Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE
Picture: SANDTON CHRONICLE
Picture: SANDTON CHRONICLE

The timing was impeccable. Cyril Ramaphosa was delivering his first address as ANC president at the party’s annual birthday event.

At the same time revolutionary cadres of the EFF gathered at the barricades to attack the enemy, a clothing shop in Menlyn Mall in Pretoria.

The clothing chain, H&M, had been grotesquely insensitive, publishing an advertisement in which a black child wore a hoodie with the slogan "Coolest monkey in the jungle" and had been panned on social media for several days.

It had withdrawn sales of the hoodie and had apologised, but the EFF decided that this provided the perfect opportunity for it to regain public attention, which had been waning in recent months as its prime target, President Jacob Zuma, began to withdraw from the stage.

Zuma’s gradual disappearance and the growing profile of his replacement as ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has created a crisis for the opposition.

For several years now, they have simply had to wait for Zuma to do something reprehensible (abuse tax money on Nkandla, mount an unsuccessful court challenge, impregnate a friend’s daughter …) and "voila!" — 10 days of headlines, television news and packed press conferences.

By contrast, Ramphosa’s promise to accelerate land redistribution and economic transformation while returning to the values of Nelson Mandela provides few openings for "nihilistic populism", to borrow Tony Leon’s description of the EFF.

More from him: "Malema was never remotely a constitutional democrat. He is simply an instrumentalist: he cherry-picks those bits of the constitution that suit him — immunity in parliament‚ court cases to expose Zuma’s predations and the oxygen of a free media — while vandalising its commitments to nonviolent and hate-free expression and conduct."

There can be no doubt that H&M deserves to be dragged over the coals for its racially insensitive advertising, but vandalism timed to coincide with a rival party’s political event seems a little cynical.

As Sharon Thembeka Jack tweeted: "So where was the EFF outrage against Nivea and Dove racist ad campaigns? Oh I forgot‚ they didn’t coincide with #ANC 106." Indeed.

Please sign in or register to comment.