new lows of SA politics

AS I began writing this article, one word was lodged at the back of my mind - obfuscation.

AS I began writing this article, one word was lodged at the back of my mind - obfuscation. defines obfuscation as a practice used to intentionally make something more difficult to understand.

According to the definition, a tool called an obfuscator is sometimes used to convert a straight-forward programme into one that works the same way but is much harder to understand.

The tool is used to obfuscate a security code to protect it from being attacked.

I looked up this definition after reading a contribution to the debate about ministers buying luxury cars.

This particular writer - who described himself as a communist - was taking issue with those criticising SA Communist Party general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande for joining the bling brigade and buying a BMW750i costing more than R1 million.

By the way, Nzimande has since apologised for his "indiscretion", explaining that he had not realised that the matter would be trivialised in the manner it has been.

Without accusing the GS of any obfuscation, what is trivial, really, about asking whether it is morally right to expect taxpaying South Africans to tighten their belts and then use taxes paid from their hard-earned slave wages to splurge on a luxury car?

What must be even more confusing for taxpayers is the response to the questioning by his party and some of its members, including "comrade communist", whose contribution triggered the word "obsfuscation" in my mind.

This erudite scholar of Karl Marx argues that those who criticise the GS for buying the car are liberals and disciples of capitalism.

He wrote: "I believe that Lenin once remarked that after the revolution, toilets might be made of gold, because gold is the most hygienic material.

"The point that Lenin was trying to make is that the commodity values of things under capitalism are not the same as their use values; and that free people will in future judge things by their use values and not by their money-value, or, in other words, their capitalist market value.

"Another communist who dealt with this matter, in a rather large book called Capital, Volume 1, was Karl Marx.

"Comrades, I do speak like a communist in this respect. I am looking at the use-value, and not at the exchange value."

"Comrade communist" went further to accuse Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven - who released the statement calling for the ministers to return the bling cars - of "mistaking a liberal argument for a communist one and making a virtue out of poverty".

After reading this input I concluded that this member of the SACP was engaging in obfuscation of the highest order.

He is using both Lenin and Marx as obfuscators - turning a simple situation into a complicated lecture on Marxism.

But the unfortunate possibility could be that he genuinely believes in what he has written.

This indicates the level to which the political discourse in this country has sunk as we grapple with challenges of how to deal with access to power and self-aggrandisement versus making South Africa a better place to live in for all South Africans.

The ANC general secretary has alluded to the growing tendency of people to join politics because they regard political office as a stepping stone to self-enrichment.

He went on to say that if this tendency is not nipped in the bud, there will always be ANC infighting, come election time.

This situation is compounded by the culture of crass materialism and conspicuous consumption that our politicians unfortunately seem to have fallen victim to.

As political analyst Kwandile Kondlo points out, we now have an unfortunate situation wherein ordinary South Africans cannot, for example, rely on the fact that leftists are voted into power and will cater for their needs.

These are some the challenges that both the SACP and the ANC face as they grapple with the raging leadership battles among their members who see the change of guard in the ruling party as opportunity to serve their self-interests.