/ 15 March 2019

ANC applies the Ronaldo principle

Profits first: Cristiano Ronaldo still plays for Juventus
Profits first: Cristiano Ronaldo still plays for Juventus, despite facing rape allegations. (Marco Canoniero/Getty Images)


I’m totally gutted. My dreams of Atletico Madrid taking this season’s Champions League are dead.

My vision of seeing coach Diego Simeone hefting the trophy aloft on June 1 at Madrid’s Estadio Metropolitano, the club’s home ground since September 2017, wielding it triumphantly over his head like some kind of gilded battleaxe, is gone, banished by a 3-0 hammering the night before at the hands of Juventus in general and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular.

To be honest, Atleti were never really in the game on Tuesday night, despite having put Juve away 2-0 in the first leg.

Or, as striker Antoine Griezmann aptly put it in an interview with The Guardian on Wednesday: “We chose a bad day to fuck it up.’’

That’s football.

On one level, there’s no dishonour in being taken out by a footballing machine like Juve. Or Ronaldo, who, on his day, is the best attacking player on the planet.

On the other, there’s a possibility that Ronaldo should be serving time in jail for rape rather than doing what Juve bought him for, which adds a sour taste to the defeat and to Ronaldo’s magnificent footballing career, debasing it, turning it all to shit. The rape and victim-payoff allegations against Ronaldo appear to have had no effect on Juve coach Massimo Allegri’s selection of the player. Ronaldo is too valuable, both in euros invested in him and earned from TV and in goals and assists, to be suspended until the allegations against him are tested in court. It’s cynical, but so is professional football at this level: profits — trophies — come before principle.

I guess the ANC has done something of a Juve regarding its lists for the May 8 national and provincial elections.

The governing party has, despite earlier indications that it might do the right thing, played the “innocent until proven otherwise” card and fielded a team that is pretty populated with leaders caught, it seems, with their fingers in the till.

The ANC had indicated that its lists would be vetted by the party’s integrity committee, implying that those tainted by the scandals around the Gupta family, Bosasa and other corrupt networks brought to light since the last election might not make it back to Parliament or the legislatures.

Not a bad idea. The perfect way, in fact, to show the voting public that the party is serious about acting against the corrupt elements within its own ranks — that principle would, at last, be placed before profit.

I hit the TV remote, keen to see whether the Dagga Party had made the cut-off for registration.

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is on the screen.

Magashule appears more than a little chuffed as he informs the media that the only candidates culled from the ANC’s lists for the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and provincial legislatures are those who had criminal records of jail sentences of 12 months or longer without the option of a fine.

Candidates facing criminal charges or implicated by the Zondo commission into state capture or any of the other commissions appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa were left to decide for themselves whether they should remain on the list.

“Difficult conversations” have, Magashule says, been held with those facing charges or fingered at the Zondo or other commissions, but, ultimately, the choice was theirs.

“They are all there,” he rasps happily in response to questions as to whether current and former Cabinet members implicated in corruption, such as Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane and Bathabile Dlamini, had made the list.

Magashule appears unperturbed by the prospect that including the Bosasa Brigade and the Gupta Gang on the list might cause a backlash from voters.

“I’m not sure,” he says, adding that people “understand” and “love” the ANC.

The response is, on one level, maddening — an indication that the ANC either doesn’t give a toss what the voters think of the quality of its candidates, or believes that blind loyalty and continued patronage will stretch to another quarter century, or at least five years.

Risky and cynical, but this is politics.

Then again, Ace’s smug look is understandable, if the theory that his faction in the ANC is planning to call a vote of no confidence against Ramaphosa within the party and Parliament to cut short his term — and the clean-up of the state — is true.

If it is all about “five years, comrades”, to use Magashule’s own words, reorganising the Zuma faction in the ANC as part of a longer-term fightback, then loading the list with as many of its own people as possible despite the risk of a public backlash makes absolute sense.