Time to pay attention

2017-01-31 06:02

IT is worrying that the ANC has decided to shut down public engagement on the issue of leadership succession.

The ANC said its structures should refrain from discussing publicly the names of people they want to serve in the party’s top six posts and the national executive committee.

The ANC will hold its national elective conference in December where President Jacob Zuma will be replaced by a new party leader.

There is great public interest in the succession debate because of the immense power the new leader will wield in the ANC and possibly as the next state president. But the ANC does not want to allow open debate on the matter as it believes this will intensify factionalism and distract people from discussing policy issues. In the ANC’s parallel universe, the character and skills of the candidates are immaterial as their mandate is to carry out ANC policy.

The past 10 years have shown the flaws in this thinking as the major problems and scandals in the country have not been over policy but as a result of poor leadership and bad decision-making by those the ANC elected in 2007 and 2012.

The fact that the ANC wants to suppress debate about the qualities and leadership abilities of the candidates shows that it has learnt little from the mistakes of the past 10 years.

It is not only in South Africa where we see the impact of electing poor leaders.

The United States has become a 24-hour reality television spectacle with Donald Trump initiating processes to reverse the climate-change agenda, scrap the legislation that provides access to health care for millions of people, introduce “extreme vetting” for Muslims from certain countries and erect a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump’s actions will have far-reaching consequences for the entire world, not just Americans. Millions of people are now participating in protests rejecting his leadership. But the protests have little effect as Trump is secure in his position for the next four years, during which time he could change our way of life on the planet.

This week I was in Mozambique, where the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was on an official visit.

Erdogan has been on a rampage in his country, jailing people indiscriminately, purging the public service of professionals and closing down media houses.

The target of his wrath is anyone who follows the teachings of Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen (75), a scholar living in the United States.

Erdogan believes the Gulen movement was behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July last year and he has imposed a nationwide crackdown since then. About 40 000 people have been imprisoned, including judges, teachers and doctors, and over 120 000 have lost their jobs in six months.

Erdogan was visiting Mozambique as part of a three-nation African tour to convince the governments to close down schools being run by Turkish citizens affiliated to the Gulen movement.

Without providing any proof, Erdogan was trying to strong-arm African leaders to shut down the schools by tempting them with the prospect of massive investments by Turkish businesspeople. Luckily, the African leaders were not receptive to his coercive tactics and gave no indication that they would shut down the much-needed and well-resourced schools.

Erdogan is meanwhile steaming ahead with plans to increase his powers, which the people of Turkey will vote on in April. Without the benefit of a free media and independent voices in society, Erdogan’s propaganda machinery is likely to ensure an endorsement of his super-presidency.

The events in the U.S. and Turkey should make us pay attention. They show the risk of complacency among ordinary people and the danger of electing the wrong leaders, even through seemingly democratic processes.

Debate on who is the next ANC leader is very necessary. If the ANC wants to continue to govern South Africa, it needs to understand that leadership is everyone’s business.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick. ranjeni.munusamy@gmail.com

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