Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2004-06-13 Reporter: Karem Bliksem

Power Struggle or Not, Me thinks the President Doth Protest Too Much



Sunday Independent

Date 2004-06-13


Karen Bliksem

Web Link


I have tended to avoid President Thabo Mbeki's weekly internet letter that comes as part of a package called "ANC Today".

I suppose I have done so because the president's letter so quickly became a ready-made story handed to lazy journalists on a plate. And it always annoys me to find that there may be people even lazier than I am.

On Friday, however, I broke with tradition and I must say the president's letter was very interesting.

This week the person whose head is dished up on a plate, like John the Baptist's for Salomé, is one Peter Honey, presumably a political writer on the Financial Mail.

He annoyed our esteemed leader by writing an article in which he suggests that the Bulelani Ngcuka saga (the report from the national director of public prosecutions, and Ngcuka's reaction to it, etc) is actually all about "a seething power struggle within the ANC harking back to the ant-apartheid days' … ‘internal [ANC] rumblings', ‘the political forces ranged against Ngcuka', one would expect that Mr. Honey would provide some facts to substantiate these … disclosures."

But no, writes the president, Honey doesn't provide any facts. He merely makes allegations. The whole article is a giant and murky cloud of "disinformation".

For, in the view of the president, Honey is one of those who is convinced that the ANC must be defeated. But, because "the opposition parties do not have the strength and capacity to achieve this goal", they [Honey and others] therefore insist on searching for enemies of "our movement" within the ANC itself.

The enemies are, of course, the alleged propagators of the internecine struggles that Honey and others have suggested are taking place within the ANC, as symbolised by the various Ngcuka imbroglios.

Now the most interesting thing about the president's letter is that he takes some 1950 words to say what he might have said in 25. That is : "There may once have been a power struggle within the ANC. But there is not anymore. You know why? Because I won. So : get lost."

Second, the president compares Honey's article to the famous case of the Kuwaiti babies.

This fabricated story, put together by some exiled Kuwaitis, and apparently bought by the Human Rights Caucus of the United States congress, had Iraqi soldiers bursting into a modern Kuwaiti hospital, finding the premature babies ward and then tossing the babies out of the incubators could be sent back to Iraq.

Isn't it a trifle over the top - just a tad paranoid? - to compare Honey's not very original thesis, his little exercise in kite-flying, to the Kuwaiti babies case?

Isn't it a bit tired and emotional to think that Honeybun's main focus in life is cobbling together disinformation about the ANC when in fact it is probably turning in the requisite number of words by deadline?

The president's 1950 words of bitter reaction do, alas, remind one of the words said by Prince Hamlet : "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

They also rather remind me of Sherlock Holmes's remark in Silver Blaze about the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.

Dr Watson replies, you might recall, that the dog did nothing in the night-time, in response to which Holmes remarks that "that was the curious incident".

In other words, if Honey is os far off the mark, if there is no dissension inside the ANC-Cosatu-SACP alliance, why waste all that time, effort, ingenuity, and all those words, in refuting him?

And what about all the learning too? Twenty-five years ago a fellow called John Stockwell wrote a book called In Search of Enemies : How the CIA lost Angola. And now the president - showing his age (and now I'm revealing mine too) - borrows the book title as the title of his letter.

But here's a thing. The best part of Stockwell's book is a vignette about some very senior CIA types trying to get a yes or no from Henry Kissinger, then the US secretary of state, on whether they should send troops to Angola.

But Kissinger is a busy man. Finally, one of the men gets in to his office, leaving the others outside. He then emerges. "So what did Kissinger say?" the waiting spooks ask eagerly.

"He grunted," said the one who had spoken to Kissinger.

"So, was it a yes-grunt or a no-grunt?" someone asked.

Oh well, I suppose that story must have resonated, as the academics say, with our ja-nee president.

Or perhaps Mbeki, also on deadline like Honey, merely felt he needed to bring in some other bathwater with the babies.

With acknowledgements to Karen Bliksem and the Sunday Independent.