The Unexpected Leaderless Revolution

By Leeto Nthoba

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The leaderless revolution is here, but it is not what the zealots say it is. Both the far right and far left are wrong about what the leaderless revolution in South Africa would look like because both sides have no catalysing figure to galvanise the cell-like structure of such a revolution. A leaderless revolution is conventionally characterised by a martyr-like figure taking a bold first step in creating a culture of individuals that work toward a central ideological imperative without direct communication links to a central point.

 A leaderless revolution, by design, is hard to suppress so the idea of a revolution such as this manifesting itself into a violent terrorist enterprise that runs a whole government ungovernable would be self-defeating.

South African policing authorities are excellent at one thing and one thing only — the violent suppression of organisation in public spaces. See: the Marikana massacre and the fees must fall protests. This means the South African neo-anarchist must be wise to this fact, thus leading the conclusion that the country being rendered ungovernable would be an unintended consequence of the actions taken by the individuals in the collective. The problem with the South African version of events is that desperation is a bigger driving force than an ideological position.

“When the system fails you, create your own system,”

said Michael K Williams.

This statement characterises the people’s plight, sums up the reasoning behind the revolution and justifies the attempt to usurp the power held by the centrist body politic of the country that is clearly broken almost to the point of no return.


In the current era, it may seem that Julius Malema and his EFF have championed the task of bringing the landless masses to some sort of revolutionary tipping point. Actually, all they did is bring one of the longest standing inefficiencies of governance to be debated as a process of urgently needed development.

Land invasion is one of the first forms of protesting inadequate governance which began with the Department of Bantu Affairs of yesteryear. The people built on unoccupied land and claimed it as their own. In so doing, they usurped some power from the apartheid government.

Noticeably, this was one of the building blocks of the resilience and audacity of the civil disobedience project — and later the armed struggle. This is why most of the proponents of the armed struggle were transplants that came to Johannesburg as backroom and shack dwellers.

The EFF sought to co-opt this reemerging energy of the people and become the de facto center of the common man, but skepticism is rife among the electorate about how men and women who live in mansions can champion such a struggle. People grabbing land will become ever more prevalent as the people become ever more anxious.


We all know about the problems facing Eskom and in their desperation they raised tariffs on an already poor society. This inevitably demanded ingenuity from the society. A week or so ago Phakamani Hadebe of Eskom rightly diagnosed that one of the problems facing the ailing parastatal is South Africans going off the grid. There are a few options of going off the grid. Each method is deliberate in how it usurps power from the state:

First is the very expensive route of deep cycle rechargeable battery kits connected to solar panels which adequately takes the burden of high tariffs off one’s shoulders in the long run. As I have already stressed, the exigent circumstances faced by the people demands ingenuity so poor people somehow noticed that cell phone towers run off deep cycle batteries. They “liberate” the batteries and fulfill the needs of the power hungry market. They sell the batteries to legitimate companies that deal in alternative energy solutions.

The second method demands more of an organised effort. It involves something called “bridging” where the meter system of a transformer is bypassed so that the particular transformer is not technically on Eskom’s system. This essentially means the houses linked to the transformer get free electricity. This requires the whole neighbourhood to switch off their power during the bypass process so some measure of cooperation is required.

The third process involves a similar bypass process to happen but this time at a house hold level either by tampering with the installed prepaid meter or creating a bypass in the box housing the circuit breakers. This method though leaves you liable to a large fine and the confiscation of your pre-paid meter by Eskom.

The fourth and final method is a new one where a small group of men in the Lejweleputswa district have found a way of creating counterfeit prepaid vouchers selling a thousand kW/h for three hundred rand, basically creating a totally parallel system to the state run process. If this trend prevails — and I assume it will — Eskom will find itself in a real bind where the increase in tariffs would not yield the desired result of showing an entity in its way to solvency.

Lastly, I also found out that the water metering system can also be bypassed by replacing the municipal meter with a normal run of the mill pipe. Then the city workers would not be able to take a reading of your water usage.


South Africa’s economy is undoubtedly an oligarchy. In any given sector, you would be hard pressed to find more than 4 major players at any given time thus creating industries made up of monarchs of industry and their sentinels — in whatever form they may come, either as politicians or some out-of-the-way black council of over paid gate keepers.

This is why the normal South African has opted for the creation of alternative means of wealth acquisition and service delivery whether fair or foul.

The grand assumption has always been that the political class will be the first to fall at the hand of the poor, but by all indications the people do not seem to hold political parties in any esteem. They seem to have realised that the political system in this country will not deliver tangible solutions to their lives.

It is a great fear of mine that we are heading toward a cliff of mammoth proportions. One that would significantly alter South Africa’s political landscape forever. Many in the country seem oblivious to the ticking time bomb.

First published in Nthoba’s blog, STVBWLeeto Nthoba is a lecturer at the Central University of Technology in Welkom, South Africa. 

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