May 12, 2015 § 1 Comment
*originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian: 01 May 2014
Unfortunately many see Mmusi Maimane as a puppet; there are people behind his rise, and those people are not black.
South Africa still lives with its past. It is ever present and confronts us in every way. We are unable to shake it even when we desperately want to and we are still going to vote along racial lines.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been trying to destroy this voting pattern by putting black faces at the forefront of its election campaigns. One of its tactics has been to portray its premier candidate for Gauteng Mmusi Maimane as a Barack Obama-type figure.
There is a very clear, calculated reason for this: to attract young, black, middle class voters and the born-frees all the parties have been trying to secure. Unfortunately, only 33.6% of born-frees are registered to vote – compared to 60% of those in their 20s and 90% of people older than 30. This means one million born-frees are not interested and have not at all been inspired, even by the Obamafication of Maimane.
Of course it is a huge problem for all political parties, not just the DA, which has banked on them because, as their logic went, since the born-frees have no experience of the struggle, they won’t feel compelled to vote for the ANC. It seems they were wrong.
The born-frees don’t feel compelled to vote for anyone. The excitement deficit our leaders have generated is demonstrated by the lack of these young ones’ interest in voting.
US President Obama’s strongest supporters in 2008 were first-time voters, and this was the same strategy the DA attempted. The difference for the country’s Democrats then was that Obama actually generated excitement because of who he was and his story. People don’t know Maimane. He came out of nowhere for them. He is manufactured in their eyes. Obama introduced himself in 2004 to the American public and ran for president for two years so that by the time elections came, they knew who he was and what he stood for.
DA party leader Helen Zille knows that black South Africans are suspicious of the DA, not necessarily because they believe she is racist and will bring back apartheid, but they just don’t feel they would be a priority under DA rule.
The DA has done a remarkable job in making Maimane seem like he is, in fact, the leader of the party. He is on almost every DA poster one sees in Gauteng, for example, and there are a few posters peppered with Zille just to remind you she is still in charge. Even though she says the party is not about racialising politics in South Africa, the DA is practicing racial politics. The thinking is that Maimane is black and will therefore appeal more to black voters than Zille will, so the party put him on TV and posters so that the voter can see the DA isn’t a white party.
Unfortunately, many people see Maimane as something of a puppet, that there are powers behind the operation that are not black. So they are suspicious about the agenda of the people behind him. His emergence has been far too sudden for people to trust him.
He is perhaps being groomed as the next party leader after Zille. It is becoming more clear: the DA needs a black leader in order to get an even greater share of the vote. But will the DA membership allow such a thing to happen?
What the DA has done a lot more successfully than the ANC, is to come across as deracialised by making some of its black leaders prominent. In the past, the ANC had many prominent white leaders who were right at the heart of the movement. Not only white, but coloured and Indian too. We don’t see that as much any more, which seems to indicate there is an emergence of racial polarisation in the ANC, which needs to be addressed urgently. The ANC was the most racially mixed party of any in South Africa for a long time. Yes, there are still many people of other races in the ANC, but they are not prominent and are kept as workhorses. The ANC needs to be very deliberate in getting these leaders some airtime.
In this election, too, we will see people vote along racial lines, despite all the work the DA has done. The party has the right idea but it was badly executed.
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