The Oros Strategy

Posted on August 26 2020
Howard Feldman

I can guess what happened. In a moment of exasperation, President Cyril Ramaphosa drafted a short, strongly worded open letter to his colleagues in the ANC concerning the rampant and merciless corruption within the ruling party. The purpose was two-fold; to articulate his outrage with regard to the behavior of the ANC; and to vocalize the immense outrage and disgust that South Africans are feeling.

So far so good.

I imagine that the letter was a one pager. It was sharp. It was clear and that it left no room for doubt. I even imagine that it didn’t mention apartheid (note to ANC letter writers: it is actually possible to pen a document that doesn’t). 

I imagine the exercise was cathartic and that the President went to bed that night feeling a little lighter. Without him noticing it, he sat a little straighter at dinner and his wife might have noted that there was even a hint of a smile she hadn’t seen since that dastardly Nasrec meeting. Before retiring for the evening, I can see him quickly popping the email off to a few trusted colleagues, fully expecting to wake up the next morning to their assurance that whilst the one-page letter was a tough one, it was necessary and would definitely be his Rubicon moment.   

Only it didn’t transpire that way. Instead, the letter was received with horror within the ANC. Not prone to washing their filthy laundry outside the Luthuli House, the letter represented everything that they have learned to detest. And so, out of respect to the President, a few members (who were not out test driving the Mercedes G Class ) thought to perhaps add a few disclaimers to the letter. They convened an ad-hoc letter committee and got to work. First order of business was to dust off the ANC play-book and to consult the chapter on “Simple Ways to Avoid Responsibility.”   

To be fair to the ad-hoc committee, the task was not an easy one. Options were limited. To blame “foreign forces”, the Malawians and the Nigerians seemed a little bit of a stretch, and the tried and tested “Someone attempted to poison me” had little application. Of course, “White Monopoly Capital” could be introduced (it’s a fail-safe) but again, it didn’t seem to stick in the same way that it had done back in 2016 when the nation was still stupid. The ad-hoc letter committee, I assume, worked well into the next evening (they only really started when the stores in Sandton City Mall closed) in order to come with a plan.

Which, in my mind’s eye, they called it the “Oros Strategy”. The goal; to water it down until no one can identify what it is meant to taste like.  With this approach, suggested the committee, everyone will think that they are drinking Oros, but there is so little concentrate in the glass that it is actually hard to tell what was originally poured. In addition, they would add the “Apartheid” thing just to keep the EFF inclined ANC members somewhat appeased and might even divert the conversation away from their own behavior. This combination, I imagine, they thought would keep the President happy, would fool some of the nation (some of the time), and in no time at all, everyone could go back to awarding contracts to dead people.

And yet, the Oros Committee failed. It did so because the people of South Africa had had enough of pretending to taste something that was no longer there. They didn’t want to hear that 26 years ago someone had immorally been in control of the juice and they didn’t want to read that soon it would taste better. They were tired of the assurance that everything would be better if they were would just give it a chance. More so they were angry knowing that the Oros was no longer available because it had been stolen. 

I don’t really know what happed behind the scenes and how the nation was delieverd the letter that it received. What I do know is that the ANC under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa needs to get rid of the playbook of the past. It needs to take unconditional responsibility for its actions. It needs to suspend perpetrators (without pay) and it needs to convince us that they won’t be stealing the new bottle of Oros, when it is gets replaced.