Faku the hero

It must be difficult being an African National Congress (ANC) hero. One has such large shoes to fill.

Just ask Nceba “Firestarter” Faku, the powerful head of the ANC in the Eastern Cape and former mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
He celebrated the ANC’s hitherto uncertain victory in the city after the local government elections by calling on his supporters to burn down the offices of the local newspaper, the Herald.

I know what you’re thinking. What’s the problem? It’s Port Elizabeth. They should burn the whole town down.

Now now, Windy City haters. There’s a larger principle at stake here. And that principle is the future of one-uppance in the ruling party.

Faku has to live up to some very intimidating and honourable role models in the ANC. Like Julius Malema, the undisputed reigning hero of the ruling party. The ANC Youth League leader was in fine form in the lead-up to the elections, outdoing all others in sweeping the party to victory using racial hatred. And why not? He’s been in training for years. No matter what the topic at hand, Malema found a way to insult:

  1. White people.

  2. Helen Zille.

  3. Helen Zille and white people.
Land problems? The whites were criminals who stole the land. Subsistence fishermen struggling to make a living? White companies were to blame. The man is a genius.

It’s a really tough act to follow, especially when you consider his final election feat to crown it all. Malema transcended race entirely by racially insulting the black spokesperson of the opposition party. He refused to debate the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Lindiwe Mazibuko, calling her the “tea girl” of the “madam”, Malema’s little pet name for Zille. It’s exactly this sort of non-racialism that struggle stalwarts like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu fought for. Now white men everywhere can call young black women tea girls without fear or shame.

So you see why our man Faku was at a loss. How does one beat a class act like that?

Yes, I heard how he chanted “we need a Malema in town!”, along with his calls to “fight bullet with bullet”. But I know what you were really thinking, Faku. You want to BE the next Malema. And who can blame you? Your dodgy municipal land deals and suspected dipping into government coffers get exposed by all and sundry. Malema’s waste management deals in Limpopo, however, are neatly swept under the carpet. It’s a hard-knock life for wannabe heroes.

Don’t despair
But don’t despair just yet. You’ve been doing a fine job of raising yourself to those dizzying heights attained by Malema, all in a neat series of steps:

  1. Find a holy cow, e.g. media freedom, racial unity. You know, anything the ANC once fought for.

  2. Slaughter it. Publicly and, if possible, violently.

  3. Make sure everyone knows you’re doing it in the ANC’s interest.
Another important step from the Malema School of Political Leadership is to insult white people and then IMMEDIATELY insult black people, as in: “White parties must be driven into the sea. Blacks who voted for white parties must be driven into the sea.”

With all this slaughtering of cows and being driven into the sea, I can’t help but think of Nongqawuse, that feisty 14-year-old Xhosa prophetess who, 155 years ago, made a similar call in the same province that Faku issued his own visionary command. Kill our cows and the whites will be driven into the sea, said Nongqawuse. The cows were dutifully killed. And the Xhosa people of the area were driven to famine and disaster, their population decimated.

No matter though, Nongqawuse, like Faku, had her moment of glory—consequences be damned. Was she manipulated by her uncle? The British? Perhaps—just as Faku was no lone actor. He operated in an environment where a senior member of his party, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, had just prior stated that the party’s real opposition were the media.

“We must realise that in these elections the main opposition are the media. Leave the DA, leave Cope ... we will work very hard against that strong opposition,” he said.

From there it was a short and logical step for the man with the matches and the Faku attitude to incite supporters to burn down that damn opposition.

So well done Faku and Mantashe. So much for your party’s insistence that it is the original party of Nelson Mandela. Killing the holy cows that he and the ANC once died to protect and placing your people’s future in major jeopardy? It’s not the spirit of Mandela you’re living, I’m afraid, but that of Nongqawuse: immature, confused and manipulative, with the power to destroy a nation.

  • You can read Verashni’s column every week here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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