Motlanthe’s choice

2009-01-23 00:00

SPOKESPERSON for the African National Congress Carl Niehaus, denies that there is tension within the ruling party. Blade Nzimande rejects the suggestion that he is angling for the position of deputy if Jacob Zuma assumes the presidency after the general election. And the figure at the centre of these issues is President Kgalema Motlanthe.

He recently received a visit from Mnyamezeli Booi, ANC chief whip. Booi was inquiring about two contentious bills passed by Parliament, but not yet signed by the president. One amends the Broadcasting Act and allows for the removal of the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. The other is the General Laws legislation that would finally bury the Scorpions. Neither benefits the nation; both have much to do with ANC faction fighting.

It is not clear exactly why Motlanthe has yet to approve these bills. In the ANC’s view, he is simply another deployee, a cog in machinery the levers of which are pulled by the party bosses at Luthuli House. There is, however, a better perspective: as national president Motlanthe is responsible to all the people of South Africa. It is to be hoped that he has put away his pen and is giving further thought to what many people regard as damaging legislation.

Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement has suggested that the Scorpions bill might be referred to the Constitutional Court in the face of significant public disquiet. Removal of the SABC board when the broadcaster appears to be doing an improved job ahead of elections could also be unwise. Perhaps the president, aware of his broader responsibilities, is pondering these implications.

The ANC, stuck in the rhetoric and traditions of mid-20th century struggle politics strongly influenced by Stalinism, has still not grasped the essentials of modern democracy. It continues to elevate the latest party line, often inextricably entangled with personal ambition, above the greater good.

Parties win elections, but the president and the cabinet have to govern in the national interest. This requires political agility and wisdom, not slavish obedience to policy. In terms of modern constitutional democracy, the ANC looks increasingly like a dinosaur.

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