Growing dissent

2008-10-30 00:00

The political pot is boiling rather than simmering on the eve of this coming weekend’s convention hastily called together by African National Congress (ANC) dissidents Mosioua Lekota, the former Minister of Defence, and Mbhazima Shilowa, former premier of Gauteng. All political parties have been invited to attend the convention, together with representatives from civil society.

The ANC has indicated that it will not take part in the convention. Predictably, its president Jacob Zuma has been dismissive of the initiative. As a symbol of what is perceived as the party’s intact solidarity and its favourable prospects in the election next year, he has this week been campaigning in two Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) strongholds in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The signs of considerable dissent are nonetheless present for all to see. Former president Thabo Mbeki, while professing his continued allegiance to the ANC, has allegedly expressed anger, in his recent letter to Zuma, that without any consultation and subsequent to his “recall” as the country’s president, a public statement was made that he would be expected to campaign for the ANC in the coming election. Phillip Dexter, former treasurer-general of the South African Communist Party (SACP), has resigned from the ANC, charging its new leadership with personal ambition, dishonesty and vindictiveness.

“The ANC we used to know,” he said, “is no more.” A member of Parliament, Kiki Rwexana, has also resigned, claiming that “today the ANC is very cold”. The University of South Africa (Unisa) has denied that Julius Malema, president of the ANC’s Youth League, is one of its law students, as has been claimed. Being without a matric exemption, he had merely registered for a bridging course to enable him possibly to gain entry but had made no progress in it.

The ANC is moving away from being the broad-based organisation that it was in the past. It manifests increasingly the features of a political straightjacket. Columnist Allister Sparks predicts a split based primarily on class rather than race. The imminent new political formation could well draw support from the rising black middle-class. The coming months will indicate whether such predictions are correct.

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