Gordhanism is an emerging phenomenon were Pravin Gordhan and his associates including Ramaphosa, are never to be touched by the media and the courts in our country. The eNCA saga is a clear example.
This week, eNCA, the privately-owned 24-hour television news station was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
In a sense, one should accept it was just a matter of time before the factional and political agenda behind eNCA would be exposed.
We know of this since Samkelo Maseko, a journalist in its fold was frogmarched out of the Hyde Park newsroom by his former boss Kanthan Pillay.
In a series of tweets, Maseko exposed alarming levels of political interference and partisanship at the channel. As the drama unfolded, which saw the infamous tweet of “rats are swimming to a sinking ship” from Pillay lead to his firing, I pondered on what I have come to define as Gordhanism. eNCA, with the orchestrated demise of ANN7, was given free reign to become the proverbial public kitchen where recipes were dreamt up and cooked into salacious meals.
That kitchen trained blacks to hate the black identity, singling out the weaknesses of black people in government, business or academic leadership. The spice and spite of eNCA was for black people to go after black people.
Steve Biko said the greatest weapon the enemy had over black people was the latter’s mind. Do not get me wrong, I am for the existence of eNCA. This is not dissimilar to how I defended the existence of an ANN7 if press freedom is the premise.
From what we hear, Maseko found himself as one playing out of character for the already written script when he dared to challenge the self-made holy grail of what I will term Gordhanism. Longs standing ideological constructs such as capitalism, socialism and communism in this epoch appear to be momentarily eclipsed by phenomena of pseudo ideologies theories that manifests in phenomena.
In the US, we have Trumpism. Trumpism generally refers to the non-traditional political philosophy and approach espoused by US President Donald Trump and his supporters. The term Trumpism can also be used to directly refer to an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.
Well, in a strange twist of political leadership in SA I wish to postulate we have Gordhanism as its contemporary in South Africa. You may wonder why I am not engaging Ramaphosaism as well, but that is simply because it does not exist since Gordhanism, by extension, produced a Ramaphosa leadership by campaigning and raising funds for CR17 and continues to sustain it. Gordhanism is a phenomenon in our modern body politic that manifests daily. I think of it as the false identity of messiahship that parades as the natural custodians of anti-corruption, always trusted and never questioned.
It is a phenomenon that conflates a person for a democratic system. It arrogates a right not to be questioned and demands loyalty and respect on all fronts. A phenomenon that characteristically distinguishes itself as specializing in hollow deflections of blaming others when its glaring failures are increasingly visible if not tangible. Gordhanism is the androgynous identity of being claiming victimhood while parading as the bully of Tarkastad that speaks as a supreme leader with low regard for his audiences. Gordhanism is the sophisticated act of meticulous erosion of hard-earned necessary gains on transformation by shading these as deficient in the claim of quality and standards. It masquerades in Guru Status on the hokum of state capture when it arrogates a right to accuse others while not willing to be subjected to due cross-examination for its claims. Gordhanism as political phenomenon purports the superhero status of an individual promoted as swayed in the fixing of things. It is the elevation of someone to a deity when in fact the individual is working aggressively working for the demise of transformation. Gordhanism evidence speaks boldly to how many billion were stolen in the media created crime of ‘state capture’ but cannot tell South Africa who are the real beneficiaries of Eskom’s 30-50 year green contracts. So paralysing is Gordhanism that not even the smartest so-called independent journalist in SA has yet dared to ask difficult questions around Eskom and other failing SOE’s under his superhero control.
It thrives off the scarecrow of a Gupta hate, even though almost four years later the Guptas are absent. Yet the Guptas still serve as a useful tool in playing with the psyche of South Africans.
It appears when Maseko wanted to engage Gordhanism, be it accidentally or in solemn conviction to report on its machinations on a Member of Parliament Bongo’s categorical assertions of how Gordhan threatened him, he ran into a blizzard that marked the beginning of the end of his short-lived hero status where he was instructed by the likes of Kanthan Pillay to necessarily turn a blind eye on Gordhanism while keeping the heat on the media created natural enemies, those scripted and demonized as demons in SA’s one-dimensional media narrative. In that sense, we can argue Gordhanism claimed another victim.
How and where then can we trace the first seedlings of the phenomenon of Gordhanism?
Some may know of an earlier date possibly even in the liberation struggle era of United Democratic Front descriptions. I, however, mark the first tendencies of this phenomenon as visible in March 2016. We all know that Gordhan was an average minister in his first coming as Minister of Finance, nothing spectacular no hero at all.
It, however, was the time Gordhan in his second coming as Minister of Finance delivered his budget speech and was instantaneously made out an economic messiah and a victim of an attack. In a pummelled one dimensional discourse where increasingly opposite voices are drowned, Gordhan in a twist of events was overnight declared an endangered species all because the Hawks wanted him to answer some questions.
He became a singular minister whom without South Africa could never survive. The twist in this is that while he became the economic messiah he became the one rallied around, protected and absolved from being questioned.
In that season we learnt again of an undying SARS rogue unit case. No sooner did the news break on this when we heard a crossbreed of voices. Some from very opportunistic clergy, others purely ill-informed and yet others from the conspiracy of the world of a minister versus president testosterone laced contest underscoring a victimhood and villain status as the defined political landscape. In that space placards surfaced of Gordhan for president. The chorus to defend Gordhan became conflated, if not convulsed, with claims that he is the bastion of economic defence and the victim of a smear campaign by individuals who are enemies of South African economic success. Fuelled by this newfound fame, Gordhan blatantly refused to respond to the questions sent to him by the Hawks.
Gordhanism was born when it became correct to defend Gordhan as the new opposite of a Zuma presidency. The president then was blackmailed to intervene in the Hawks investigation conveniently oblivious to the fact that such intervention would translate to a constitutional violation.
The ANC’s deputy secretary-general lambasted Gordhan’s decision not to make a warning statement with the Hawk saying he is projecting himself as above the law. This cultic admiration and uncritical engagement of an individual politician that is treated so different from his peers equally in cabinet necessitate my conviction to postulate the phenomenon of Gordhanism that has captured South Africa’s body politic. The phenomenon of Gordhanism erroneously sees a person equated with a South African democracy. In July 2019, the SACP staged a march with slogans of Hands of our Democracy. The Deputy-General Secretary of the SACP Solly Mapaila said a joint campaign in support of democracy was not organised for Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, but it was inspired by him.
Mapaila said Gordhan is a man of integrity who is being attacked for fighting corruption in state-owned entities.
“This campaign is not a campaign for Pravin Gordhan, but I must say Pravin Gordhan inspired it. When I saw him hang on the wall, being attacked left right and centre, racial abuse hauled at him for standing his ground to fight corruption in SOEs; we said there is no way we can keep quiet when a good man of integrity is being attacked in this way. This campaign defends you comrade Pravin Gordhan. It’s a campaign to defend our democracy, to defend our constitution, to seek accountability.”
Gordhanism is alive and well, no minister ever solicited such support and protection since the dawn of democracy. Gordhanism was alive by September 2016 when two or three members of the SA clergy with their known biased political leanings hastily convened press briefings in the name of the SA Church populace to defend a politician, Gordhan the messiah.
This was taken to another level when Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba took the time to write an open letter to Pravin Gordhan pledging his and his church’s support for the minister. Strangely despite a slew of articles and letters penned by Makgoba which easily shows his personal bias, he has never penned a letter of support to any other minister.
His letter singled out Gordhan in a pledge of prayer and support when he did not show any interest to pray as instructed by his Holy Text [1Timothy 2: 1&2] to pray for those who rule over us. Gordhanism now had the backing of some key SA clergy. Dare we forget how liberation struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada’s funeral on March 28, 2017, which I attended, was conveniently abused for a campaign to defend a politician?
Shall we forget how Gordhanism wowed the business community with his Gordon Business Institute lecture in 2017 when he told the crowd, vote for Ramaphosa and the rating agencies will back off?
These were again the signs of the emerging phenomenon. Then came the time of the first sitting of the State of Capture Commission, which officially started on August 20, 2018. We once again saw the centrality of Gordhan in making the case for a belief in the presence of state capture as he had been leading the media and public campaign for its existence with AmaBhungane lectures entitled ‘…joining the dots…’’.
Gordhan would soon contend for the vacant title guru of state capture as he drew his conclusions and made startling swipes against Tom Moyane as having worked for the state capture project.
When pressed to be cross-examined the self-made guru did exactly what he always does, he dug his heels in and protested against such. Gordhanism dictates. How dare minions and already media guilty enemies of South Africa’s success cross-examine the messiah on economic solutions? Shall we forget how at the height of the campaign of Zuma unseating Gordhan was signing the infamous book of Jacques Pauw, “The President’s Keepers.”
This raised questions of who wrote this book. When Peter Hain started to participate in the debates on state capture it was Pravin Gordhan he cited as the trustworthy politician that informed him of the subject. Do we remember how not so long ago ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte publicly accused Pravin Gordhan as being behind a campaign to vilify and denigrate her and her family?
We heard and saw equal claims levelled by Sekunjalo Chairperson Iqbal Surve when he lamented Gordhan for being behind the intimidating attacks on Independent Media and him personally.
We also know that in November 2019, Bongani Bongo made even more sinister claims of a personal moment he encountered Gordhan in parliament when the latter threatened him.
The phenomenon of Gordhanism has tentacles and reaches across all sectors of society. Mesmerised groups from politicians, judiciary, international rating agencies, and foreign individuals to the hypocritical clergy aided by a solid and vocal foothold in media spaces.
eNCA is complicit as are others who regard an individual as the political embodiment of democracy, the true fighter for change and the saviour of SA’s economic woes. Lest we forget how a group of journalists in uncritical consideration made it their daily task to defend Gordhan in scripted media platforms including eNCA, Sunday Times, AmaBhungane, Daily Maverick, etc. The irony of Gordhanism is that it manages to deceive the whole lot, never to ask the minister pertinent questions on his failures in leading the Public Enterprises Ministry. Is this again the undying claims of an Indian cabal hard at work for its political agenda? Is eNCA used as a platform to promote a specific faction’s interest defined in ANC organisation? It is time we honestly ask in whose political interest is eNCA working and why?
Is this why Gordhanism could not stand ANN7 and wanted it gone so that those loyal to him in eNCA with its embedded loyalists and anti-press freedom journalists may rule the roost? Is underwriting Gordhanism a sustainable initiative? The entire eNCA and its handlers must fall; let the real political and economic interests be exposed. As the proverb goes “beat the dog until its owners come out”.
Clyde Ramalaine is a writer and p olitical commentator.
First appered in Independent News