Unhappy family

2008-10-07 00:00

Speculation is rife about the possible formation of a new political grouping around disenchanted former members of Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet, such as Mosiuoa Lekota who has openly criticised the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC). At the heart of this is a growing concern about the dominant and strident role being played by the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) within the Tripartite Alliance. Why is it that the voices of these two organisations’ secretaries-general, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi respectively, are the ones most often heard in public statements? Even the secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, is a prominent member of the SACP. For many South Africans these are worrying signs.

The resurgent role of the SACP is happening in a context where it has not dared to test its strength as a party standing independently in a general election. It continues to hide under the umbrella of the ANC. It could well lack extensive popular support and yet it speaks as though it is the governing party. This disturbing trend is completely out of keeping with the fate of communism in the world at large. In Russia itself, the Supreme Court, in a recent surprise judgment, has rehabilitated the image and memory of the last tsar and tsarina before the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, reclaiming this feature of its past and taking a symbolic stand against the totalitarian communist regime that followed it.

The ANC, which has played a pivotal role in creating and serving this country’s new democracy, needs to recover its soul and provide a distinctive leadership uncluttered by an outworn baggage of communism. It needs also to discipline its irresponsible youth wing, especially the utterances of Julius Malema. Part of the problem is that its elected president, Jacob Zuma, has his own embarrassing baggage to carry and there can be little doubt that, although there is a failure as yet to admit it, this is what most cripples the ANC’s capacity at present for responsible, dignified and unified leadership. The best solution lies with the very person put forward by them to succeed Mbeki as president of the nation, namely Kgalema Motlanthe. The party has still to grasp this sobering truth.

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