The imperial ghost is alive and kicking. The big, bad, ugly angel of darkness is gearing-up to roam the streets of South Africa and has apparently found itself an unlikely host … Mamphela Ramphele.
The imperial ghost, as you might know is sometimes based in the US, sometimes the UK and sometimes the European Union. But now and again it roams the streets of Africa, tormenting villages, destabilising and tumbling legitimate governments. Be wary, stay sharp. Arm yourself with a mouthful of holy water and an arm-size crucifix!
The two paragraphs above are a summary of ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s response to the announcement of Ramphele’s political party Agang SA. Mantashe in a short interview said “we are hoping against hope that it is not an American initiative aimed at destabilising our country. Our worry is that when this initiative was announced, the foundation was in the US. We are very much alive to concerns by Western powers that liberation movements in Africa are too powerful”.
Mantashe’s caution about the US imperial reach into Africa through opposition parties is not new. Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, for example, has often opted to deny people the free and fair elections in order to protect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty from the threat of the imperial ghost. Mugabe has staunchly vowed to protect Zimbabwe from the “international terrorists” — the US and UK — even if it means the death of countless Zimbabweans through violence and starvation. Eugene Puryear puts it all in perspective: “Whatever the shortcomings of the Zanu-PF government, the US-and-British-led destabilisation campaign has been the main culprit behind Zimbabwe’s woes.”
The US does in fact strive to influence governments around the world, sometimes through economic and military aid, but often through the gun barrel and murderous drones.
That being said, the US easily becomes a scapegoat for despotic regimes which rely on the US’s pathetic approach to foreign relations in order to divert any challenge to their illegitimate power. Anyone who dares to challenge a despot is declared an “agent of the imperial ghost”.
The ANC is not a despotic regime, not yet anyway. Mantashe’s comments are, however, very concerning. These types of comments simply mean the ANC has run out of real arguments, and no longer has the tolerance to engage in real debate. Instead the ANC is turning to every despot’s saviour — the ghost of imperialism. The imperial ghost turns all opposition into enemies of the state.
The ANC itself happily took foreign donation and accepted foreign assistance to fight South Africa’s liberation cause. Those donations were indeed used to destabilise the oppressive and illegitimate apartheid regime. In the end South African churned out better, not worse.
Ramphele’s platform is facing the same challenge. She and many others see a South Africa that is eating itself from within. And when all the big businesses and businesspeople are on the ANC bandwagon, Agang SA may need foreign funding to reconfigure the nation’s path.
For what it’s worth, Ramphele responded. She said the money Agang SA is currently using comes from South Africans. She admitted to engaging South Africans, including those in the diaspora (Australia and the US).
The ANC is correct, Ramphele’s platform “is grievance-driven”. Many South Africans are unhappy with the ANC — and possibly with all the other available alternatives — and they want fresh politics. Ramphele thinks her platform can fill the gaping hole. Her effort presents an opportunity for new voices and fresh engagements. The ANC must not resort to repulsive bully tactics, it must engage seriously.