Mangaung Mutters: Maskandi politics

2012-12-16 12:00

Paddy Harper reflects on coalitions, acronyms and former president Thabo Mbeki’s

salt-and-pepper Afro in the first instalment of Mangaung Mutters

They say that in politics a week is like a lifetime.

And if the ANC’s 52nd national conference in Polokwane five years ago and the events since are anything to go by, then this week is going to take forever.

That doesn’t mean it will be ­boring. Far from it.

This will be a hard-core, hard-fought conference, whether the presidential battle escalates into full-scale war or white flags are waved early on.

This will be a mad week.

The ANC has taken over Mangaung like an invasion force.

Normal rules will be put on hold. For a week, this city will eat, sleep and hopefully drink nothing but the governing party and its conference.

The media frenzy will be worse than Polokwane, Stellenbosch and Mahikeng put together.

At Polokwane in 2007, the ­coalition of the wounded voted out then president Thabo Mbeki.

You’ll remember him. Mbeki was the short cat with the weird internet habits, the pipe, the Chivas and the salt-and-pepper Afro.

TM1, as he was known, once smoked a packet of my Camels.

The coalition voted Jacob Zuma in. It was a big result. Everybody was happy, except the third of the ANC who walked out to form the Congress of the People.

The party was still on two years later when South Africa voted him in as president.

The celebration at Nxamalala was banging. The notebooks were put away and the whisky came out.

I had a blast.

I still hope to swing an invite for the 2014 gig.

Are the protocols for getting into a ­National Key Point still the same as in the 1980s?

Five years later, the coalition has split.

Its members are too busy wounding each other to coalesce.

It’s like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, Liverpool and Everton. Now we have the ABZs, or ­Anything But Zumas.

These ABZ comrades do not want a second term for the current commander in chief.

They are ­also known as the FoC, or Forces of Change.

The ABZ-FoC comrades call those who support the commander in chief for a second term Maskandis.

They reckon they are stupid and only know how to sing and dance.

That’s cruel. It’s also pretty dumb.

The Maskandis are running the show.

Cats like Sihle Zikalala and Nathi Mthethwa led the rebellion from the floor at Polokwane.

At Mangaung, they will be ­controlling the ANC machine. I do not see them being intimidated by howling from the floor.

The Maskandis have done their work.

They have wrapped up the provinces that count. The ­numbers from the provincial ­nominations conferences say it all: Maskandis 6; ABZ-FoC 3.

There’s another factor favouring the Maskandis.

They are united. Their use of slate politics, cynical though it may be, has been highly effective.

They have no real internal beef over who stands for which position.

As we speak, the fine-tuning is being done and the Maskandis are singing from one hymn sheet, as it were.

But in the ABZ changing room, things are confusing.

The only clarity is that they want Kgalema Motlanthe for president.

With the rest of the top six, there is something of a bunfight, with at least Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale both standing as deputy.

Ditto the rest of the top six: at least two ABZ nominees for each position.

That makes sense: split your vote in half before taking on the ­incumbent.

That will work really well.

I can’t wait to see what their full list of nominees for the national executive committee looks like.

The electoral commission will have to print it like a phone book. And these comrades call the Maskandis stupid.

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