ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s not-so-secret guerrilla warfare against President Cyril Ramaphosa over the direction of the ANC and the government echoes an earlier, and equally gripping, saga of intrigue that once ruled SA's political headlines. Magashule may find the long and pointless rebellion of the notorious Dr No, apartheid high priest Andries Treurnicht, to be a cautionary tale. This is especially as Treurnicht, ever the ideological purist, lost out to the forces of reform and reality that would ultimately give way to a democratic SA. His was a show of thunder and fury, signifying not much at all.

At the time, though, in the 1970s and ’80s, for all of 20 years, Treurnicht bestrode the South African political stage, an ominous presence who lobbed verbal grenades at the reformers, fighting a to-the-death battle for grand apartheid. And for petty apartheid, too, down to whites-only benches and no mixed sport.

A dapper and even dashing figure (a colleague remarked that he had the shiniest shoes in parliament), Treurnicht was a compelling public speaker, a former dominee whose gloomy oratory was much helped by no inclination to compromise...

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