In the good old days, when the tripartite alliance was a united, well-oiled and hegemonic machine, it deployed a brutally effective strategy against its enemies. It worked like this: a threat was identified and the ANC would respond in a statement. The language would be reasonable enough but it would determine the line — inevitably evoking its greatest weapons in doing so, race being a perennial favourite. Soon this would be followed by its partners, the SACP and union federation Cosatu, who would release a similar sentiment. Then the leagues, the ANC Youth League, the ANC Women’s League, the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), the Young Communist League (YCL), and so forth. And finally, the smaller component parts of the alliance, individual unions, for example. Systematically, over the course of week or fortnight, the media would be bombarded by a range of opinions — yet simultaneously the same one. It was a brilliant tactic. The press would report each one as...

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