Beyond the Illusion - Comrades Gone Bad

I’m writing this post at 22h35, just fresh from watching on SABC2 a very inspirational documentary literally about Jesus and Judas, Caesar and Brutus. The story of the greatest political betrayal of our times as told through the vision, direction and storytelling skill of filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri. Not the betrayal of one comrade by another as some media have interpreted the doccie to be implying but the cheap sale of a dream collectively belonging to South Africans and entrenched in the Freedom Charter to a bunch of capitalists out to co-opt business partners amongst the politically connected at the detriment of the majority poor.

It is the much-hyped Behind the Rainbow, a documentary that traces the history of the African National Congress as a liberation movement with good intentions and its almost failed transition into a fully-fledged political party. For that part the ANC is still in the laboratory. Behind the Rainbow, which is a euphemism for ‘behind the illusion’ profiles the undoing of the ANC’s manifestos by the greed that engulfed its comrades after the unbanning of the organisation by the National Party government of FW de Klerk in 1990.

Well-written, directed and produced with a clever and informed use of archive material the documentary is the best educational tool for anyone wanting to understand what’s the root cause of all the suffering that today sees young men languishing in prison for crimes they have not committed, others which they have. It helps one understand why Home Affairs is such a shit department that fails at the basic of responsibilities – cut and paste information from an application form into a small green barcoded ID.

The story behind the doccie is the ambition of the founding fathers of the ANC to transform society from being beggars to owners, to being responsible for their destinies to the compromises that came to be known as the sunset clauses which during CODESA looked like legitimate concessions. That’s where the biggest betrayal of the whole dream came from. The ANC just gave off a lot of important provisions without the negotiating partners bending backward to accommodate them.

On the doccie you see Thabo Mbeki talking about rewarding the apartheid regime with carrots like suspending the armed struggle and calling off sanctions but at some stage it seemed the carrots were no longer a reward for anything but dinner menu for de Klerk and his ilk. For every carrot there was Boipatong, Chris Hani assassination etc.

I am not going to relate this beautiful piece of South African history but just to let you know that it is so well-informed and patriarchal that only two women are interviewed over 120 minutes. Current ANC information chief Jessie Duarte and a former adviser to the minister of defence. Most of the sources interviewed are men, which suggests that the ANC has always been a domain for big egos, lest Polokwane happened while the women failed to field their own candidate but put all their electoral muscle behind the two gladiators.

Interviewed on the doccie are General Siphiwe Nyanda, former Chief of the South African National Defence Force and current ANC National Executive Committee member, Thabo Mbeki (former ANC and state president), Jacob Zuma (current ANC president), Ronnie Kasrils (former Intelligence Minister), Andrew Fenstein (former ANC MP and author of After the Party), Blade Nzimande (SA Communist Party chief), Terror Lekota (Congress for the People) and a plethora of others who at some stage in their lives contributed service to the Secret Service, Department of Defence, Political Analysis etc. El-Tahri nicely profiles their rise from being officers in either MK or the ANC or UDF to being big-shots who are living the life that is later described as being about four cellphones, nice clothes and a nice car that is not paid for.

The doccie also put bare the dark secrets of the country’s slide through RDP, Growth Employment And Redistribution, Black Economic Empowerment, the decisive Polokwane conference and the current political developments. It explores the arms deal, kickbacks, corruption, rape, third term etc into perspective.

Find out where it’s screening (the last time it was Cinema Nouveau) or get yourself a copy. I recommend that it be introduced in primary schools unedited and uncensored as a useful tool about the country’s history.

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