The bigger picture

2011-06-22 00:00

IT is easy to think of Julius Malema­ as an aberration on the political landscape and to pour scorn on Alpha Shelembe, the Msunduzi deputy mayor who until yesterday refused to abdicate his civil post despite mounting pressure to do so. However, by focusing on the individuals and casting them as the villains of the plot we lose sight of the bigger picture of what's going on in the ANC.

The real issue that needs to be probed is to what extent the views of Malema, and until now, the stance taken by Shelembe, represent mainstream political culture within the ruling party? And, are we seeing the factions within the ANC finally coming to the fore?

This is an emerging discussion and there is enough resonance both from within the ranks of the ANC alliance and in what analysts are saying to give some credence to the debate.

Shelembe and his fellow members of the local Regional Executive­ Committee (REC), resisted all pressure to remove them both from the REC and from their self-appointed positions as councillors­.

Young Communist League chairperson Mlu Manana, speaking at Friday's protest march, said Shelembe and others of his ilk were being protected by certain ANC provincial leaders. According to him, "They are part of a broader grouping aiming to oust ANC president Jacob Zuma next year by using money looted from council coffers."

We know that Zuma is currently not Malema's favourite person. The re-elected youth league leader has been singing the praises of Zuma's nemesis, former president Thabo Mbeki, and has had continuous digs at Zuma, although not mentioning him by name.

Justice Malala, writing in the Daily Times on Monday, says there is no doubt that someone is preparing to run against Zuma for the presidency of the party and that Malema is preparing to back that person. Malala believes that the potential challenger can be narrowed down to either Kgalema­ Motlanthe or Tokyo Sexwale­.

The Times columnist mentions that KwaZulu-Natal remains Zuma's stronghold and says this is despite murmurings that Premier Zweli Mkhize's relationship with Zuma has soured. Malala adds that Mkhize has comprehensively denied talk of a rift between himself and Zuma.

Shortly before the 2009 national elections there was talk of cracks beginning to show in the broad church that had got together­ to support Zuma for the ANC presidency.

Wits University political science­ professor Anthony Butler, who wrote about factional politics within the ANC, described it as fluid­ and multidimensional.

Writing in 2010 he said: "There are arguably­ three super-factions at play: the Mvela project allegedly headed by housing minister and former Gauteng premier Tokyo Sexwale; a KwaZulu-Natal power bloc, masterminded by presidential aspirant and provincial premier Zweli Mkhize; and what is ironically known as the 'organised left', fronted by ANC secretary-general and SACP chairman Gwede Mantashe."

The Mkhize bloc has since become­ part of the Mvela grouping.

It is interesting to see locally that Alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP are firmly on the side of protesting ANC members who want the REC out. It was equally interesting to see Malema take a dig at the Alliance partners in his two-hour speech at the ANC Youth League elective conference. Then, when ANC member and chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Dr Makhosi­ Khoza, broke ranks and called on Shelembe to be removed as deputy mayor, the one organisation that strongly attacked her was the ANCYL.

KZN deputy chairperson of the League, Sboniso Dumisa, said his organisation was outraged at Khoza's pronouncement.

Dumisa did not mince his words and accused­ Khoza of sour grapes because she was not deployed as mayor of eThekwini. He said that Khoza was introducing an element­ which was contrary to ANC practice as she did not raise her concerns within ANC structures­, such as the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC), but chose rather to air her views publically­ and "hog the headlines".

So in the local spat here in Pietermaritzburg­ the ANCYL seems to be in one corner and the Alliance partners in the other. Perhaps this will be seen as reading too much into the situation, but why not? We are living in interesting times.

Nationally we have a strengthened ANCYL united behind re-elected leader Malema. The League flaunts its position on wanting the mines nationalised and land expropriated without compensation. It says it will support those leaders who back its position.

It will be interesting to see who in the ranks of the ANC emerges as the champion of the Youth League in the race for leadership within the ANC. Will it be members­ of the Mvela project and will Mkhize be part of this group?

All considered, the individuals who have been grabbing the headlines begin to recede as the profiles of the groups who are the real powers in the ANC come to the fore.

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