I am starting to believe that I have been wrong: that what I attributed to the incompetence of South Africa’s governing party, had less to do with their inability to perform, but rather because they simply do not have the interest in doing so.
So much so that because of the perceived incompetence of the ANC, South Africans might have underestimated their strategic ability: a talent that is evident in their execution of their foreign policy.
January 2024 has been the ANC’s most successful month. Not only have they managed to inflict damage on their long time obsession, Israel, but they have successfully diverted the country’s media and population’s attention away from their enormous failure back home in terms of service delivery: failure that has resulted in the destruction of most key functions of the country.
Motivation aside, the ANC’s focus and campaign against Israel has to be admired. It is a strategy, though not launched on 7 October 2023 when Hamas entered Israel, was kicked into high gear immediately following.
Although their campaign centres around genocide, this was never really the case, especially if one considers that immediately following the 7 October the massacre, the ANC donned Palestinian scarves and stood publicly with their cause. Before Israel had time to respond, the ANC made it clear that they would have no sympathy for Israelis who were murdered, kidnapped, tortured and raped.
Not a word of condolence was sent to Israel or to the Israeli ambassador in South Africa.
The October massacre even had Israel reeling. Caught unaware, the country took days to mobilise. The dead were not yet counted, the extent of the horror was still unknown and the information that was still emerging was too graphic and cruel to contemplate.
The people of Israel had been dealt a body blow unlike any they had experienced. They were winded and wounded.
Reports of mass sexual assault; of women and children being thrown into vehicles and taken away screaming from their families; of fathers and mothers brutally tortured in front of their children before being murdered; was hard to believe. That is aside from the hundreds of young people slaughtered en masse at a music festival as they watched the sun rise over the desert.
Before Israel had the time to catch its breath, the ANC launched what can only be described as another front. While Israel tried to regain the areas lost in a physical war, the ANC launched a political one designed to take on the country the way that Hamas could not.
Word of Naledi Pandor calling Hamas, was leaked to the press. The President’s office initially denied it. But caught in the lie answered that she had called Hamas leadership to offer “humanitarian support”: a combination of words that make no sense, considering that they were the aggressor and considering that Israel had not launched their counter offensive.
She didn’t even pretend to have asked Hamas to release the hostages.
Following the call to Hamas, Pandor immediately travelled to Qatar, home of Hamas leadership and then to Iran, alleged sponsors of the attack on Israel.
And then she launched the International Court of Justice attack on a country still trying to recover their citizens from the tunnels beneath Gaza.
This is a political party who will look the country in the eye and tell them that a swimming pool is a fire pool. This was admitted publicly in an attempt to embarrass ex-president Jacob Zuma. But all they did was prove that they have no discomfort with dishonesty when it suits them and knowing that there is little that will be done about it.
They attended the case as if it was a world cup finals. As unusual as it is to wear team scarves to a court case, the move was smart in that it sent a message to South Africans that we are competing for the country and that this is about national pride. South African media lapped it up and obediently followed the script that they were given.
In fact, many South African news publications – having drunk from the make believe cup of “team South Africa” – continue to do so, not asking the minister questions and not probing aspects of the strategy, impact, fairness, motivation or the source of funding.
With the ICJ case, the ANC has shown that they are capable of following and executing a strategy when it’s important to them. They have illustrated that they are able to ignore the criticism and the noise and make sure that the goal is reached.
In doing so, the “fire pool” party has made it clear that if they wanted to, they could have solved the electricity crises, might have saved Transnet, not created the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, not gifted the country with 70 murders a day and that they might have stopped the corruption of their party. They just didn’t think it was important enough.