Politics of spectacle
The punch-up between Mbalula and Magashule
A bare-knuckle fight between two ANC leaders would leave audiences rubbing their hands in glee
Coming to you live, from the Electoral Commission of SA’s results operations centre in Pretoria, was a boxing match of a different kind.
In the red corner is ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula, a former ANC Youth League president, former sports minister and former police minister. The crowd would give it up for the self-styled "Mr Fear Fokkol", coming all the way from the Free State.
And in the blue corner, also from the Free State, is ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, a former premier and former ANC provincial chair. Cue a round of applause for the Free State strongman.
The brawl emanated from Mbalula’s remarks just hours after the election, that the ANC would have sunk to 40% and lost the election had Cyril Ramaphosa not won the ANC presidential race at Nasrec in 2017.
Magashule, who was aligned to the "premier league" faction in the build-up to the ANC’s elective congress, did not take kindly to that comment. He hit back, saying Mbalula was talking nonsense.
"People are electing the ANC. It is not about any individual. How do you predict that? Is Comrade Mbalula saying that I was not going to be part of the campaign if the leader was somebody else?" Magashule said.
Then it was Mbalula’s turn to throw a punch. He said Magashule was not responding to him but to a "figment of his imagination".
The animosity between the two leaders dates from 2017, when Mbalula said Magashule was not suitable for the position of secretary-general. "The man will finish what is remaining of our movement. He will kill it," he tweeted.
The punch-up yet again puts the contest between the ANC’s opposing factions on public display. And now that the election is over, both sides should be getting ready to rumble.