A reformed Blade Nzimande: The ‘Moral Evangelist’

It is astonishing that as soon as dodgy people, particularly politicians, fall from grace they suddenly develop a voice of conscience. Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, popularly known as Blade Nzimande is the latest individual to have his chair pulled under him, hitting the ground so hard that he woke up reformed. It is alleged while struggling with his transformation of biblical Saul proportions, he also went back to his former boss – President Jacob Zuma – to beg for his old job. His pleadings with Msholozi fell on deaf ears. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we have a renewed Blade Nzimande – a moral evangelist and Daily Maverick columnist.

In his previous life under the Zuma administration Blade Nzimande served as Minister of Higher Education and Training from 11 May 2009, a few days after the Nkandla native ascended to power until last month, 17 October 2017, when the very same man who appointed him pulled the rug below his feet. Evidently the former minister with his squeaky voice had begun to irritate the president. In other words, President Jacob Zuma has reduced the former minister to a columnist who bides his time ranting on liberal sites – an irony for someone who claims to be a communist. But then again this is hardly surprising from Nzimande, as he has over the years displayed questionable characteristics of a pseudo-communist with a penchant for the high life that is associated with capitalists. If they were alive, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be deeply disappointed in Blade Nzimande.

Since July 1998 Blade Nzimande has been holding tightly to the seat of General Secretary of the SACP (South African Communist Party), a position which he has effectively used to hound those who disagreed with him out of the organisation. In the same publication Nzimande writes for, Phillip Dexter wrote recently of his former SACP comrade. He says: ‘At Polokwane Nzimande successfully purged anyone left in the ANC leadership that he described as being part of the “1996 class project”, a ridiculous unMarxist category he created to label all of those he had a grievance against. He had already flushed many of the intellectuals and vibrant young leaders in the particular out of the SACP by then.’

To show off his growing power like a character from Dragon Ball Z, Nzimande, backed by Saftu (South African Federation of Trade Unions) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) leader Julius Malema and Daily Maverick associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy to name a few, decided to shift the barrel of his shotgun in the direction of former president Thabo Mbeki. ‘His next target was Thabo Mbeki, whom he hated for having not appointed him as a Cabinet minister before. The move to oust Mbeki as President was driven by Nzimande’, writes Dexter who describes Nzimande as ‘a malevolent borderline personality.’

Of course, the road to Polokwane, Limpopo in 2007 would signal the end of Mbeki’s moderate stellar career at the helm of both the ANC and South Africa. It is said that when Mbeki was unceremoniously deposed as head of state in September 2008, Nzimande had this to say: ‘The skies have not fallen. These things happen in a democracy…’ The skies had not fallen and Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel “Blade” Nzimande was at the height of his powers.

In May 2009 his candidate, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the man Blade Nzimande had sold as ‘a left, progressive, working-class leader’ according to Phillip Dexter, took oath at the Union Buildings and assumed the highest office on the land. To show his appreciation and gratitude, the candidate rewarded Blade Nzimande with a cushy Cabinet position, complete with perks and trimmings that he had long coveted and was denied by Mbeki. In the parlance of the youth, Blade had arrived.

Over the years, anyone who dared to criticise the president, the candidate that Nzimande and his former band of allies had placed in the seats of power at both Luthuli House and Mahlamba Ndlopfu, would be at receiving end of Blade’s sharp tongue. Counter-majoritarian was a term reserved for those who had the audacity to question Blade’s candidate. To criticise the president was a personal attack on Nzimande himself. To rebuke Jacob Zuma was a direct stab in Nzimande’s heart. Anyone who dared to take the president to task was in danger of inviting Blade’s wrath. But last month on October 17th the unthinkable happened. Blade was fired. And even more remarkable, the skies have not fallen. To have seen Mbeki’s face when the news reached him that Blade is unemployed must have been a sight to remember.

In his previous column titled The Securocrat State is here Nzimande begins his piece rather startlingly, if not shamelessly thus: ‘Access to political office is financed, among others, through corrupt means, often in partnership with a parasitic bourgeoisie, and/or sections of imperial capital. In these conditions there is often a dialectical and mutually reinforcing relationship between factionalism and parasitism.’ Could the former minister be confessing to sins of the past? There was a story of the black refuse bag containing R500 000 that he continues to deny to this day. He continues: ‘Factions must capture the state to hand over tenders to the parasites and, in turn, the parasites fund political factions to remain in control of both the organisation and the state. There is no doubt that in our movement and country today these phenomena strongly exist.’ Is he speaking from experience?

Obviously Blade is not confessing to any wrongdoing in the past nor is admitting to anything that he might have done to advance his political career. Politicians are notorious for portraying themselves as Messiahs despite evidence pointing to the contrary. In fact what Blade is doing is what was perfectly diagnosed by his anti-Mbeki ally Gwede Mantashe in an article published in November 2015: the desperate attempt to warm tea that has gone cold. Describing this age-old phenomenon of former leaders suddenly developing a conscience once they are out of power, Mantashe had this to say: ‘There is a Chinese proverb that “when a person leaves, the tea gets cold”. In the literal sense, this of course does not refer to tea but rather to power. As the proverb goes the “the tea must cool after the guest has left, otherwise it will go bad”, meaning that although one freely drinks tea during their tenure in office, the authority to warm it up once they are gone is diminished.’

Mantashe further observes that ‘Such is the rising tendency of former leaders who lambast the governments and parties they were once proud to serve. As a result of the luxury imposed by not having the responsibility of elected leadership, they want to warm their tea by seeking celebrity through criticism of those in office and the policies that they themselves once espoused…Having suddenly ‘found their voice’ after happily playing status quo politics whilst in power – the ‘former insider’ status of these former leaders lends them an extra appeal in the media. Their insights on party and state affairs are held up as ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ and ‘bold’ – speaking truth to power.’

By finding ‘solace on the pages of newspapers’ Blade Nzimande, in this case on the digital canvas of Daily Maverick, is trying to warm his tea for as long as possible, painting himself in the public’s eyes as a saint who was sacrificed because of his unbending morals, a victim of powerful forces who worship at the altar of corruption and greed. That he went back to his former employer to beg for his job reveals that Nzimande is a shallow, unscrupulous charlatan who is only concerned with the benefits of a ministerial handbook. His criticism of the government he was happy to serve and even ferociously defend for the past eight years is a sign of one whose conscience is sullied by expensive whisky. Nzimande cannot be taken seriously and therefore should be ignored. As Minister of Higher Education and Training one would have expected Nzimande to at least produce a column once a month outlining the plans of his ministry, his ideas on education and how that education ought to shape South Africa going forward; instead he misappropriated state resources to mobilise support against those he perceived as enemies of Jacob Zuma.

In his critical article of Blade Nzimande, Phillip Dexter dismisses his former General Secretary as a shameless opportunistic careerist. He writes thus: ‘The SACP is now supporting Cyril Ramaphosa for president. I happen to agree that he is best choice for president of the ANC and the country at this point in our history. But as with his support for Jacob Zuma, Nzimande’s support is not about what is best for the country. It’s about what is best for him. Like a parasite, he will cling on to CR17 for all he is worth, in the hope that he can once again emerge as a minister.’ To summarise Dexter’s words, by suddenly finding his voice in the past few months on the pages of various newspapers and several podiums in public platforms, Blade Nzimande is in fact auditioning for a job post the Zuma era. Towards the road to Polokwane in the last decade, the nation was fooled by Blade Nzimande and his group of charlatans. Let history not repeat itself. Kgotsong!


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