Like a country chasing its own tail

2009-09-19 13:33

AS a country we have spent the past three years immersed in the internal politics of the ANC and its communist and trade union allies.

Enough already.

The new administration’s seats are barely warm and ­already there is a nascent war for the next incumbents. With a national general council in 2010 and a national conference in 2012 the jostling for positioning has already begun.

This explains Cosatu’s warning of a coup within the ANC, now deleted from its political report to the congress it will host from today.

In a nutshell, the federation is worried by a bullish Youth League that believes it won the presidency for Jacob Zuma and is so hot that its members can leapfrog the ANC culture of waiting your turn to govern.

The League would like to put its former president and deputy police minister, Fikile Mbalula, in office and the plan is for him to contest the secretary-general’s position against ­incumbent Gwede Mantashe come 2012.

This has got the union federation in a panic because ­Mantashe is its ideological ­insurance policy in the governing party’s top leadership.

And in the red corner the SACP has got its guns trained on Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, whom it complains is aggrandising too much power. He too must go.

It matters nought to the communists that Manuel has ­barely a fax machine and a ­secretary, but this week we were treated to a range of conspiracy theories about how his National Planning Commission is about to usurp the role of the president himself, while starving to death the office of the Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

In the end it’s a tussle about economic policy direction and a symbol of just how impossible a coalition Cabinet Zuma has created for himself.

While his tendency to inclusiveness is an important one, the Cabinet brings together so many different tendencies and factions that unless he leads from the front and sets his own course, all that will happen is that it will always be in battle mode, with ministers being played off against each other, as we saw this week.

The possibility of stasis is a very real threat in a country growing more and more restive every month.

The president’s image of a man of the people has set up enormous expectations, as the service protests that began less than two months after he had taken office showed.

And the launch of his hotline this week will create an even bigger bubble of need and aspiration. Now more than ever Zuma needs to call off his shock troops and point all in the direction of those often forgotten in the battles that characterise the Tripartite Alliance: we, the people.

In the end its perambulations are nothing but meaningless distractions.

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