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.

khayav@gmail.com

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

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

Should Thabo Mbeki launch a new party? *

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.

khayav@gmail.com

* Originally published on 22 September, http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/khayadlanga

South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki Fired/Resigns

September 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

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