Does Ace in the pack trump the king?

David Bullard | Jun 09, 2019
We are often told Cyril Ramaphosa is playing the ‘long game’, but it would be useful to know how long it is, exactly, and whether the country can afford the wait.

I’ve often remarked that you may die of many things in South Africa but boredom will never be one of them. 

People frequently ask me how I decide on a topic for a column and my reply is that I am usually spoilt for choice thanks to our obligingly comical government. 

The real challenge is what to reject from all the week’s shenanigans and I wish there was a secondary market for surplus news so I could sell it to Canadian columnists who must desperately search for something even remotely interesting to write about week after week. 

This week the Ace in the pack didn’t disappoint me in the least. If, as an undecided voter and a recent Democratic Alliance refugee, you followed Peter Bruce’s advice and voted for Cyril you may have been surprised to discover this week that he is only the President in name. The real power seemingly belongs to Mr Magashule who, in the true spirit of the playing card he represents, ranks above the king. 

Having already scornfully dismissed the suggestion from Fikile Mbalula that the African National Congress (ANC) managed to cling on to power thanks to the Cyril factor (with Peter Bruce’s help obviously), Ace continued his alpha male behaviour by pissing on the Integrity Commission gatepost. Metaphorically of course. 

The news that the ANC even have an ‘integrity commission’ came as something of a surprise to many of us. But at least it indicates that the ruling party (as they like to term themselves when they are not tearing themselves apart) have a keen appreciation of irony. 

The role of the integrity commission is shrouded in mystery as is its membership. My guess is that its function is to find anybody accused of the unusual movements of money in strange directions as a result of dodgy property deals as being above reproach. Exonerated. Blameless. Totally innocent. And all this within a time frame short enough to enable the hapless ‘accused’ to be sworn in as an MP. If there’s one thing the integrity commission can’t be accused of it’s dragging its heels. 

Ace made some interesting and illuminating comments about the role of the integrity commission. According to a report in last Sunday’s City Press, he said that no errant ANC member would face disciplinary action, stating that the party favoured a more ‘patient’ approach. He was referring to the comments on social media by Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina that Cyril should never have reappointed Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Public Enterprises. These were apparently viewed by some members of the NEC as 'problematic comments’ as were some of the sentiments expressed by Tony (Tornado) Yengeni, the ANC’s best loved fraudster and close confidant of Venezuela’s visionary leader, Nicolas Maduro. 

Expanding on his non-disciplinary, patient approach, Ace said: ‘In the ANC we believe in correction. Human beings are not flat characters. So we engage them. It depends how they act and react, and that is when time will tell as to when and where we should actually act.’ So that’s all clear then. You can get away with anything, even if some malcontent son of a land thief does write a book detailing your many character flaws.

But this was just the start of Ace’s week of wrought revenge. Someone had whispered into his ear the phrase ‘quantitative easing’ which he initially thought was a euphemism for colonic irrigation. On further investigation though he discovered it was the white man’s muti term for printing money. Despite having slightly misheard it as ‘quantity easing‘, he managed to grasp the full import of the message, which is that all our economic problems would be solved with this wonderful thing called quantitative easing, or QE as it’s known to its regular addicts.

If it’s good enough for the US and good enough for the European Bank it’s good enough for SA, reckons Ace. All our financial problems would be solved before you could say ‘Joseph Stiglitz’. Jobs would be created, poverty would be eliminated, fountains across the land would spout the award-winning Croydon Vineyards’ 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon and unicorns would mate with zebras to produce unibras or zebricorns. 

So excited was Ace by this giant leap forward that he put it out on Twitter as the gospel according to the ANC National Executive Committee, saying that there had been a resolution to expand the mandate of the Reserve Bank to include growth and investment through QE. 

Despite denials and corrections from both finance minister Tito Mboweni and ANC economic transformation head Enoch Godongwana, the damage was already done as the rand plummeted to a Friday level of 15 to the dollar and 19.10 to the pound. 

The problem, though, is that it may not be the faction within the ANC still keen to nationalise the Reserve Bank and get their hands on a money printing machine that is affecting the rand. What is far more likely is that cracks are already beginning to appear in the sixth democratic government of SA and that the President is not seen as being in control.

We are frequently told that the President is playing the ‘long game’, but it might be useful to know how long the long game is and whether the country can afford the wait. Far better-qualified commentators than I have already suggested that the hot smelly stuff is about to hit the whirring fan blades with a vengeance. 

My guess is that we will be fully downgraded to junk status by year end and that all those dreams of lower interest rates to stimulate the economy will go out of the window as we scrabble to attract investment to an increasingly Marxist-inclined collapsing economy. But I’ve always been an optimist, haven’t I?


David Bullard is a columnist, author and celebrity public speaker known for his controversial satire.


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