The Politics of Victimhood – A reality in SA !

The Politics of victimhood ! “ Is the victim and villain psyche, holding SA hostage”?

Are we not sliding into the abyss of unaccountability and irresponsibility claiming victimhood as an excuse when we have a legitimate case to answer?

The NDC of the ANC has pronounced on the mitigation against sentence of the three Youth League leaders. When the NDCA Chairperson some three weeks ago read out the verdict of its deliberations, it confirmed the guilty verdict with a proviso that an opportunity is extended to the appellants to make their case for mitigation of sentence, this extended provision also equally afforded the prosecutors to make an equal case for aggravation.

The NDC has concluded that in the case of Floyd Shivambu and Sindiso Magaqa they have each received informed by their first offender status a 3 year suspended sentence. As for Julius Malema, he due to the fact that he had made himself guilty of the same contravention in less than 2 years and coupled with his utterances of rejecting the NDC and NDCA findings and threatening a veiled mobilisation of Youth – Uprise in the ANC was deemed as someone who cannot be rehabilitated in membership sense hence expulsion is the order of the day.

The debates and discussions are raging on all fronts, pitting opposing and conflicting views of those who believe the sentence is too harsh and has clear political motive or gerrymandering as base and those who believe that justice was done in organisational context where discipline seemed to have become a somewhat remote practice in recent ANC history.

Amidst all these opposing liberally shared views in all media platforms one is beginning to make an observation that as South Africans it appears we are in love with the idea of ‘victim and villain psyche’. It appears that our obsession with victim and villain psyche blurs our objective thinking, logical reasoning and rightful analyses.

The Malema saga is the latest episode in this victim and villain drama. I shall revert back to him a little later but must first cite a few maybe forgotten incidents.

If we remember that fateful morning in 2005 when Jacob Zuma as deputy president of country and organisation was fired by the sitting President Thabo Mbeki, on the basis of an impending court case of fraud as claimed partnered by a Shabir Shaik, he was made out a victim of the brutal political maneuverings of an Mbeki arsenal.

Zuma went around the whole country (ANC context) drumming up support and showed the scars of these skirmishes with a supposed political villain who refused to have people disagree with him. It was not difficult for Zuma to find comrades who shared in what I choose to call the ‘brotherhood of the collective hurt’ he easily found many who equally claimed inflicted scars supposedly experienced at the same hand. These included many such as Siphiwe Nyanda, Billy Masetlha, Ace Magashula, Tony Yengeni, Blade Nzimande and many others. Zuma’s ascendency to the throne came heavily indebted to the ‘brotherhood of the collective hurt’ because he was made out a victim and Mbeki the villain.

What we cannot argue is that Zuma had a case to answer, and if it was not for the political expedient moves of NDPP heads both positive and negative for his political career, as we remember the ill-timed and unfortunate press briefing of a Bulelani Ngcuka, the so called role of a Vusi Pikoli and ultimately the withdrawing of charges as articulated by a Mokotedi Mpshe. Notwithstanding the role of the NDPP heads Zuma if we understand the Shabir Shaik case had a case to answer.

In a twist of tails when Advocate Willem Heath did the unthinkable of pronouncing his clearly political and pain–borne views on Mbeki’s role in dealing with a Zuma, many who deem themselves black who had lived through that epoch and knowing the claims acted as if these claims were new, necessarily the design and making of a Willem Heath. For a split second Heath was made out the villain and Thabo Mbeki the victim.

It remains a mystery as to what made a Heath to prove bold enough to prove quiet until such time as he was appointed SIU Boss, an office he held for hardly two weeks when he had to resign as a direct result of these conclusive statements. Yet what cannot be denied is the fact that at that time Mbeki, was blamed as one who did not appreciate the political ambitions of the others (Ramaphosa, Sexwale and Phosa investigation claims). The same who at the time demanded that Zuma make known his political ambitions and Zuma obliged to say he had none.

What cannot be disputed is that in the greater scheme of things Mbeki had a case to answer for the claim of those who argued he was intolerant to the ambitions of others therefore instituting charges against those who aspired. Many made Mbeki out the villain, as Zuma became the victim.

Notwithstanding the inadmissibility of evidence to prove that Mbeki directly was instrumental in dealing with a Zuma politically with the blessedness of state machinery, the issue remains the claim of political interference or orchestration, which was never tested or proved, yet felt looms forever in the backdrop casting a silhouette of Mbeki imagery.

We saw another jolt of this ‘victim and villain psyche’ when Mbeki was recalled in that scary yet eventful and historic week in September of 2008. Suddenly many felt the same man who was made out a villain and the so called control freak who destroyed as was claimed free thinking in ANC embrace and supposedly used state apparatus to deal with others who had political aspirations, in one night reduced even a Phylicia Oppelt (Sunday times columnist) to tears by her own admission. Mbeki proved pragmatic and did not choose to fight the decision of the ANC but vacated his seat, and became a victim until a COPE testified of its birth the perceptive reality of such victimhood. The ones who triumphed in Polokwane were made out the villains.

Recently, the National Government took over five departments in Limpopo who as a Provincial Government was teetering on bankruptcy exemplified in an overspent of close to R2bilion and a looming threat of non-payment of civil servants and essential services. This Section 100 intervention, which ought to be accepted as a provision made to be acted upon when the need arises, took all forms of twists in interpretation. We heard the remonstrations of political motive behind this intervention, notwithstanding the fact that it was the Province who approached the National Government for assistance.

The investigations are ongoing and one may not yet pronounce on the final outcomes, yet the issue of flaunting PFMA requirements, the abuse of tender procedures and state resources is widely beginning to be accepted as the critical reasons for the pathetic state of Limpopo Province’s financial condition. Quickly the issues became clouded and wrapped into political motive as the core reason behind the intervention. A Cassel Mathale, Soviet Lekganyane and many others never admitted to the state of the Province, but opted to see themselves as a victims and a Zuma administration the villain out to get at some politicians with 2012 Mangaung as the true reason.

This brings us to the Malema issue. Malema was one of those who publicly declared his was willingness to die for  a Jacob Zuma. Zwelinzima Vavi too said the same although he had a heart change in the heat of the fiercest public strike in post-apartheid context in 2010, when he said “I will never again say I will die for someone.” in reference to his dissatisfaction with a Zuma leadership. Malema, however as a member of the ANC joined the party voluntarily at the age of 11 as claimed. He accepted the organisational precepts and statutes as that which he shall uphold always putting the organisation first.

Yet he contravened in 2010 and was hauled before a NDC hearing, which he subjected himself to and was found guilty the same sentence he accepted without exercising his right to appeal at the time. It is important to note that the sentence at the time combined two aspects, on the one hand it laid it a list of activities / programmes aimed at aiding Malema to understand the ANC and it’s praxis better and two the challenge of no similar repeat due to its seriousness. Needless to say little was done to help him, for he found himself charged again in 2011.

Let me also make a footnote here, we all have written extensively and have been covered in a variety of print media on the role of a Malema in the critical issue of economic redress, though we may argue from a plethora of opposing reasons why he chose this issue as his mantra, no different to a Zwelinzima Vavi who has become the “molded” face of anti-corruption, we must afford Julius Sello Malema the respect to admit until his leadership the issue of economic redress remained a mumbled and directionless discourse in ANC circles especially because the agreed settlement of CODESA and subsequent constitution renders us all equal making this redress issue a challenging issue for this broad church Organisation, with an androgynous economic policy formulation coupled with the fact that many of its NEC boast billionaires and millionaire mile high club membership.

Yet, Malema, contravened the constitution of his beloved, ANC, he did not do so once but more than once and he faced hearings of which he accepted the first and rejected the second, throwing everything from NDC members bias, no space to mitigate for sentencing, ultimately rejecting the NDCA findings and declaring war on the leadership, though as he claim his blood remains green, gold and black. The NDC found that Malema has shown no remorse but used the mitigation to claim his complete innocence of any contravention of ANC policy rendering to question the entire disciplinary hearing of 2011 and the NDCA of 2012 as targeting him.

Malema has persuaded some to believe he is a victim and the existing ANC leadership the villain. Many have argued why was a political solution not found for him as they claimed was found for Zuma. This question does not make sense if closely examined simply because Zuma did not face a NDC hearing, we may argue he should have but at the time no case was made against him that could have proven or not whether he contravened the ANC constitution for the litany of things he stood accused as carried by the media. The pending investigations against the expelled leader’s finances, will also be made out as a with-hunt all part of the artillery the villain is using to deal with the victim. Again the wrongfulness of the purported deeds of tender rigging etc, proves immaterial and warrants no mention for all that matter is the victim and villain psyche must hold.

The proverbial hydra of ‘victim and villain psyche’ has many tentacles not just in ANC circles but also in many other sectors of our society, at least in my assessment.

SADTU is quick to claim a victim status as it blames Government for reneging on promises and for the state of education in SA. It claims a victimhood and makes the very government and everyone else villains. Yet SADTU never admits their collective responsibility in our poor matric pass, the fact that education has been made a political football in which at the drop of a hat industrial strike action can be ordered without ever considering the impact on the rights of students who has a right to be taught for almost 7 hours a day. Yet SADTU will tell us they are victims and there is someone or some group that constitutes the villain who is hell-bent on denying them its members their constitutional rights.

The Media is not excused from this victim and villain psyche, when it seeks to claim a fourth estate right, with self-regulation as an inalienable birthright. For any call on this sector of our society to transform  comes pelted with “we are victims and the ANC led Government is the villain”. The villain is wicked and out to destroy the victim. Yet the media never owns up to the litany of discrepancies that exist in self-regulation. It proves silent on the desperate need to transform at all levels which until now is interpreted as a sufficient in a few black editors. It claims a victim status and makes the state out to be the villain, and is prepared to mobilise against this villain whose aims according to the media remain suspect and evil. 

The Judiciary do the same, any questioning of such comes loaded with the acceptance of a victim and villain psyche wherein it is claimed the judiciary is under attack, by a Government who seeks to control it. Yet the judiciary argues it has already transformed as former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson myopically pontificates from a 64% black bench statistic as proof of such transformation. The judiciary makes the politicians out as villains, enemies of democracy  and therefore the people yet it claims for itself a victim status. Zapiro’s cartoons testified boldly and graphically how lady justice is purportedly being raped by the ANC leadership.

Perhaps Sindiso Magaqa for now still the serving Secretary General of the ANCYL in his mitigation made this point emphatic, erroneous and ill-informed though but clear when he said “in the ANCYL we deal with discipline through political means”. This notion dictates one must negotiate ill discipline, the ethos for discipline is subservient to political negotiations, it arbitrarily argues no one is guilty really, these are all victims and there are some villains (evil and wicked people) who have their political agendas hence these hearings. It advocates discipline is best served in negotiated settlement. 

This reasoning as absurd as it is, has gripped the minds and emotions of many who believe Malema was dealt with from pure political motive and did not make himself guilty of  any ill-discipline.  They confuse the agenda of economic redress with the issue of ill-discipline, the former remains a legitimate issue and the ANC has no issue but to begin to deal with this unless it is willing to suffer more haemorrhage.

The proponents of the Malema victim theory elevate a 2012 Mangaung Elective Conference to a ‘god- like status’ as a ultimate place where in ANC NEC embrace it will deal with the villain and his motive who now has scored the first victories. The truth is no doubt Zuma is potentially benefitting from these verdicts yet it is no excuse for the legitimate cases the Youth League leaders faced and was found to have contravened ANC Constitution, Malema and YL leaders had a case to answer before the NDC and they failed to prove their innocence. The Women’s League came out saying it accepted the NDC ruling for the NDC and NDCA are legitimate structures set up by the ANC NEC to ensure discipline is practiced in the life of the organisation as a non-negotiable, yet some Provincial Youth Leagues have rejected the NDC and NDCA rulings.

Perhaps the most interesting view came from Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula widely earmarked in some Youth Leagues circles as the replacement for Gwede Mantashe as Secretary General of the ANC in an argument of generational mix leadership. Mbalula, bemoans the decision as a historic event, he goes on to argue that former leaders were patient with the Youth “if it was not for their patience we would long have been expelled”.

Again, the victim and villain psyche even on the part of the Minister, who claims to be a loyal member of the ANC, but proves veiled in his attack on a villain, less stated but congregated in what juxtaposes as ‘the former leadership’. This by interpretation unequivocally suggests the present leadership is the villain and the expelled ANCYL president the victim, let us see how far Mbalula will push his views before it becomes challenging to the NDC and NDCA findings.  One had hoped that the Minister would have drawn a distinction between issues, yet it is easy to embrace the victim and villain status. 

Magaqa encapsulates my concern with the politics of victimhood, in which we never own up but seek to find solutions  in accosting blame outside ourselves when we do wrong. Political solutions that keeps no one accountable, where people may prove corrupt and be redeployed. It seems it always works to blame someone else, instead of owning up. This romanticizing of ‘victim and villain psyche’ in which accountability is left in abeyance and mediocrity embraced where owning up is never the order of the day, and blaming everyone else is becoming the defining skyline of a conflated morality in what we call SA as a liberated nation.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

A Member of the Thinking Masses


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