/ 18 January 2011

Quoth the Craven

Call me “ultra-critical” if you will, but I couldn’t help wincing at this extract from a Cosatu (Congress of Sadly Archaic Trade Unions, according to this columnist) birthday card to the ANC on the occasion of their 99th year of waiting for Jesus to come and fire them.

According to Comrade TM Patrick Craven of Cosatu: “The [ANC’s] key challenge for 2011 will be to convince the voters that the excellent resolutions passed in Polokwane in 2007 and reaffirmed at the National General Council on 2010 are being implemented and are starting to transform the lives of the workers and the poor.”

I don’t know — shouldn’t the key challenge be to actually implement those resolutions, and to start actually transforming the lives of the workers and the poor? Not to embark on some spindoctoring to give us the illusion that things are happening? But I don’t want to be overly “ultra-critical”, because Cosatu has been giving the Mail & Guardian some back-handed compliments lately.

Like this one, from the same birthday card: “‘Even the ultra-critical Mail & Guardian this week conceded in an editorial that ‘South Africa is very far from becoming the failed state that we see in Zimbabwe. In the provision of key socio-economic infrastructure, notably housing and clean water, much has been achieved. They are right.'”

I’m not sure what they mean by “conceded”. It’s as if Cosatu think that news organisations are their adversaries in some sort of debate which is about scoring points and forcing people around to your point of view (see the ‘convince the voters” point from above). I’d like to believe that the Mail & Guardian, and all reputable newspapers (I’m sure there are others out there) are about reporting things as they happen (or not happen, in the case of several government ministries), rather than selectively choosing what to report in order to score points in a debate. (And remember, I don’t work for the newspaper, so this is in no way an official response to Cosatu, merely the columnar ramblings of an online person.)

I’m also not sure what “ultra-critical” means. It’s okay to be marginally critical? Maybe change “Politician takes bribe” to “Politician takes relatively small bribe”? But in a sense, this Craven argument is correct. There are so many people out there, reared on a diet of Economist op-ed pieces, and uncles around the braai on Dingaan’s Day complaining about how too many public holidays are killing the economy, who would have us believe that there is such a thing as too much workers rights.

Well, they might be correct in that macro sense that benefits “the economy”, which really means their offshore accounts in the end, but if you’re an actual worker, serving drinks to fat cats at braais on your public “holiday”, you really don’t give a damn. It is a battle, the haves against the have-nots, the have-nots against the have-nots who have relatives in power, and the people formerly known as the haves against the nouveau haves. Which is all very complicated, but we’ll leave it to posterity to figure it out.

And speaking of posteriors — what ass writes the copy on the Cosatu website? Looking at the explanation of the Cosatu logo, I was intrigued to see that the colours of the flag all have meanings. Red is for the working class, Gold is for the wealth of South Africa. Fair enough, but Black stands for “The struggle against racial oppression by the black majority”. How long have Cosatu been siding with the AWB? I think if the Mail & Guardian was doing its ultra-critical job, the world would have known about this unholy alliance before now.

Comrade TM Craven, speaking about the progress made against crime and corruption, says that “even the curmudgeonly Mail & Guardian concedes that ‘there are encouraging signs that South Africa is becoming a less violent society — the official murder rate has fallen sharply since the mid-1990s’.” Curmudgeonly! Most of the younger online staff had to go and look the word up. But it’s a good word, and despite reminding me uncomfortably of the secret love child of Patricia De Lille and Jeremy Clarkson, it has validity.

It means “bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous”. What, people now want newspapers to be their buddies? Not take rampant corruption, gross governmental inefficiencies, and unethical exploitation of workers so seriously? Lighten up, man, it’s only affecting the poor workers, not including BMW salespersons? No, Comrade TM Craven, man up dude. As long as there’s evil out there, newspapers will be exposing it. And trust me on this one, there will always be evil out there.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisroperza, and read his blog at chrisroper.co.za