Acid test

2008-11-01 00:00

Neatly bracketed by the Hindu Diwali festival and the annual reminder of Guy Fawkes’s gunpowder plot, this weekend will give an indication of whether the convention now assembled in Sandton will ignite major fireworks in the national political arena or prove just a damp squib. The current African National Congress leadership declares itself confident that the party’s hold on power will not be materially shaken, but men such as Mosiuoa Lekota, Mbhazima Shilowa and Willie Madisha have very impressive political credentials. In the dispute over which grouping is the true custodian of the soul and spirit of the ANC, a great many people seem to have become troubled by the trends evidenced under the party’s new leadership, backed as it is by the increasingly influential South African Communist Party and wildly vociferous Youth League.

That the funeral of party elder Billy Nair should have become an occasion for political mudslinging is both a measure of the prevailing tension and an indicator of what to expect as the next election approaches. After four properly democratic general elections it might be thought that campaigning would be somewhat more commonplace, but with this split every possible opportunity for point scoring will doubtless be exploited to the full.

By Monday, the country will have an idea of just how strong this challenge is likely to be. The stronger it is, the more acrimonious the fractious months ahead will be and the more likely to generate noise and smoke rather than to shed light.

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