Politics of Possession Football And The “No” Camp

Pep Guardiola used Leo Messi as a False 9 to beef-up the midfield and destroy the opposition. In South Africa, white capitalists are using a few blacks as their False 9’s to preserve white privilege argues The Maytrix

Something changed in 2009. Pep Guardiola won every trophy available in his first season at top flight football management. He not only dominated the match outcomes but he also dominated the matches through possession football while adding new ways of thinking about modern day football. One of the biggest weapons in Guardiola’s tactics was the use of Leo Messi as the ground-breaking false 9. A false 9 is an attacker who is positioned between the midfield and the centre forward roles. He is not just a striker who scores goals, but his positioning allows his team to add more numbers in the midfield when the team has possession. To put it simply, a false 9 gives a team 2 players in one. And when that player is the best in the world, a team that plays possession football is well-geared to controlling not only the result, but most importantly, the flow of the match.

South African politics has it’s own parallels of possession football and false 9s. And something did change in 2009. A new president was inaugurated and ushered in a new era of socioeconomic politics. If you asked a consumer of mainstream media in the country, they would be hard-pressed to figure out how Nkandla and the Guptas qualify as part of an era of socioeconomic politicking. In their minds, this man has destroyed the glorious movement that is the ANC and dwindling voter support is testament to their views on the impact of Zuma on the country.

Analysis of who owns what in South Africa gives one a good idea of who controls the flow of information, and by extension, the outcome of polls. Bear in mind that elections are nothing but a set of aggregate polls on who should govern. So whoever has possession of the communication platforms has the power to call the meeting, write the agenda, take minutes and declare them read and adopted.

One of the most prominent black companies with media interests in South Africa, Kagiso Trust, is controlled by Johann Rupert. Yes, a black company controlled by a nonblack businessman. This is a form of false empowerment. Rupert has the luxury of being the captain of industry while still controlling the new entrants of the likes of Zanele Mbeki, wife of former president Thabo Mbeki, and Frank Chikane, through Kagiso Trust. It is as though Rupert is empowering himself under the guise of empowering blacks.

This takes our analogy of the false 9 to new horizons altogether. Think of Messi playing as a false opponent, effectively, against himself. He decides who wins and there’s therefore no way he cannot win. Basically, how can anybody else be empowered under such circumstances?

Companies like Kagiso Trust can present themselves as black owned businesses while taking direction from white business. It just so happens that Kagiso Trust was also a beneficiary of the BEE transaction involving Rupert’s First Rand along with Zanele Mbeki’s WDB Trust at the climax of empowerment deals under Thabo Mbeki. Recently when Kagiso Trust merged with Tiso Group, Nedbank, under chairman Ruel Khoza, was the sole investment bank involved in the transaction. Nedbank is owned by Old Mutual whose chair, Trevor Manuel, is another one of those using the economics of debt to retain the current status quo. Nedbank’s BEE deal involved WIPHOLD, led by Gloria Serobe and Wendy Luhabe. The Standard Bank BEE deal involved Saki Macozoma’s Safika Holdings. Of the big 4 banks, ABSA (Tokyo Sexwale) appears to be the only bank whose BEE deal done during Thabo Mbeki presidency was not led by a business person closeto the former president. So Mbeki’s presidency not only saw a two-thirds majority for the ANC but he also over-saw a two-thirds majority of the BEE deals in the banking sector.

That is immense in light of our false 9 analogy. Here we have a player in the proverbial middle of the playing field, giving the false impression of being in possession of the ball and in the game to strike against a system that is structurally biased against the African child.

The South African Reserve Bank is empowered by the Banks Act (No. 94 of 1990) to issue banking licenses and monitor those to whom licenses are issued. So Treasury has the power to decide whether or not competition for the big 4 banks in South Africa is increased since the bank reports into Treasury. That is to put it loosely, because the bank is somewhat privately-owned. Nonetheless, Treasury has policy authority over the bank, thus enabling it to practically dictate how the bank operates. Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s relaxation of exchange controls for instance, affects the amount of money that banks could transact out of the country. This has a direct bearing on profits that the banks stand to make. So Treasury is very important to the banking sector. By implication, Treasury becomes very important to the BEE beneficiaries of the Mbeki era. What happens when Zuma decides to rock the boat and make changes at Treasury to restructure budgets so as to drive economic empowerment of black South Africans? Can we not expect the false 9s to come out in defense of the sector? Guardiola used the false to add numbers to the midfield so as to retain possession of the ball. In the South African context, a Guardiola uses the false 9s to shore up the buffer (middle) to thwart any potential attacks against the system. The system has unexpected team-mates. It is the camp that is saying “No” to changes in Treasury. And because they have possession of the ball, they decide where, when and how fast it goes.

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