Expect an epic 2012 ANC forum

2010-06-12 12:15

We often write the tripartite alliance’s obituary. We are often

wrong.

Thus, the raging war of words in the alliance could easily be

dismissed as a storm in a teacup were it not for the forthcoming ANC elective

conference in 2012.

It promises to have more fireworks than the watershed Polokwane

conference.

Before that conference, a loose alliance coalesced against former

president Thabo Mbeki for his attempt to secure a third term as ANC leader.

This

grouping, ­unflatteringly referred to as the “coalition of the wounded”, had as

its glue the common hatred for Mbeki’s leadership style and political

ambitions.

Most members of the group, including its public face, Jacob Zuma,

were nursing bruises of one kind or another sustained during running battles

with Mbeki.

How things have changed since that fateful day in Polokwane when

Mbeki was humiliated and Zuma rose like a phoenix.

South Africans have heard unflattering words and seen tensions

rising to ­unprecedented levels within Polokwane’s triumphant brigade.

When it

wasn’t Julius Malema attacking the left for trying to ­impose a socialist agenda

on the ­“nationalist” ANC (we even went back to an era of rooi gevaar), it was

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi attacking what he termed “a small

clique bent on wealth accumulation and crass materialism”.

What started out as a rumour that the ANC’s national working

committee had decided to prefer charges of ill-discipline against Cosatu’s

general secretary, now degenerated into a mud-slinging match between some

affiliates and ANC leaders.

Though confidential reports say the plan to discipline Vavi has

been shelved, I am still dumbfounded by Luthuli House’s ­ostrich-style approach

to this issue.

Common sense, let alone basic public relations practice, dictates

that you cannot wish away a rumour.

It gave currency to the view that the ANC was shooting the

messenger and raised the spectre of silencing a culture of open ­criticism that

is so important to ­democracy in South Africa.

Perhaps the federation has also learnt a lesson in political

management – it need not take all its battles to the streets.

This does not mean

that the federation should be a praisesinger.

Vavi is asking pertinent

questions, and how the ANC responds will determine whether it reoccupies the

moral high ground or watches it slip from grasp.

No matter what happens with the ­alliance, we are witnessing a

realignment of the post-Polokwane forces that will see an epic battle in 2012.

The race has not been formally declared because that is not how ANC leadership

races are run.

Proxies battle it out as a prelude to the real thing.

Still, it

is premature to write the alliance’s obituary.

It is not the tripartite alliance that is ­unravelling. It is the

pre-Polokwane ­accord that is disentangling.

The level-headed within the

alliance, who appreciate the balancing role it plays in our politics, will grasp

the nettle and steady the ship through these treacherous waters.

Given the parlous state of the ­opposition, South Africa needs this

­alliance because the vigilance of the partners is the only check and balance at

our disposal against possible undemocratic tendencies.

» Mogodiri is a media and political commentator.



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