Ace Magashule, the secretary general of the ANC, appears a little baffled — lost, even — as he limps his way, somewhat painfully, through the statement outlining the outcome of the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla.
Magashule is clearly battling as he reads out the decisions the party took about the future and role of the Reserve Bank — or at least his faction’s version of what happened — and what needs to be done to get the economy out of the deep hole that he and his party have dug for it.
It appears as if Magashule is himself stunned by the contents of what he is reading; as if the man is unconvinced by — or unfamiliar with — the words in front of him.
Magashule gathers himself, shakes off the air of a man who’s not sure whether it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, and stumbles on, grinding the words out.
Perhaps the paper is blank, save for the ANC logo, and Magashule is simply making this up as he goes along, ad-libbing non-stop because the NEC factions couldn’t agree on the content of a statement to issue. Perhaps they did, and Magashule didn’t like the content, and is ignoring it and creating his own version of events as he goes along. That might as well be the case, given the amount of sense he’s making.
Then, almost miraculously, Magashule’s delivery gains some momentum — an element of composure, even — as he gets to the bit about printing money.
All of a sudden Magashule is in his element, eyes agleam, as he clears his throat, raspingly.
For a second, at least in his imagination, Magashule is minister of finance, printing gazillions of rands at will, lovely big notes with former president Jacob Zuma’s head grinning on the front and the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound on the back.
The backlash Magashule’s performance elicits — from the markets and from the leaders of the other faction in the ANC — is predictable. The rand takes another thumping; Finance Minister Tito Mboweni takes to Twitter to contradict pretty much every word Magashule has uttered.
The presidency keeps quiet.
The attempts by ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe to interpret Magashule’s musings are also predictable, and just as unconvincing as the secretary general’s delivery.
Mabe says, well, pretty much nothing, talks in circles as he tries in vain to clean up Magashule’s mess.
Is it something I smoked, or is Mabe starting to look more and more like Magashule every day?
Either the ANC spokesperson went for cosmetic surgery to make himself resemble his boss more closely during his time away from the office, or getting up close and personal with Bra Yster is rubbing off — literally — on Mabe.
They even dress alike these days. I wonder who does the clothes shopping, Ace or Pule? Do they wait for two-for-the-price-of-one specials or is Magashule still flush enough to buy two of each item?
The truth is, the two look more like father and son than secretary general and spokesperson these days; both are particularly hard to follow when they speak, particularly when it comes to matters fiscal and what went down in the ANC NEC; neither is all that convincing, if one is to be frank.
Perhaps father and son is an inappropriate description of the couple. Working with Magashule as ANC spokesperson is clearly taking its toll on the once youthful Mabe and ageing him rapidly. If things continue at the current pace — and there is no sign that the madness in the former liberation movement is by any means over — by the time the next ANC conference comes around, Magashule and Mabe may have become twins.
Then again, there has always been that ANC thing of looking like the boss, of borrowing terminology from the sitting leadership, at least since the party was unbanned.
Think about it.
When Nelson Mandela was in charge, bad Afro shirts and slacks were a uniform for the comrades, once the khakis got put away. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi quotes were the order of the day.
When Thabo Mbeki was the lahnee, all the ANC cats wore those Cuban shirts or those white-collar on striped-front formal shirts with no tie. The comrades stopped cutting their hair. Smoked pipes. Chief was the word. The comrades started using the internet and reading up on poems written by dead white men. Late at night.
Whisky was a thing.
Under Kgalema Motlanthe, Bertolt Brecht, chin stroking and those half-goatee chin beards gained overnight popularity among the comrades, albeit briefly.
In the Zuma decade, the comrades shaved their heads, giggled and raided the till while singing along to Mfiliseni Magubane, so Mabe morphing into Magashule may just be another organic ANC process playing itself out.