Lessons for ANC – Chikane

2012-03-17 17:21

Frank Chikane, a former Presidency director-general, said his latest book – on how former President Thabo Mbeki was removed from office – could help the ANC learn from its past mistakes.

The book – Eight Days in September: The removal of Thabo Mbeki – has set the political cat among the pigeons, with many ANC faithful questioning the timing of the release.

On some of the lessons for the party – which is going for an elective conference in December – Chikane said:

» We cannot conflate party and state. There are some members of the ANC who believe that they have the right to put and remove presidents.

» This is our government, not somebody else’s government and we need to make sure that we don’t collapse the two into one; and

» We are a new democracy, therefore I was not surprised in a way when people acted in ways that threatened the Constitution.

Chikane said the book – launched this week – was never meant to influence the ANC leadership succession.

The release was originally planned for last year but it was delayed because Chikane switched publishers three times following disagreements.

Chikane also denied that the book, in which he likened Mbeki’s removal to a “coup d’etat”, had the blessing of the former president.

“He (Mbeki) never saw the script, he saw the book like everybody else when it got published.”

ANC leaders and members that City Press spoke to this week said it was unlikely that the book would be read by most of the party’s ordinary branch members, but some conceded it could contribute to a shift in loyalties among the more prominent party faithful.

Tongues were wagging this week about who were among the more than 500 people attending the Johannesburg launch.

At least one businessman admitted he didn’t want to be seen associating with people opposing President Jacob Zuma.

None of the ANC’s officials were there, although treasurer-general Mathews Phosa was expected to attend.

Phosa told City Press he was not informed by ANC leaders about the invitation and he was abroad anyway, but said he did speak to Chikane earlier in the week.

Phosa said he believed Chikane, in his book, “was sharing what he perceived to be his own experience. If we (ANC leaders) differ, we will write a critique”.

Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy attended the launch after requesting an invitation. Malema led calls for Mbeki’s removal as the country’s president in 2008.

Mbeki was also invited, but only his wife, Zanele, attended.

There were rumours thatshe didn’t want to sit near Malema in the front rows and initially made for the chairs in the back, but the publishers said she was late and was ushered to the front by Chikane’s wife, Kagiso.

Brothers Aziz and Essop Pahad and Alec Erwin, ministers in Mbeki’s cabinet attended the launches in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Former chief justice Pius Langa also came.

The presence of businessman Mikki Xayiya, who was appointed chief executive of Mvelaphanda after Tokyo Sexwale stepped down in 2009 to join Zuma’s cabinet, raised some eyebrows, as did Wiseman Nkuhlu, a former economic advisor to Mbeki and a premier candidate for Cope in the Eastern Cape in 2009.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe slammed Chikane in 2010 for publishing extracts of the book and said these could not be treated as the “gospel truth”.

Mantashe, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, told a fellow party member recently the book was “full of laments”.

Chikane said he agreed with ANC leaders two years ago that he had the right to write his story “in a responsible way”.

Chikane’s book is one of the fastest-selling books for Pan Macmillan South Africa this year, with its first print run of 7 000 already sold out.

Managing director Terry Morris said another 15 000 copies would be printed and distributed to shops by the end of the week.

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