24 December 2007

No Coup d’Etat

The Communist University is supposed to be taking it easy. So what are we doing here on Christmas Eve?

Well, for a few hours yesterday it began to look as if Thabo Mbeki was preparing a coup d’etat. The denials contained in his post-Polokwane personal press conference and the further denials and blamings in his
ANC Today letter looked like part of a deliberate build-up. When he announced that the gerrymandered, unrepresentative SABC board had been confirmed, and that he would address the nation on that same TV service, we began to fear a putsch.

Exactly why the SABC board confirmation is so outrageously provocative is made clear in the SACP statement, linked below. Apart from the specific history behind this act of Thabo Mbeki’s, it also serves to remind us that the power of patronage that goes with the Presidency of the Republic is still in the man’s personal hands, and that he intends to use it to his personal advantage. The man is literally out of control.

So we feared a coup; plus, all of a sudden, the broader crisis that some of us had seen coming was all over the newspapers. The rest of the linked items below come from three different Johannesburg Sunday newspapers. They range between the general question of “two centres of power”, back to the particular and sensitive matter of the SABC board and the blatant use of the SABC for partisan and factional propaganda. A glance at the titles of these documents gives a good idea of what is in them. But opening and reading them is better!

One CU reader has pointed out that in the French experiences of “cohabitation”, there was always a “winner” and therefore also a loser. In less than a week it has already become clear that this must be the case in South Africa, too. The situation is adversarial. The contradiction is antagonistic. The “battle of the two Presidents” is in full swing. Goodwill could perhaps change this, but on the TM side there is no goodwill, only denial, hatred and resentment.

We were relieved when Mbeki eventually came on-screen at 20h00. It was not after all to the sound of martial music and the announcement of curfews. Instead it was a pat-a-cake, milk-toast session of sweetheart questions from Miranda Strydom and Thabiso Makwetla. Mbeki said that he did not know why Jacob Zuma had been preferred over him for President of the ANC. He denied that he is “aloof”. He appeared to be slightly drunk.

We know that there are not very many of you out there reading this. This edition is for CU archive of documents as much as for anything else. Journalism is sometimes called “the first draft of history”. On days like yesterday, the meaning of this saying is extra clear. There were so many facts and opinions hitting the journalists that they hardly had time or space for spin-doctoring. The result is a strong, raw kind of empirical reporting that is very powerful and that will be useful as a resource for longer-term studies.

So here is a selection of yesterday’s reports for the archives, if nothing else. The next post will carry four outstanding opinion pieces from the same Sunday newspapers.

Click on these links:

SACP Statement on the appointment of the new SABC Board (290 words)

Two centres of power clash, Jeremy Gordin, Sunday Independent (1031 words)

Mbeki fights back, Harper, Mahlangu, Mkhabela, Malefane, S Times (1025 words)

New Mbeki, ANC clash over SABC board, Kgosana, Mofokeng, C Press (855 words)

The war goes on, Mbeki SABC board outrage, Angela Qintal, Sindy (932 words)

Doom and gloom for the three SABC stooges, Harper, S Times (355 words)


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