Riots in Tshwane: A Window into the ANC’s Psyche

With the patina of age, the real ANC has been revealed. Like in a 22 year old marriage, the state of the relationship is not determined by telling one’s spouse how much one loves them but by showing how much one cares. So it is with the riots in Tshwane. The ANC members wanted one candidate yet the party unilaterally foists another candidate on the metro.

That is one dimension of what has occurred. What is more illustrative is how the members actually reacted. No longer was it robust debate but rather an unedifying display of base emotion? What do those reactions reveal of the members’ real psyche and the current state of the ANC?

Main picture: Scenes of violence and wanton destruction in Pretoria which the SABC banned South Africans from viewing

Violent political disagreement is not unknown in South Africa. The battle by the ANC to dethrone the reigning monarchs in KwaZulu Natal, the IFP, turned violent. Nay murderous. Let us not be euphemistic. The rest of South Africa was spared these political shenanigans. South Africans shrugged as they dismissed the violent behaviour as a KwaZulu Natal sideshow.


Factions are a natural phenomenon within all political parties world-wide. The differences between the factions are ideological with the one being classified as right wing and the other left wing. What bodes ill for the ANC, and by definition South Africa, is that the political differences between the factions are indiscernible. Hence they can be classified as “no wing.” The pivotal driving motive of the non-ruling faction is to shove the ruling faction’s snouts from the trough & to insert theirs. Some even brazenly state they want some of the honey.


In the Tshwane metropolitan council, the Major Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa’s faction did not voluntarily relinquish their turn at the honey. Hence it was a foregone conclusion that the faction led by his deputy, Mapiti Matsena, would take umbrage. Matsena wanted his turn at the trough and they wanted it now. Not in another five years time.

Councillor Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa’s

Councillor Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa’s

This tawdry situation is endemic to the ANC. Unlike in the old Apartheid South Africa where most politically active individuals actually had a profession which they could fall back on, in the ANC’s case even low level ANC activists have no other income. Given the imperative of having to earn money, the power of the factions becomes ineluctable.


Instead of the normal robust discussions between political factions in a political party, these differences degenerate into personal squabbles, eventually becoming violent. The adoption of policy positions is transitory, merely being used as a tool against the opposing faction rather than any plan to actually implement them.

Buses being set alight

Buses being set alight

Note what happens when the opposing faction obtains power. A striking feature of these changes in power is that all existing contracts are terminated and new ones negotiated with completely new suppliers. The vexed question of software comes to mind. Even if a multi-billion Rand IT project has recently gone live, it will be scrapped on some spurious grounds such as the residents are not paying their electricity. A new replacement piece of software will have to be purchased at a staggering cost to the ratepayers, riding rough-shod over the facts. All of this is in an attempt to get their “honey.”


The usual litmus test regarding competence of appointees has long been discarded by the ANC. The appointment of the ultimate incompetent cadre, Jacob Zuma himself, kiboshed that requirement. With his leadership deficit, the appointment of competent leaders is now more by luck than design. His continued endorsement of Des van Rooyen by categorising him as being better than Pravin Gordhan is testimony to his lack of judgement.


As the ANC in Tshwane were tearing each other’s eyes out, an ANC cadre, Thoko Didiza, was deployed to resolve the impasse between the factions and stamp her authority. What happened? The ANC cadre deployment playbook in Tshwane did not cast it spell over the (un)mesmerised members. Instead of the ANC members in Tshwane accepting the “placatory gesture” they discarded the ANC’s fig leaf of non-racialism by stating that Thoko did not belong to any of the tribes which reside in Tshwane. To add grist to the mill, they advanced the absurd notion that because she was Zulu, she must return to KwaZulu Natal in spite of being resident in Pretoria for 20 years.

SABC viewers views of rioting in Pretoria

SABC viewers views of rioting in Pretoria

Amongst many of its sins, the ANC is still in denial regarding factionalism. Until they take a harsher stance against this malady, like an insidious disease, it will engulf the whole of the ANC, as it most surely will.


What was the national broadcaster’s view of the looting, pillaging and general mayhem 90 kms north of its Auckland Park studios? In line with Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s “Pravda philosophy”, the delicate eyes of the South Africans had to be spared the sight of such carnage as this would incite them to follow the rioters’ example.

In true “His Master’s Voice” mode, viewers and listeners to SABC were spared the details of the wanton violence north of Joburg.


In several metros including Tshwane the ANC is facing serious headwinds. If rioting can erupt on this scale when one faction cannot get its just reward, it is not idle speculation to imagine what will occur if the ANC in Tshwane had to lose power to the opposition. Will both factions in the ANC reunite to violently take on the party in power? This is currently a vexing problem in many African countries. It is a chilling echo of what might well happen in South Africa.


The ANC’s deftness at avoiding any form of criticism of their members’ errant behaviour is primarily based upon the plausible deniability principle. Again this defence was rolled out by the ANC spokesmen. Essentially they claim that as loyal cadres, the ANC members would not have participated in such actions. The absurd notion that ANC members and supporters are innocent of the destruction in spite of the fact that tensions between the factions were are boiling point. The unseemly haste with which the ANC apportioned blame to non-ANC supporting thugs, reeks of insincerity.

Even with her air of competence, will Thoko Didiza be able to douse the flames of violent rebellion within Tshwane let alone muster excitement, enthusiasm and energy for the ANC’s election platform?


Clearly the events of the past few days have cleaved deep scars within the psyche of the ANC in Tshwane. But will it be the stimulus to rectify a dysfunctional organisation?

Zapiro take on rioting in Tshwane from The Times dated 23 06 2016

Zapiro take on rioting in Tshwane from The Times dated 23 06 2016

Perhaps saner voices within the electorate will now concur that the ANC is beyond redemption.

But will this be sufficient to tip the scales further towards an opposition victory in this prestigious metro?

Images of Looting

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Scenes of wanton destruction

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