Internal Divisions

2008-09-04 00:00

The African National Congress (ANC) has traditionally been an organisation where vigorous internal debate on policy matters has taken place and constructive criticism been well received. Today there is a different mood of authoritarianism on the one hand and rebelliousness on the other. Nevertheless, the present secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, has been at pains to point out that there is currently no real division. It is others, including the media, who are creating this impression.

Are the public to believe ANC spin doctors or columnists such as Allister Sparks whose longstanding political credentials are hardly, in principle, antagonistic to the ANC? Sparks, in his feature article in this newspaper yesterday, wrote of an ANC more deeply divided now than even at the time of its national conference in Polokwane last December. At the heart of this is the frenzy over Jacob Zuma’s still-unresolved legal position in relation to the state’s corruption charges against him.

ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has emerged as a key figure who does not hesitate to speak his mind. He is a leading member of the Zuma camp, yet he is also now a minister in President Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet. It is possible that he will be a bridge builder. He has a clear grasp of principle, as was shown in his public criticism of the ANC’s Youth League for its recent attacks on the judiciary, including Chief Justice Pius Langa.

Whatever the impact of the current ANC divisions and its effect on this country’s democratic future, it is important that someone of Motlanthe’s growing political stature be present to bring stability and wisdom to a political scenario that is an anxious one for all South Africans. This is especially so with Mbeki facing constitutional closure of his presidency, after two terms, in 2009 and Jacob Zuma, the heir apparent, continuing to face an uncertain future.

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