The ANC government continues to ride roughshod over the interests of the country without consequence. All their opponents in politics, in business, in churches, and in civil society, wail and weep without noticeable effect. Ramaphosa and his minions are masters of realpolitik - how to prevail over all opposition, how to pull the levers of influence, how to whisper veiled threats in the right ears.
In the immortal words of Pik Botha, appeals to justice, to fairness, to common sense are “like duck’s water off their backs”. Impassioned rhetoric counts for nothing. The ANC knows how this game is played; through influence, threats, and, if necessary, mayhem. The only way to compete is to bring a gun to their knife fight. To threaten quietly but to carry a big stick. To adjust their perception of the consequences of their actions.
The fact that the honourable opposition considers such tactics abhorrent and beneath their dignity is like music to the ANC ears. The opposition is almost always right, dead right, and just as dead as if they were wrong. Justice is nice, honour is good, but victory is its own reward.
So how do the forces of opposition in this benighted land proceed? Like Sun Tzu, I have laid out an 8-step procedure to follow when dealing with an unscrupulous enemy. It can be followed whenever the rule of law is no longer adequate, and the consequences of failure are disastrous.
Achieving your objectives
- List the principles you will not compromise, e.g. the use of force. Return to this list constantly.
- For any new project, explicitly state your primary objective in writing, in one sentence. This is mostly for your own benefit. Then explain your objective to a 10 year old.
- Choose your battlefield. Under what jurisdiction will this battle be fought. The Constitution? The court of public opinion? International law? Commercial law? No law?
- Your intentions are meaningless. They butter no parsnips. Only the actual consequences of your objective count in the real world.
- Identify the obstacles to your objective.
Identify which obstacles are within your control, and which are not.
Decide if your objective is feasible despite the obstacles you cannot control. Be brutal. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know.
Only proceed if you have a clear advantage.
- Identify who has skin in this game, who are the active players. Disregard the rest.
Rank the players in terms of their influence on your objective.
Research how you can persuade these players to support your objective, willingly or unwillingly.
- Don't bother with prayers, or appeals to reason or kindness, don't try to assemble a majority.
Identify the people who are an obstacle to your intentions and adjust their perceptions accordingly. Threaten to expose their darkest secrets. Convince them they have been betrayed. Attack their sources of funding. This is how the real world works and you misunderstand it at your peril.
- Favour simplicity. Make no assumptions. Check everything. But don’t be fooled into believing that rational decisions can be made with quantitative measures alone, when in fact the things you can’t measure are often the most consequential.
Example: Opposing the re-scheduling of an election in SA
A favourite trick of tyrants running a supposed democracy is to re-schedule elections into the distant future.
Non-violence, individual freedom, rule of law, etc.
Ensure that scheduled elections take place at the appointed time.
A 10 year old might ask why bother if you are just going to lose?
The South African Constitution.
To support the democratic process in SA.
To ensure the rule of law.
To establish a fairer society.
Unintended consequences: increase in Covid infections, severe rioting, pushback from the state.
The IEC reports to Ramaphosa who reports to the NWC who reports to the NEC. The decision to postpone the elections will probably be taken by the NWC and conveyed to Ramaphosa and the NEC. The IEC will implement any decision handed to it.
So, the potentially controllable obstacles are the 6 members of the NWC. Almost certainly all have skeletons they would prefer not to reveal.
The NEC is not directly controllable.
The IEC can be taken to court, but the result is uncontrollable, and almost certainly negative.
Skin in the game
- Ramaphosa. His authority, legacy and control of the party are at stake.
- The other members of the NWC. Their power and cushy jobs may be threatened.
- The IEC.
- Other political parties.
Most political parties maintain a “dirty tricks” department. This department would gather incriminating evidence against senior members of other parties, with a view to influencing their behaviour. Target the 3 most susceptible members of the NWC. Using an arms-length intermediary, make these NWC members an offer they will have difficulty refusing, to retain the October election date for the elections. Stick to one issue. Don’t overreach.
If you don’t have a dirty tricks department, ask Afriforum, or Paul O’Sullivan.
- Your objective is accomplished, and South African democratic rights are preserved.
- People who have abused the system are threatened with exposure.
- Most South Africans are eternally grateful.
Conclusion Is this unethical? Does it undercut the hallowed democratic process? Are you sinking as low as your opponents? Yes, yes and yes. But if investigating and exposing wrongdoing by the high and mighty accomplishes a worthwhile objective, where is the harm in that?
Trevor Watkins is the founder of the Individualist Movement, the author of two books, and a contributing author for the Free Market Foundation. He publishes on a blog at libertarian.org.za.