January 28, 2009 § 6 Comments
Imagine a scenario where former president Thabo Mbeki decides to announce his endorsement and intentions to vote for Cope but decides to remain a member of the ANC. I cannot imagine a situation that could rattle the feathers of some of the over inflated egos at Luthuli House more. Some of those egos are “too big, too wide, too strong, won’t fit they’re too much and they talk like this but they can’t even back it up.” “Quoting” Beyonce while discussing politics seems a tad out of place. Perhaps I should make a better analogy. Let me point to the most widely followed election in recent memory. The US elections.
(Just an aside here. I was commenting on someone’s status on Facebook about something they had said regarding the ANC. In my comment I quoted Dr Martin Luther King; someone then commented saying, “Trust Cope to quote Martin Luther King who, at the time, was speaking about equality during the 1960s. What relevance does Dr King have to our democracy,” as if there was something wrong with quoting people from other countries. I’m afraid if that person sees this blog post I will be taken to task for making references to America.)
Two weeks before the American general elections in 2008 a very well respected Republican sat before Tom Brokaw, the host of MSNBC’s much-respected Meet the Press TV programme. This particular Republican, according to opinion polls, had been the most respected American for years. In fact, had his wife not forbidden him from running in 2000, would most certainly have been the Republican nominee for president, meaning that he would have ended up president of the United States instead of George Walker (Dubya) Bush. He would have been America’s first black president.
This Republican gentleman and former National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State, General Colin Luther Powell endorsed Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, for the presidency of the United States. During his endorsement he mentioned that he was and still is a member of the Republican Party but felt that Obama would make a better president than his fellow party man, John McCain. Although he endorsed an individual, it was essentially an endorsement of the Democratic Party’s platform.
General Powell made that endorsement fully aware of the impact it might have on the fence sitters. Here was an established, highly respected man going out of his way to make known his intentions of voting for a member of a different party to that of his own. Although he allowed himself to be used to bring falsified evidence before the United Nations, which led to the invasion of Iraq, perhaps the endorsement was a way of correcting that error.
He was not hounded out of the Republican Party after his announcement. Of course they were not happy with the endorsement. It was his right to express his preferences. Some tried to spin it by saying he was only endorsing Obama because he is black. Maybe it is time our country matured enough to allow people to express their preferences without fear or favour.
Unfortunately I don’t see Luthuli House viewing Mbeki’s endorsement of Cope as his democratic right. He would most likely be called a traitor at first. Then names and a host of animals that can be found in a zoo. The endorsement would then be ridiculed. They would say that he wants to rule from the grave. They would accuse him of bitterness. They would say that people aren’t going to switch from the ANC and vote for Cope simply because Mbeki decided to do so. The funny thing is they would spend an awful lot of time telling us how insignificant the endorsement was. They would also appear on every SABC station telling us how it would not make a dent in the ANC’s support base, which would make you how wonder: is it really inconsequential? Fikile Mbalula would say that he was right all along; Mbeki was behind Cope all along. Then Julius would call for him to be disciplined or call for his expulsion.
I had the rare opportunity of seeing Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula at a wedding I too had the privilege of attending some time last year. While all the guests were having tea before the reception, they stood together and talked, like two lonely figures. No one really walked up to them, to talk to them. Then later at the reception the master of ceremonies made the following pronouncement, “I see Mr Malema is also here.” There was much laughter. Make of the laughter what you will. But I digress, as usual. Excuse the ADD.
Should senior members of the ANC who might be sympathetic to Cope publicly announce their intentions to vote for Cope even though they remain members of the ANC? Should they come out and say that they are doing so in order to strengthen democracy and not necessarily weaken the ANC? Will a stronger opposition not in fact strengthen them? Maybe not in terms of numbers, but in strengthening the democratic processes within the party?
Members of the ANC should have the freedom to endorse and to state their intentions of voting for Cope even though they are still senior members of the ANC without the fear of being suspended.
If the rumours are true that the ANC is busy denying – President Motlanthe’s intentions of refusing the position of deputy president should Zuma become president, then it is difficult not to view his discomfort of serving as deputy to Zuma as a vote of no confidence in his presidency.
If, in the next few weeks and months, people decide to go public and announce that they will vote Cope but will remain members of the ANC, then the ruling party should understand one thing — these people do not love the ANC any less. It’s just that they love their country more.
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
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
September 22, 2008 § 3 Comments
By Khaya Dlanga
I read an interesting yet short article by Karima Brown on Business Day online. The following paragraphs caught my eye:
“Could firebrand African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema have an even bigger effect on South African politics than he dreams of?
“His demand that President Thabo Mbeki be stripped of his ANC membership could well be the Damascene moment that induces the birth of a powerful new opposition to the ANC. For months it has been whispered that Mbeki and his camp have been exploring the formation of a new party after his defeat by Jacob Zuma in Polokwane. Polls have been conducted, research commissioned, meetings held and stories spread.”
It would have been unwise and bordering on political and strategic retardation to strip Mbeki of his ANC membership. It would have been going very far — so far that it would have been beyond too far. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe dismissed these calls as mere rumours while on the television programme Interface.
Had the rumours been true, it would have been the best thing to have happened to Mbeki because that would have given him carte blanche to form his own party. Many like-minded people would have flocked to him; many of them with money. His party wouldn’t have won a majority, but the ANC wouldn’t have gained a two-thirds majority either, nor would it even have received 50% of the vote.
They need him in the ANC: not for his sake, but for the sake of the party to make life easier for the organisation. An opposition led by the former president would give the ANC a rather impossible migraine.
Now he has to toe the party line, and show that he is a dedicated and loyal member of the ANC who will do anything asked of him. After Zuma is sworn in as president, what will happen to him? Will the ANC discard him because he has achieved for it what it wanted? Without Mbeki, the ANC’s majority will be greatly reduced.
The ANC needs him more than it is willing to admit. Is it possible that he does not need the party as much?
There was a part of me that hoped that the ANC would be foolish enough to strip him of his membership. Not because I was hoping that he would be humiliated — on the contrary, I thought that it would be a great idea for him to head up a powerful opposition to the current ANC, which I have started to see as quickly devolving into an anarchist organisation. Of course that was my immediate emotional reaction at the time of his dismissal. His address to the nation did much to calm this line of thinking. He said: “I remain a member of the ANC, and therefore respect its decision. It is for this reason that I have taken the decision to resign as president of the republic.”
He is far too loyal to the ANC to leave it.
There are some level-headed moderates within the leadership structures of the ANC: the likes of Kgalema Motlanthe, Pallo Jordan and others — unfortunately we never hear them. We only ever hear those who shout from the rooftops that they would kill for Zuma. Mind you, not in defence of their nation or an ideology, but for a mere man. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard someone say they’d kill for Mandela, and there is a man worth dying for.
I have mixed feelings about the whole series of unfortunate events that has led us to this point. This is a painful moment for our nation. People are emotional. They are hurting. Let the victors not gloat for they have led one of their own to the slaughter. And like a lamb, he willingly walked there.
The ANC insists that the firing of Mbeki is not revenge. I don’t think that the public buys that. This is all so transparent. The purpose of Mbeki’s removal is to pave a path for Jacob Zuma’s ascension to the pinnacle. Plain and simple. No sugar-coating necessary. When power speaks nonsense to us, we should reply with truth.
Mbeki is too much of a loyal ANC man even to consider starting a new political party. But should he remain loyal to a party that he thinks has lost its way?
On the one hand, one can argue that it is better for him to stay in the ANC and try to reform it from within. If he forms a new political party, he will be accused of sulking.
One thing we have learnt from the events since Polokwane is that the ANC is reformable. Just because people with a different ideology now overrun it does not mean that it will remain this way forever. Evolution will happen in time.
Now we have to wait and see. What will the new elites do with their newfound power? Will it make them drunk and cause them to do the very same things of which they have accused Mbeki? Are they going to try to block the possible prosecution of the ANC president, Jacob Zuma? Should we as the public (or, as those in power like to refer to us, the masses, as though we are some objectionable vile disease) turn a blind eye from that hypocrisy?
If the new elites decide to drop all charges, then we have to make the assumption that the new executive too is unjust. If this is the case, then the ANC deserves to be punished at the polls by reducing its majority. It goes without saying that the ANC will win the next election. By squashing the appeal, then, they will not give Zuma his day in court, as he had so frequently demanded in the past.
We can only sit back and admire the president’s supporters’ reactions. There have been no shouts of “There will be blood on the streets if Thabo Mbeki is removed from office.” No threats of mayhem or a revolution. No “100% Xhosa-boy” T-shirts. No effigies of Zuma burnt to ashes. No tyres burning on the roads. No shops looted. His response was dignified. Presidential. His supporters have respected the decision made by the ANC. He stepped down with humility and asked for unity. He addressed the nation. We listened. The nation was calm during a very uneasy period.
After Polokwane, the world’s top ratings agencies said: “South Africa’s prudent monetary policy framework would stay in place with room for some flexibility on spending. We do not see a sharp change in policies.”
If we have strong fundaments, then, to quote the guy that I’d like to leave me his estate when he dies, Warren Buffet: “You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will.”
I think that is the important thing about South Africa. We should protect our institutions and the Constitution for this reason. They should be so strong that when and if a fool does take over at some point, we don’t fall apart. For now, I don’t think we will fall apart. There is too much at stake. The new leadership is not bent on destroying the country.
To quote the president as he announced his resignation to the nation: “Our strength as a people is not tested during the best of times. We should never be despondent because the weather is bad. Nor should we turn triumphalist because the sun is shining.”
The new comrade elites would serve themselves well to heed these words. Now that the sun is shining for them, what will they do?
Now is not the time for personal vendettas.
Mbeki was far from a perfect president, but he has been the best we have ever had. Can we do better than Mbeki? Yes, we can. That is what we always hope for, that each successive generation will give us better leaders. My only hope is that we get better leadership sooner rather than later.
South Africa is a better country than it has been for the past few years.
* Originally published on 22 September, http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/khayadlanga