaced by reports on the goings-on in various ANC members’ lives and business dealings. In the case of the second, we find that the business interests of various ANC members and their affiliates are given primacy. Again, what occurs is a wilful ignorance of the realities of the nation, substituted by a wholesome focus on the business-dealings of certain national bourgeois elites (like, for example, the scandal of Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau and his wife Pilisiwe Twala-Tau and their much-scrutinised tenderpreneurship [in M&G Oct.5-11 2012, p6 and Oct.12-18 2012, p7]). What we find is that, either through emphasis on the ANC’s own infighting or on the business-dealings on those regarded as ‘important’, the situation of the nation is forgotten. The voice of the people is silenced, and the voice of South Africa becomes the voice of the national bourgeoisie: an extractive class that makes up a miniscule proportion of the nation.  

What we discover, too, in the change in power in the SABC is that it is not news itself that is questioned, but rather the interestingness or the appeal of the news in question. What becomes apparent is a certain mentality that tells us that it is perfectly fine for Zuma’s massive Nkandla homestead or Zumaville  or Richard Mdluli’s own scandalous affairs to dominate news just as long as the news itself remains interesting. One cannot help but ask what exactly ‘interesting news’ entails. And interesting to whom? One feels almost as if we are observing a particularly sleazy soap opera. Poverty, perhaps, is not as interesting as the soap-operas of the lives of bureaucrats.  

In an earlier article entitled ‘Bitter battle to control the news agenda’ (Apr. 13-19, 2012, p10), the writers outline the political battles that occurred to bring Motsoeneng into office. In brief, a spat occurred between SABC news chief Phil Molefe and Mokhobo, with Molefe being disciplined for refusing to give the SABC chief executive “a copy of the daily news diary so she could monitor the news line-up”. Molefe was accused of giving ANC Youth League president Julius Malema “an unprecedented amount of coverage”, according to a senior SABC insider. What we see here is a tussle between the Zuma camp (comprising of Mokhobo and co.) and the Malema camp (Molefe and co.). The SABC’s news agenda, as the articles title implies, is defined by the internal politics of the ANC.


What we discover, then, in contemporary, post-apartheid South Africa, is the replacement of a potential ‘liberation theory’ or ‘liberation ideology’ with ‘party ideology’. What this means is that instead of promoting the continuation of the struggle after 1994 so as the thoroughly and fundamentally alter the social, economic and political systems in South Africa, the ANC and its allies opted rather for stagnation and the continuation of the structures developed under colonialism. As Gibson (2011: 92) argues: “Apartheid and post-apartheid society are… not opposites but rather operate along a continuum”. What is retained, fundamentally, is the restrictive logic of the old system – a divisive, racist logic.

What Fanon argues for is the ‘organisation of thought’: the construction of a theory of liberation. His critique of spontaneity is one that requires solidarity in thought. It is liberation, struggle, resistance against a common oppressor, that bonds people. “The necessity to think through what kind of society one is struggling for does not happen without a conscious concept of organisation, as well as a commitment to organisation of thought, a philosophic clearing of the head and a confrontation with past failures” (Gibson, 2011: 105).

This is strikingly similar to Biko’s ideas of black solidarity in a mission to construct a black philosophy: “to evolve a philosophy based on, and directed by, blacks” (Gibson, 2011: 49). It is a philosophy that does not romanticise a fictional African past, nor does it remain confined to Bantu education, nor does it attempt to rise to some imagined white level. It is not a philosophy that keeps trying to prove itself to its white master. It is philosophy for itself.

This differs from organisation according to a vanguard party (in this case the ANC), which makes its own ideology the proposed ideology for and of the people. “Rather than confronting through deepening dialogue, tactics become strategy and theory is reduced to slogans and rhetoric” (Gibson, 2011: 93-4). Instead of liberation, it is party power and ideology that is privileged. Domination takes the place of liberation, and the people are thoroughly excluded from politics. We see this form of party autocracy described succinctly in Andrew Feinstein’s (2007: 133) rather scathing articulation of Mbeki’s method of rule:

“… Thabo Mbeki was placing his own centralising, technocratic stamp on the movement [the ANC], rowing back from the days of mass protest and community organisation. This stamp included the Presidency’s active involvement in and often domination of every area of policy making, and the emergence of a small clique of trusted advisers which usurped the place of collective debate within the ANC”.
What needs to occur, according to Fanon, is a dialectic between people and leaders, instead of a top-down hierarchy of ideas. Ideas cannot seep down to the grassroots to be accepted without question for fear of violence or acknowledgement of emphatic disempowerment. Conversation is necessary, not monologue from above from technocrats, experts, officials.

Michael Neocosmos’ theorisation of xenophobia in From ‘Foreign Natives’ to ‘Native Foreigners’ (2010) illuminates how state discourse acts powerfully to interpellate very concrete subjects (the ‘illegal immigrant’, the ‘illegal alien’ etc.). His work shows the power of the state to hail or construct different subjects, and, fundamentally, the power and ideology of the state – and therefore the party – to define the course of the entire nation. Essentially, the party shows that it has a massive amount of power in the construction of a certain ‘national consciousness’. But what we find is the national bourgeoisie protecting their power, their legitimate authority by emphasising the ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ South African. And we see how state discourse is adopted so fluidly by the masses of the population; and we see the misguided violence (the “tragic mishaps”) that occur from such party ideology and state discourse. As Neocosmos (2010: 14) argues, “in hegemonic  (state) discourse, citizenship is reduced to indigeneity”. And it was not the people of South Africa who decided this: it was the party, in their lazy insistence on the continuation of the existing system, who have described and thus prescribed citizenship as such. We find this as an example of the ideological power of the ANC, its power to define the consciousness of the nation.    


We find in the negotiations that occurred between the ANC and NP prior to the 1994 elections to be a perfect early example of the monologue that occurs persistently between bourgeois elites.  Negotiations between the ANC and NP were, quite simply, a cop out. What happened was the curbing of mass movements – mass movements that would have proven dangerous for party-power and elite interests (both black and white). If the people were to become too powerful, too well organised within their own ranks and on their own terms, there would be no requirement for the organisation offered by the ANC, SACP or cancered COSATU.  Negotiations put the ANC in the driver’s seat and, importantly, allowed the continuation of the economic, social and political structures of apartheid. Negotiations replaced potentially emancipatory violence and effectively excluded the people from any sort of dialogue. The party replaced the people; party ideology replaced liberation theory. Gibson (2011: 105) writes that “the transition became a private event to which the mass of people involved in grassroots movements were not invited”. Essentially, for Gibson, the ANC and SACP provided for the struggle – and for contemporary South African – an “intellectual straightjacket” (2011: 107). This very real limitation left the people out of the discussion; and it marginalised the masses of the nation in its economic policy. Gibson (2011: 95) cites Terreblanche:

“[W]hen the period of negotiations began, the possibilities for debate about a future South Africa became further curtailed and suspended in favour of an elite compromise and an agreement on economic policy ‘that would exclude half the population from a solution that was really aimed at resolving the corporate sector’s longstanding accumulation crisis’”.
Certainly, negotiations, having taken places between the NP and the ANC, two parties led by two groups of racialised bourgeois elites, removed the people from any sort of political space from which to define the nature of the transformation of South Africa.   

Gibson (2011: 88) writes that ‘radical mutations of consciousness’ occurred during the South African insurrections of the 1970s and 1980s. But these mutations have been denied by the party. In the lead-up to negotiations, the ANC and its allies employed the strategy of ‘ungovernability’ which had been employed in townships by non-affiliate groups before this adoption. For Gibson, the adoption of a strategy of ungovernability came so as to create some form of chaos so as to essentially force the NP into negotiations (2011: 95). But ungovernability, and certainly the fact of its usage before ANC influence, had provided a form of resistance that had the potential for a form of power far wider than the ANC itself. And so, as we see in the case of the NUM’s remarks regarding Marikana, motions towards some semblance of ungovernability have been subsequently outlawed or ‘dumbed down’ or erased by the party, by party ideology. Gibson (2011: 93) sums this up nicely:

“The South African case highlights what happens when theorisation of spontaneity and power do not happen, when there is no dialectical relationship between spontaneity and organisation, when grassroots mass movements are reduced to ‘mindless activism’ and become little more than a chorus for the nationalist vanguard party. Fanon criticised spontaneity not because it needed leadership but because it lacked an organisation of thought, that is, a liberation theory. His criticism of spontaneity was not directed at the movements themselves but at the laziness of the intellectuals who either ignored them or dumbed them down when serious analysis and engagement were necessary”.     
Gibson’s attitudes are echoed by Mercia Andrews in her article, ‘The ANC transformed’, in which she traces the ideological shifts within the ANC from the adoption of militant strategies of the later 1950s to the mass movements of the 1970s and 1980s to the collapse or perhaps marginalisation of dialectical resistance in the late 1980s. This period – the end of the Cold War – is critical for ANC policy and ideology. Andrews writes:

“The collapse of the Soviet Union was devastating for the ANC and the SACP, which had become so dependent on it for material and ideological support… The collapse of the Soviet Union created an ideological crisis for the left. The crisis of credibility of socialism had a devastating impact on the SACP. Leading members of its Central Committee, including Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, left the Party. The leadership of the SACP retreated”.
An ideological vacuum was formed by the collapse of the Soviet Union – the ANC could no longer rely on the ‘material and ideological’ support of the communist superpower. What occurs amid the flurry of capitalist hegemony upon the demise of the Soviet bloc is a shift within the ANC towards an ideology that sought to maintain the old system and to advance it within very limited economic spectrum of the free-market capitalism that had grown in the USA and Western Europe.

Before this period – during the period of the illegalisation of democratic opposition between February 1988 and February 1990 – COSATU and the UDF stood tall as the “internal anti-apartheid movement” (Gibson, 2011: 107). But once Mandela was released and the ANC re-empowered, COSATU and the UDF became increasingly “ideologically subservient to the ANC and were thus distancing themselves from the idea of grassroots control, turning their focus to elite representation while the ANC busily discussed deals with multi-national mining interests behind the scenes” (ibid).

After all, it was Mandela who stated at the Treason Trial and again at the Rivonia Trials that the ANC was not communist or socialist.  Mandela, in his speech at the latter trial, stated the following:

The ANC, unlike the Communist Party, admitted Africans only as members. Its chief goal was, and is, for the African people to win unity and full political rights. The Communist Party's main aim, on the other hand, was to remove the capitalists and to replace them with a working-class government. The Communist Party sought to emphasize class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonise them. This is a vital distinction”.
But this is not wholly true. The ANC did not seek to ‘harmonise’ class distinctions: it preferred them respected, maintained and unquestioned. We see this in the rigid class hierarchy within the party. Recall that Luthuli, Mandela, Zuma all have claims to traditional nobility which are consistently alluded to, particularly in cases of Luthuli and Zuma.

Andrews continues to echo Gibson’s Fanonian critique of the ANC, arguing that negotiations were “unable to create the space for on-going struggle that would open a transition to a much more radical transformation of the existing system”. In the article, negotiations – the ANC’s decision to enter into negotiations – essentially “demobilised and displaced popular resistance”, thus “consciously side-lining” the people, that catalyst that drives transformation and revolution. Indeed, so great have been the ‘unpreparedness’, ‘laziness’ and ‘cowardice’ of the educated class of South Africa that the “iconic status of Mandela, Tambo and Slovo, who were in favour of an accommodation with the ruling class, was sufficient to paper over the deep class differences and class interests within the mass democratic movement”.   


And Mandela himself is not exempt from critique for forging links with some of the most infamous capitalists of the post-apartheid era. In 1996, then-Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Bantu Holomisa accused the ANC leadership of having been “corrupted by South African casino magnate Sol Kerzner” (Bond, 1996: 1). To the shock of many South Africans, Mandela’s response was to admit that Kerzner had made “huge, secret donations” to the ANC (ibid). On Kerzner, Bond (ibid) writes: “Kerzner is legendary at wheeling and dealing, and there is no dispute that a decade ago he paid 2 million rand (then $1 million) to the former prime minister of the pseudo-independent Transkei "homeland" for exclusive rights to open a casino on the unspoiled Wild Coast”. Bond writes that to construct the “playgrounds” of Sun City and Lost City, Kerzner “extracted huge favors from corrupt officials, including more than R1 billion ($350 million) in tax breaks for Lost City during the early 1990s” (ibid). Holomisa – who was subsequently dismissed from his post by Mandela – also claimed that Kerzner had funded Thabo Mbeki’s 50th birthday party and “suggested” that Mbeki and Sports Minister Steve Tshwete had “accepted favours from the hotel magnate for protection against possible bribery charges” (SAPA). These claims were subsequently denied by the ANC, but Holomisa maintained faith in their truth, citing Mandela as his source (ibid). It has also been reported that Mandela accepted a R1-million donation from London-based South African millionaire Oliver Hill (‘Cashing in on horse sperm’, Sunday Times, 25/4/2010, p5).

Furthermore, Bond (ibid) notes Mandela’s reliance on the ‘Brenthurst Group’ (“the country's half-dozen largest corporate tycoons”) for “secretive and decisive economic advice” (ibid). Bond’s analysis is outlines the extent of the Mandela regime’s basis in the very same corporatism that denied the cause of the ANC: “Notwithstanding the fact that nearly all its members endorsed and profited from apartheid, and opposed one-person, one-vote as recently as the 1980s, Mandela turned to the corporate tycoons for approval of his choices for Finance Minister in 1994 and again in 1996, for example” (ibid).

But these are only a few examples of the corruption, mismanagement of funds and secretive deals that have occurred since the late 1980s. The extent of the non-existence of accountability at the highest levels of the ANC and of government become plain, however, in the resignation of the ANC’s auditor and secretary of finance Nathan Marcus. According to a 2010 article titled ‘Corruption in ANC goes back at least 20 years’, Marcus is cited as having resigned because of the ANC’s “reluctance to investigate further” into his 1994 report on several investigations into corruption, fraud and theft in ANC offices in London and New York. Further investigations found that similar cases of maladministration had occurred in ANC offices in France, Denmark, Zambia, Sweden and Kenya. The report found, interestingly, that most of the officials found to be corrupt were the very same people who saturated the ANC’s list of candidates for parliament.

These findings have now been corroborated by newly-found evidence in the form of a number of letters, reports and confidential journals written by Mandela. The cache was “found abandoned in a Fort Hare University basement” but have now been absorbed into South Africa’s National Heritage Cultural and Studies Centre ( Included in the new information is evidence of “a businessman who used ANC contacts and an official state trip to Malaysia in 1994 to build a multimillion-rand empire”. Despite the fact that the ANC had evidence of this corruption, the investigation was swept under the rug. The evidence also points at a billionaire who allegedly “stole” R340 000 and two business properties from the ANC.


The results of such transformations within the ANC have essentially resulted in the continuation of many of the structures of the colonial and apartheid systems. Let us consider the moment of the choice to negotiate behind closed doors instead of in dialogue with the people as the ‘decisive moment of struggle’ – the moment at which the ANC could have used their power to dissolve the existing structures so as to redefine South Africa, to construct it as something new, a nation transformed by and for its people. But the results of the transformations of the ANC paint a grim picture.  

Andrews is scathing of the ANC: “In power, the ANC has failed to break up the monopolies that dominate the South African economy when it was on the agenda, allowed the biggest corporations to de-list from South Africa and re-invent themselves as foreign corporations, corporatised and privatised key state enterprises and functions, and delivered our economy to the WTO and the needs of predatory finance capital”. Under the ANC regimes of Mandela, Mbeki, Mohlanthe and Zuma we find an increase in inequality, an almost-doubled unemployment rate that now stands at approximately 40% (25,5% as of the third-quarter of 2012 according to StatsSA) and the employment of about 40% of South Africa’s workforce by labour brokers (Andrews). Education and healthcare are in similar states of disrepair.

According to Gibson things have not changed much for the poor black majority of South Africans. Citing Terreblanche, he articulates the systemic continuation that occurred after 1994:

“one third of the 15 million in the bourgeois classes…are white, while 98 per cent of the 30 million people in the ‘lower classes’ are black… the share of white households in the top fifth of the income scale actually grew after the end of apartheid… South Africa’s black population is surprisingly worse off after the end of apartheid, with the black working class, and especially the poor, being the biggest losers” (Gibson, 2011: 73).

The situation of many South Africans has clearly not improved with the ANC’s rise to power. Gibson describes the state of the nation in relation to Hillbrow, the once-thriving “Manhattan of Africa” (Gibson, 2011: 71): “As Hillbrow crumbles, its inhabitants are subjected to high rents, evictions, water and electricity cut-offs and intimidation. Their situation is not unique; it is echoed across South Africa” (ibid). Sandton, according to Gibson, has replaced Hillbrow as Johannesburg’s business hub, “where rich whites and the new black bourgeoisie spread out in luxurious mansions” (Gibson, 2011: 72). We find similar such occurrences around the country, with a massive gap constantly expanding between the rich and the poor.     

We have found that the ANC’s autocratic methods have continued and, in some cases, worsened, since 1994. They have essentially transformed into a party of monologue and the force behind what has, in a large way, been an anti-dialectical history of South Africa in liberation and contemporarily. We see the people written out of South African politics. What we also find is an increase in the perceived importance of the ANC’s internal politics. Ultimately, as Fanon theorised, we see the ANC rise as a national bourgeois party that is extremely exclusive; indeed, it has seemed to pursue the interests of the party elite and its affiliates most ferociously since claiming power in 1994. And, we find that this has not been a sudden change. Indeed, the ANC has never truly been a solely liberatory movement; rather it has always had elements of autocracy which seem to be almost implicit in the construction of the party. Indeed, we find that many top members of the ANC did not suddenly become corrupt as soon as they got some semblance of power; we see that many accepted what should probably be referred to as ‘bribes’ from the corporate sector and from wealthy individuals. We see, then, that party ideology is suffused with corporatism; and we see this filter into the minds of every South African in our pit-fallen national consciousness. 
This has had an adverse effect on the masses of the nation, as proved quite emphatically in the education and health sectors as well as, most clearly, in the living conditions of the ‘ordinary’ South African. What has occurred is not fundamental structural or social or economic or even political change. Rather, we have been duped in our ‘drunken celebrations’ of liberation: we have failed to see the necessity of the continuation of our liberation struggle. What must then occur is critique of the party, critique of their methods, their policies, their interests. Similarly, we must be ever-critical of our own positions in society and how we are able to exist as we do. The creation of a black bourgeoisie is not sufficient criteria for liberation; rather, it is a continuation of the old racist, elitist, extractive, exploitative system. We have come to be dominated by black skins in white offices. Thus, the struggle continues.


After dwelling for so long on the failures of the post-apartheid regime to propel the fundamental transformation of South Africa, one cannot help but wonder what the middle-class intellectual, criticised by Fanon for their laziness, unpreparedness, cowardice and lack of practical links with the people, can do to transcend this position. Indeed, there must be some role within the continued struggle for emancipation in South Africa for the educated elite. Usefully, Sekyi-Otu outlines a certain direction such intellectuals could go so as not to fall into the trap of replicating the ‘tragic mishaps’ of the post-apartheid era. For him, the duty of the educated classes is to enter into conversation with the masses regarding the nature and form of the resistance to party despotism and oppression. But he, like Fanon, does not specifically prescribe a political party to execute this. Neither writer prescribes a formal authoritarian structure to define the direction of the people’s resistance. For Fanon and Sekyi-Otu, the bourgeoisie who work with the people must do so on the terms of the people instead of conduction their own detached elite-driven monologue of simply ‘taking state power’. They must make themselves “the willing slave of that revolutionary capital which is the people” (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 173). As Sekyi-Otu notes, militants and bourgeois intellectuals leave the city or are forced out, but what must occur is not them merely telling the country peasantry what to do and how to do it. Rather, they educate and are, in turn, educated. This is an allusion to authority or power emanating from below. What must is a dialogue between intellectuals and the people. The revolution and its theory must occur from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Thus, the educated bourgeoisie must actively seek to open the networks of communication to include all. For this to occur there must be a wilful appropriation of the tools that power has used to dominate the masses. Sekyi-Otu draws this from Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism (1959). During revolution, it is necessary to appropriate certain tools of oppression so as to overcome the oppressor. Appropriation does not mean to merely take these things on unproblematically and uncritically. Rather, the revolutionary must transfigure these things, to make them revolutionary. In his exploration of revolutionary appropriation, Sekyi-Otu (1996: 185) refers to the radical mutations that occur in the subjectivity of the revolutionary subject during revolution. Simply, in resistance, consciousness changes. Thus, there is a need for our resistance to exist as an affirmation of the fluidity of consciousness and the necessity of continued struggle. There is a need for our resistance to not accept stagnation; we must stand in opposition of the systemic continuation that has occurred in the post-apartheid era under the ANC and its affiliates; and we must realise the pitfalls of a party-driven national consciousness.   

In this essay I have focused my research on news articles that have catalogued the influence of the South African political elite in the modes of communication. For Fanon, these avenues for conversation hold an immense emancipatory potential. In A Dying Colonialism, he outlines the power of ‘The Voice of Algeria’ – the power of the radio, news publications etc. in the people’s struggle. These are forums for communication: spaces in which to be heard, to listen, to allow for the revolutionary mutation of one’s consciousness through dialogue with others. They are also spaces within which the dialectal construction of a liberation theory or liberation ideology can occur.  

The news articles referred to earlier in this essay are but a few examples of the party and political celebrity orientation of the news. They exemplify the manner in which the dramas surrounding the ANC and its affiliates have dominated our national modes of communication. Rarely do these dramas end in the further emancipation of the people. We see how our airwaves are dominated by the party and corporate domination.

What must occur then, for the sake of emancipation, is a challenge to this dominant anti-dialectical ‘laziness’. We find such challenges, certainly, in such publications as The Daily Maverick and Amandla!. But still it seems we must go further. Our written resistance must become more radical, perhaps.  

Fanon, F. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. Penguin Books. 2001.
Fanon, F. 1959. A Dying Colonialism. Grove Press: New York. 1965. 
Feinstein, A. 2007. After the Party. Jonathan Ball Publishers. 2007.
Gibson, N. 2011. Fanonian Practices in South Africa. UKZN Press. 
Neocosmos, M. 2010. From ‘Foreign Natives’ to ‘Native Foreigners’. Codesria. 2010.   
Sekyi-Otu, A. 1996. Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience. Harvard University Press. 1996.

Andrews, M. ‘The ANC transformed’. Amandla, issue 24.
Asmal-Motala,F. ‘Hands off our revered president’, Mail & Guardian, Nov.16-22 2012, p16.
Bond, P. 1996. ‘Gambling with Mandela’s reputation’, Multinational Monitor, Oct.1996, Vol.17, No.10.
Letsoalo, M. ‘SABC chief takes control’, Mail & Guardian, Oct.5-11 2012, p7.
Mandela, NR. 1964. 'I am prepared to die', Nelson Mandela's Statement from the Dock at the Opening of the Defence Case in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964,
Marsden, C. ‘South Africa’s unions use mass sackings and murder to suppress miners’,, 26 October 2012.
Sosibo, K. ‘Mine on edge again after arrests’, Mail & Guardian, Oct.19-25, p12.
Sosibo, K. ‘Mine workers’ hope lies in mass action’, Mail & Guardian, Oct.19-25, p12.
‘Cashing in on horse sperm’, Sunday Times, 25 April 2010, p5.
‘Corruption in the ANC goes back at least 20 years’, Sunday Times, 25 April 2010, p5.
‘Bitter battle to control the news agenda’, Mail & Guardian, Apr. 13-19, 2012, p10.
‘Mandela confirms Kerzner did contribute funds to ANC kitty’, SAPA, 10 Aug. 1996.
‘New Mandela letters show waste, corruption’,, 28 April 2010.