Motlanthe is myopic on succession debate

2012-03-31 10:34

With elections about to hit the US, the country is abuzz with ­political ­debate, opposing political and ­economic policies, and childish name-calling.

Previously anonymous figures are now household familiars, whose names roll off our tongues. What is interesting about this “royal rumble” is the fact that all of these men belong to the ­conservative Republican Party.

This brawl unfolds before the main event, the presidential elections that will determine whether Barack Obama ­continues his tenure as US president.

But how is this at all relevant to Kgalema Motlanthe – former caretaker president, current deputy president – and the South African public?

Last Sunday saw another centenary celebration of the ANC in Tzaneen. Some supporters wore T-shirts that prominently displayed the deputy president’s face with the words “Kgalema for ­president”.

This open display of support for Motlanthe and implied defiance of Jacob Zuma prompted ­Kgalema to admonish the crowd. He asked them to refrain from personalising the leadership of the ANC and asked them an introspective ­question: “What if you are wrong?”

This question could be interpreted in a number of ways. I choose to interpret it as: what if soon after becoming president, the very same people who sang his praises, turn on him?

But more ­importantly, he expressed his wishes for the ­people to see the ANC as being the answer to the leadership question in this country, not ­particular individuals, himself included.

He, I contend, is incorrect. The leader of a party is important as an individual. He or she is the face, the voice and the representative of the party.

He or she should be someone of integrity; someone the voting populous believes will drive and see to the implementation of the policies they vote for.

The party alone cannot effect the change people wish to see and a party alone should not be what convinces an individual to cast his or her ballot.

A false comparison should not be drawn between the two contrasting political and democratic systems that rule the US and our republic.

They vote for an individual; we vote for the make-up of our Parliament, which in turn votes for the president.

It is no secret who the person would be to receive the presidency when they win the elections. That is why Zuma’s face was plastered on posters prior to our last national election.

Within the party itself, however, questions should be asked around who should lead the party and why. If there is an air of malcontent with Zuma as a leader and the masses yearn for Motlanthe’s leadership, than the ANC should assess this.

It is the masses who vote for the party and the masses should decide who leads it.

When the Americans go to the polls, the ­Republicans will know that whoever runs for the presidency is their best candidate.

That individual will best represent the will of his constituency and garner their votes. A failure on his side would see himself and his party lose ­future elections.

Thus the effort by Motlanthe to silence the ­succession debate, in line with the wishes of the rest of the party’s leadership, is myopic. If he ­deserves the seat of leadership, he should tell us why and the same applies for the rest of the ANC’s leadership.

The party does not have to split. After all, policy is policy and should effectively remain unchanged despite changing leadership.

What would change is implementation. Implementation is initiated by a person and it is about time that South Africans voted for implementation, not generic manifestoes.

More importantly, we will start thinking about who will lead the country as president before we cast our vote.

» Brooks is a talk show host for Talk Radio 702

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