Fear, hypocrisy and the abuse of Mandela in the ANC*

October 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

I read a rather hypocritical article penned by former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi in the Sunday Times where he decried the treatment of former president Nelson Mandela during an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting in 2002.

Mr Ramatlhodi was present in that meeting. In the article he details how NEC members called Madiba divisive for having told the NEC that certain of its members had approached him to let him know that dissent was not allowed in the ANC. Madiba was then asked to name the people who made those claims. In his attempt to protect these individuals, he refused to name them — for this he was called a liar. Some even said he wanted to rule from the grave. He was taken to task for this, as we say in Xhosa, bakhwela bezehlela kuye.

Ramatlhodi details how speaker after speaker went after Madiba while Terror Lekota chaired the meeting. He was so insulted that that he never attended another NEC meeting, according to Ramatlhodi.

To quote Ramatlhodi: “The tragedy of the episode is that senior leaders, who today are vocal about the recall of Mbeki as president, were there when Madiba was being violated in the most brutal manner by junior leaders of the movement.

“None of them had the courage to stand up and defend an innocent old man, our former president and icon of our struggle. They must have been genuinely afraid of Mbeki, a president who has somehow turned out to be the ANC itself. He has become larger than the movement. They were scared; I was scared.

“It was, indeed, a very sad day for those of us who were unfortunate to be there as witnesses.”

Obviously, it was not sad enough six years ago for him to speak out; he only realised six years later how sad a day it was. Now that it is politically convenient to speak out, he does.

It’s easy to show courage when you are part of a majority and part of the winning team. True courage is standing for what you believe even when you know in your heart that you have a 100% chance of losing everything you’ve worked for. I have no respect for one who only speaks out when it is easy to do so. He should have spoken out when it wasn’t.

If Ramatlhodi was such a man of honour, why then was he silent? Why did he not stand up for Madiba then? We can only deduce that his silence meant that he agreed with every single word that was said to Madiba.

In his open letter to Terror Lekota, Minister Jeff Radebe savaged Lekota for having presided over that meeting and for having allowed Madiba to be treated in the manner he was. If Ramatlhodi and Jeff Radebe were so concerned at the treatment of Nelson Mandela, why did it take them six years to speak out?

Indeed, if Terror Lekota presided over a period in the ANC where dissent was not permitted, then why should we trust this new party? How different are they going to be from the ANC?

But back to Ramatlhodi: Should we suddenly applaud him for taking a moral stance now? We should all be equally appalled at the manner in which Madiba was verbally attacked by the NEC members. I don’t know who was at the meeting, but we know who the members were: Terror Lekota, Jacob Zuma, Trevor Manuel, Thabo Mbeki, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Sam Shilowa and many more. None of them said a word in defence of Madiba. Not one according to Ramatlhodi. How dare now they use his name now to get what they want!

This whole saga clearly shows us that no one is innocent. No one has clean hands.

This is clearly an attempt by the ANC to use Nelson Mandela’s name in order to shore up support for itself. What can we make of these leaders who seem to have a moral compass of convenience?

There is no courage in speaking out when it is safe to do so. There is no honour in defending a man’s honour only when it benefits you. Ramatlhodi and Jeff Radebe should have demonstrated their moral fortitude when Madiba was viciously attacked in that meeting, precisely because it was not the politically safe thing to do then. Their political careers were more important than standing up for what was right apparently.

What I have never been able to understand was how Thabo Mbeki, as one man, was able to stifle debate. The men and women who were there, who sat and allowed that to happen from day one, can only blame their lack of courage.

What is the point of speaking out when the majority is speaking out? Courage is not when you speak out when it is safe or beneficial for you to do so.

We need to have leaders who are able to do so especially when it is unsafe to speak out. Right now they are in short supply.


* first published 20 October 2008 on thoughtleader.co.za/khayadlanga

Is the current ANC counter revolutionary?*

October 8, 2008 § 3 Comments

By Khaya Dlanga

There are some pretty uncomfortable questions we ought to ask of the African National Congress, for its own sake and ours as a nation. Regardless of what people think of the ANC, our fates are bound to it. It is for this reason that everyone must show interest in its dealings. We cannot follow sheepishly what the leadership tells us is gospel truth — especially when it is manufactured to suit those who seek to lead us. No one should hope for the implosion of the ANC, for its demise means we too shall perish. The perfect example is ZANUPF of Zimbabwe.

The desire to see a better African National Congress requires that we defend and criticise it when and if the need arises. It is a mistake to behave as though it is perfect — that its leaders can do no wrong. It is precisely because it is run by flesh and blood beings that it is imperfect, just like any organisation or company.

We have witnessed our leaders’ fallibilities time and time again, which explains why the people have become cynical of politics and have rightly lost faith in their leaders.

Whenever a shining light presents itself, all attempts to extinguish it are made. Like the voice of ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe. When he said that the judiciary should remain independent, ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu was quoted saying that Motlanthe’s “Going around affirming the independence of the criminal justice system on the case of the ANC president is worrisome.” How is affirming the independence of the judiciary worrisome? Does that statement even make sense? If the statement by the YL’s spokesperson were a joke, it would be a really fun one. Sadly, we are not laughing.

A member of the National Working Committee was quoted by the City Press as saying “Motlanthe creates the impression that all of us are a mad mob and that he is the only saviour, the sole voice of reason, and that he is better than all of us.” This says a lot about some people in there. They seem to recognise (with great reluctance I might add) that they are indeed a mob, and know that there is indeed a lone voice of reason. Instead of applauding it, the mob besieges it and tries to drown it out, not with logic, but with loud voices.

If I am not mistaken, rule 3.7 on the Character of the ANC in its constitution says the following: “The principles of freedom of speech and free circulation of ideas and information will operate within the ANC.”

When a senior member, the deputy president of the ANC, is dragged through the mud for exercising his rights as observed by the constitution, can we truly say that the principles of freedom of speech and the free circulation of ideas operate within the ANC? If this is contrary to what the ANC is meant to represent then can we not say that the ANC is losing its way?

Was it not the ANC that set in motion our constitution? Was it not the ANC that voted and made sure that we have an independent judiciary at the dawn of our democracy? Some have even said that we risk anarchy if Jacob Zuma goes to trial. It is better we have anarchy defending the independence of the judiciary than have a bench full of lackeys.

If Motlanthe’s goal is indeed the presidency, as some have claimed, then this would be a very bad way of playing his cards. He knows who will put him at the helm – the very people he is criticising. Perhaps he has come to realise that the country and the party are too important for him to remain silent while he watches people squabble over a leader — not ideology. He knows that voicing his true thoughts could cost him the presidency or influence should ANC President Jacob Zuma go to jail. It is for this reason that I applaud him for speaking out even though it is politically inconvenient for him. Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

We have lost our appetite of fighting real battles. We have become accustomed to frivolity. And so, as we search for a meaning as a nation, we find meaning in money, getting drunk and getting laid. Sometimes people do all three at the same time. These are the examples that have been set before us by our leaders.

As much as I respect our leaders (some with great reluctance I have to admit), I respect what the ANC should be more. Since it is not what it should be and since it is further away from what it should be than it was five or even ten years ago, then we can say that it is inching away from its revolutionary mandate.

Our leaders have not lived up to their responsibilities to this great organisation.

We have become accustomed to the daily tragic comedy that has become a way of life for our politics. And we watch bemused, as though watching a very bad episode of Generations.

The ANC of Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela was never about battling one another for power. Maybe they had bigger things to worry about than fight so publicly and so dirty amongst themselves. Maybe they were too busy fighting apartheid. Maybe they were too busy fighting for their freedom. Maybe they had higher ideals than to squabble about power, position and prestige.

Not all the current leaders are men of questionable character, reputation or intention. But just because a man’s character and his intentions don’t seem to be questionable does not mean he must not be questioned. This is to protect us from him and him from power. Because power, as we see every day, corrupts.

We should not and must not treat the ANC as though it were a perfect organisation, led by men and woman who are all perfect, and with nothing but perfect objectives. Some may have good intentions – for themselves. It is at this point that we need to make sure that members and leaders don’t confuse the good intentions they have for themselves as good intentions for the party or the state.

I suppose even questioning the current ANC leaders as counter revolutionary could be viewed as counter revolutionary. It is a never-ending cycle. It might be no different from a parishioner of the Roman Catholic Church calling the Pope and his Cardinals heretics.

The ANC seems to be at ease with its current disorderly conduct; it is time we made it uncomfortable so that we, the people, can be at ease with the future of nation. Right now, we are not. Our leaders are supposed to give us confidence for the future. So far they are failing. Dismally.

*first published on thoughtleader.co.za 2nd September 2008

Should Zuma give way for a Motlanthe presidency after the 2009 elections?*

September 25, 2008 § 8 Comments

If Zuma were to get up and address the nation and tell us that he has no intentions of running for the presidency of the country, he would do much to repair his chequered reputation. Such an announcement would probably be one of the single greatest acts of self-sacrifice this nation has ever seen. It would be a great turn around. He would redeem himself in many people’s eyes.

But then again, who am I kidding? Nothing of the sort would ever happen; not in a million years. If Jacob Zuma were to be asked today if he would be willing to stand down in the name of party unity he would give us the predictable rehearsed classic response, “I serve at the pleasure of the ANC. If the ANC says that they want me to serve as president of the country, I will serve. If it says it wants me to sweep the floors I will. It is not for me to say I don’t want to be president or I want that position.” I would bet a billion rand that’s what he would say if asked. Ok, maybe not those precise words but you get my drift.

It is my understanding that no one puts a gun against anyone’s head and forces someone to a position they don’t want in the ANC. Sometimes our leaders treat us as though we are idiots. We may be dumb, but we certainly aren’t as dumb as they think.

In a clever attempt to have it both ways, Zuma could also announce to the nation that he is making that consideration when in fact he isn’t. The Youth League, Cosatu and others would then shout from the rooftops and he would “cave”. He would then say that there are too many calls for him to run — he simply cannot ignore those calls; he has to serve the people. I expect that he would also point to the example set by Nelson Mandela who, before the elections, is reported to have told the NEC that he did not want to be president of the country because he felt he was too old. He also argued that there were younger and more capable hands to lead the country. The only difference is that there were no divisions within the ANC at the time. The ANC urged him to stand because the world trusted him and he would also ease any white fears. Basically, it was best for the country for him to be president.

Referring to the Mandela example, is it the best thing for the country to have a Zuma presidency? In fact, let me pose a less noble question. Is it the best thing for the ANC? I doubt that it is best for the ANC for him to run and these are my very unscientific reasons:

1. If he runs, the ANC will most certainly have a reduced majority at the polls next year as a direct result of the manner in which Thabo Mbeki has been treated. It was not the most politically astute move to make a few months before the general elections.

2. The DA will most certainly win the Western Cape thanks to the divisions in the ANC and the coloured vote going to the DA once again.

3. I am convinced that the UDM will see an increase in enthusiasm for it, particularly in the Eastern Cape. Personally, I believe Bantubonke Holomisa has been making sense for a very long time but nobody has been listening.

4. Much of the young, black middle class feels like political orphans at the moment and will either abandon the ANC and will not vote, or they will look for a new home.

Did the ANC really consider all of these possibilities before the ousting of Thabo Mbeki? Did they really have the interests of the ANC at heart or did they just have the interests of one man? Or were the Zumarites so drunk with victory after Judge Nicholson’s judgment that they threw reason out the window?

The advantage of having Kgalema Motlanthe as president is that he would be his own man. He owes no one. The ANC would remain largely intact if he were to run for the presidency. Most of those who feel like they are political orphans now that Thabo Mbeki has been fired would come back home. The ANC wouldn’t suffer as much in the elections next year.

Unfortunately the ANC is led by a group of hot heads who would never consider Kgalema Motlanthe as the option for party and country. They want what they want and they will do whatever it takes to get it. Get rid of the Scorpions, get rid of unwanted premiers, get rid of Thabo Mbeki and maybe the next thing is to drop all charges against Jacob Zuma. And finally, President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

If Zuma were to stand down it would probably be one of the greatest selfless acts we have ever witnessed as a nation. Not just because he would forego power, but he would forego a couple of extra pages in the history books as South Africa’s third democratically elected president.

If Zuma takes this course of action, he would also free himself from the political debts he owes. His creditors would tell him in no uncertain terms that a debtor cannot tell his creditors how he wants to pay them. He simply has to abide by the terms and conditions that have been set out before him, or there will be consequences. He might be forced to constantly make decisions he doesn’t want to make as president because he owes so many people. Zuma is between a rock and stainless steel.

To be fair, none of us know what it’s like to be Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. We can only imagine the torments he goes through. Now he can see a light at the end of the tunnel. But once he emerges into the light, will he be his own master?

Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma both damaged the ANC. They should ride into the sunset and allow others to repair the mess they have created. I suspect both men believe the other is responsible for this mess. They should leave the stage for Kgalema Motlanthe.
The question is: is Zuma man enough to give up what no man would give up? Can he truly give up what he has been working towards for such a long time? Can he give it up when it is within reach? When he has it in the palm of his hand? If I were him I don’t know if I would be able to. And that is the truth. Perhaps we should understand why he wouldn’t give up. But I don’t think we should excuse him for not letting go.

*first published September 25 2008, http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/khayadlanga

South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki Fired/Resigns

September 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

Is Zuma weak or just being used? *

September 15, 2008 § 3 Comments

By Khaya Dlanga

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my leaders smart. I don’t want their intellectual capacity to be open for debate.

Even if a leader is a jackass, I want to be able to say: “Sure, he’s a jackass, but he sure is smart,” like many people thought of good ol’ Mbeki. I don’t want my leader to be making George Bush-like misstatements when he speaks in public. It fills me with a great deal of comfort when I know that my leader is significantly smarter and wiser than I am. I’ll be the first to admit that that bar is not very high, so I’m not asking for much.

I know that some people will think that I’m questioning Zuma’s intelligence. I would have to be an idiot (not that I am not) to think that he is on the slow side. You don’t become the second-most-powerful man in the land by being stupid.

I just get the sense that his top supporters don’t respect him. Or they just think that they are smarter than he is. All they respect is what they can get because of him. I can’t shake the feeling that they will discard him like used toilet paper; once they are rid of him, they will go on the hunt for some other poor soul who is hungry and desperate enough for power, for whatever reason. Unfortunately many will claim much love for him, but I suspect they would rather nurse their expensive Johnnie Walkers while he burns, since he would have achieved his purpose. For them.

I had a conversation with a former chairperson of a certain region of a certain trade union a few months ago. I will name this individual Mr Someone as he told me in no uncertain terms not to reveal his name when I told him that I was going to write a blog regarding our conversation.

It was not until I saw headlines with the Congress of South African Trade Unions contradicting statements made by Zuma that I paid attention to the conversation I had those months ago with Mr Someone.

Mr Someone shared with me the reason the leaders of the trade unions were so passionate about Zuma. He made a call to a regional chairperson, Mr Somebody, of a large trade union while he was with me. After their conversation ended, Mr Someone revealed to me that the reason the likes of Mr Somebody supported Zuma so passionately was because he was someone the trade unions could control. They did not have that luxury with Mbeki and they punished him for it. He trusted his intellect far too much for their liking.

At times I wonder who calls the shots in the ANC. Is it Phosa or Gwede? I never wonder if it’s Zuma. Perhaps he is too busy preparing for the trial. Since the conference I have never felt that Zuma is leading the ANC. I don’t buy the collective argument. My suspicion is that the leadership of the ANC does not think that he would make a good president. If anyone is a lame-duck president, it’s Jacob Zuma.

We see the lack of power in small humiliations, so small that they go unnoticed. In the future they might become more blatant. Time will tell. He is made to retract a statement here and another one there. He is forced to say he was misquoted. Can you imagine that happening to Mbeki?

If all this is true, then it fair to say that Jacob Zuma does not lead; he is being led.

Zuma is becoming a sad and tragic figure. No one can deny that he is a likable and charming man. These two virtues do not a leader make.

He fought so hard for power that when he got it, he discovered he had it in name only. He is told how to wield it. We know that he would argue and say he is a consensus leader. The truth is that Mandela was such a leader, but we knew he had power; we never doubted it. The same can be said about Tambo. Mbeki was a different story, apparently. If this is Zuma’s way of rebelling against Mbeki’s style of leadership, then he is taking it too far. He just seems weak. Perhaps that is what Mr Somebody meant when he said that Zuma is someone that can be controlled.

This is what I expect from my leader:

I want to know what my leader stands for. I don’t want to hear him say one thing today and the opposite tomorrow.

I don’t want a leader who stands just for his own survival. I want a leader who will make sure that I, along with 46-million odd South Africans, don’t just survive but thrive.

I don’t want a leader who follows the public mood, but one who shapes it.

I want a leader who will tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.

I don’t want a leader who thinks that he can get away with answering tough questions by laughing. He should be arrogant enough to say, “I refuse to answer this question,” or, “This interview is over, Mr Journalist Person. Your question crossed the line.”

Zuma, man up! Be the president we know you can be. Stop trying to appease every interest group out there and take your power back!

*first published March 12th, on http://www.thoughtleader.co.za

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