Endgame, written by Paula Milne, Channel 4

Endgame, written by Paula Milne, Channel 4

Fact-based South African television drama? Emphatically not, says Tom Jennings

Liberation Chequemate. Television review – Tom Jennings
Directed by Pete Travis with trademark queasily paranoid camerawork, Endgame’s ponderous pseudo-conspiracy thriller re-sanctifies heroic African National Congressmen rescuing South Africa nobly assisted by white liberal and international capitalist elites. With the country dissolving in civil war in the late 1980s, P.W. Botha’s spooks separate Nelson Mandela from imprisoned colleagues, planning watered-down ‘power-sharing’. Meanwhile a British goldmining corporation brokers secret talks at its Somerset stately home between exiled ANC leaders, Afrikaaner academics and big-business representatives – all anxious to sustain their minority interests. The core of the film (screened on May 4th) contrasts the chaos on the postcolonial ground with these civilised boardroom tête-à-têtes where Thabo Mbeki (later President; played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and prominent Afrikaans philosophy professor Willie Esterhuyse’s (William Hurt) growing friendship paves the way for Mandela’s release and apartheid’s demise.
Scripted from Telegraph journalist Robert Harvey’s equally tendentious The Fall of Apartheid (2001), the narative’s escalating crescendo of deceitful omissions scuppers documentary pretence. Paralleling Esterhuyse’s high-ranking Broederbond (sub-Nazi Boer freemasonry) membership, Politburomen Mandela, Mbeki et al had long sought negotiations – the Mells Park junkets being insignificant late examples – whereas their more salient high-level skulduggery is ignored, like acceptance of the IMF structural adjustments whose devastating effects are ongoing. Stakes of economic stranglehold thereby mystified in ‘freedom’ and ‘national interest’ rhetoric, the undisciplined rabble’s threat to Communist Party hegemony appears as rogue guerillas killing civilians – conveniently overlooking intensifying industrial revolt (despite coopting the formerly militant COSATU), township youth insurrection, and a rapidly-radicalising UDF alongside collaborationist rackets like the Zulu Inkatha.
The SACP’s invisibility here also conceals impending ANC cashflow crisis after the Soviet collapse, hitting both statesmanlike hobnobbing and local infrastructures mired in gangsterism – its cadres contemptuously dubbed ‘maBenzi’ for favouring upbeat German rides rather than the beat-up jalopies we see. Camouflaging a familiar sorry story of Stalinist degeneracy, figureheads personifying these trends are conspicuously absent – the disgraced Winnie Mandela, but also Jacob Zuma (now President with Nelson’s nod; then head of iMbokodo, his ‘KGB-in-waiting’) who actually attended Somerset with Mbeki. So, belying its grudging hint of naked money and power’s background manoeuvres, Endgame’s ‘end of history’ falsification flatters the blinkered Western liberal-left’s ANC infatuation – obscuring its catastrophic legacy in poverty, homelessness (currently forcing the poor off urban real-estate to desert hellholes) and health (helped by Mbeki’s notorious AIDS-denial).* And it’s far from over – the final captions ominously describe the IRA seeking ANC advice on going legit; a similar process allegedly underway with Hamas.
* On the ‘democratic’ stalemate, see Michael Schmidt (of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front), ‘The Jacob Zuma Cargo Cult and the “Implosion” of Alliance Politics’. Michael Neocosmos’ ‘Civil Society, Citizenship and the Politics of the (Im)possible: Rethinking Militancy in Africa Today’ traces grass-roots counters to Stalinist supremacy; see also shackdweller movement Abahlali baseMjondolo’s (www.abahlali.org) S’bu Zikode’s recent interview, ‘Resisting Degradations and Divisions’ (all at http//:libcom.org).
Review first published in Freedom, Vol. 70, No. 11, June 2009.
For other reviews and essays by Tom Jennings, see:

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Tom Jennings
Jul 3 2009 19:03


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