Singing won’t win you Mangaung – Mbalula

2012-09-27 06:47

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has warned that singing won’t win leaders any battles at the ANC’s elective congress in Mangaung – only debate and persuasion will.

Speaking four days before the ANC’s nominations process for its congress opens, Mbalula said: “Leadership elections can’t be reduced to freedom songs, you must debate. If you sing, you won’t understand the debate, but the personality.”

“The politics of today has been reduced to the politics of freedom songs. That is why we don’t know what our future is.”

With this speech Mbalula broke an apparent self-imposed silence of months on ANC matters.

Addressing about 150 ANC Youth League members in an almost full lecture hall at the Witwatersrand University last night in celebration of the league’s 68th birthday, he said the singing had reduced leadership to mediocrity.

“It’s about who sings the loudest,” he said in an apparent veiled reference to President Jacob Zuma, who he didn’t mention by name but who became hugely popular for singing songs like his trademark Umshini Wami.

The ANC’s nominations process is set to start on Monday, and the party will allow an open debate on leadership from then.

Mbalula, who as youth league leader at the time was key to Zuma getting elected at the ANC’s last congress in Polokwane in 2007, said Mangaung would not be like Polokwane.

Securing a victory for Zuma over former president Thabo Mbeki at Polokwane as “a meticulous, endurance, decisive, uncompromising act of war”, Mbalula said.

“And it was unapologetic. And Polokwane was not about economic freedom, but about political change in the structures of the organisation,” he said.

This time around it will be about economic freedom, he said.

He admitted that those who fought on Zuma’s side had made a mistake at the time by “losing a bunch of comrades who are very much talented politically”.

These people, Mbeki supporters, were lost “in the midst of the majority because we didn’t want to apply our minds to leadership”, he said, adding that the ANC should be allowed to discuss leadership openly instead of “in beerhalls, under the carpet” and in secret with selected journalists.

Instead, Mbalula said the debate on leadership was reduced to soccer signs with those showing the substitution sign (he made a rolling motion with his hands as he said this) were wrong, while those who showed the V-sign, were right.

This sign, which could also denote “peace and love” or Kaizer Chiefs, was even being displayed at funerals, Mbalula said.

“Let us open, let us debate (leadership),” he said, referring to the fact that the debate has started in the showing of signs.

“The horse has bolted, people are discussing (leadership).”

He said it was not “if you shout the loudest that is going to win you the day, it is the correct politics of the movement.

And the leaders of the ANC, we must leave Mangaung single-minded that I lobbied, I tried, I was finished even before I get to Mangaung, and Mangaung was just a station that confirmed my demise. Democratic, is it, but do it in the organisation.”

In an apparent criticism of Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, who has stepped down from his campaign to become president, Mbalula said talking to the papers would not “change the mindset of ANC members” or win an election within the ANC.

Despite calls for opening the leadership debate early, Mbalula did not mention any names of leaders he preferred.

ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola, however, said the league would nominate Mbalula, who is “a great leader” for party secretary-general, to take over from Gwede Mantashe.

He also said the league would nominate Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe for president, even if he didn’t want to stand.

Motlanthe, who Zuma supporters want on their list in his current position, has not declared as yet whether he would heed the league’s call.

Lamola said the league didn’t need permission from anybody to nominate Motlanthe.

“We also do not need permission from him to realise that he is a leader of the ANC. We have seen his credentials, we are convinced that he has been there, he has seen everything, a level-headed leader of the ANC, a person of principle, a leaders that is true the values of the ANC, a leader that is always a voice of reason during difficult time. That is what the ANC needs to navigate through its current quagmire,” he said

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