Tjatjarag: The ego has no place in effective politics

2012-09-29 09:13

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille delivered what I thought to be an Obama-esque assessment of the body politic and the need for political realignment on Thursday.

It pivoted on the theme of a burning platform, the story of an oil worker on the North Sea contemplating staying on a blazing rig or jumping into the freezing Atlantic.

He jumped and survived.

Zille used the metaphor to press into consciousness the need for a radical realignment of politics: basically, a bipartisan system in which the smaller political parties sacrifice the ego of leadership to join a bigger opposition.

Most South Africans,even from within the ANC, acknowledge the need for such a thing. But ego is a shaping force in politics, so the likelihood of a reshaping is unlikely.

And, after the hopeless meltdown of Cope, which was formed from the smouldering embers of the ANC’s last national conference at Polokwane, a split-off from the governing party is unlikely.

But who needs it?

The ANC’s broad church is now in open warfare, providing all the intrigues of a multiparty system.

Take the party’s spokesperson Jackson Mthembu’s imploring the Lord this week to protect us from a future president Julius Malema.

This from a party that has made a mission of turning leaders of its Youth League into presidents. Friends of the Youth League (FYL) shot back, saying that Mthembu was a “dronkie”.

Before that, the FYL had reminded us that our President Jacob Zuma had come to office despite the spectre of hundreds of corruption charges hanging over his head.

In this, they neatly aligned with the DA, which is currently in court fighting to reopen the presidential charge sheet.

The political realignment is already happening, thanks to the ANC’s civil war.

It’s all over the place. The last time I counted, three provinces were in royal and open battle.

This week, the North West legislature asked for central government intervention in the province – action aimed to topple the province’s hapless premier.

In Bloemfontein, it was ANC versus ANC when six members took the party to court to overturn the outcome of the recent provincial elective conference.

And, in August, City Press reported on the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation’s “Smoke that Calls” report, which found that in Gauteng and Mpumalanga ANC members were behind the protests against councils governed by their own comrades.

By one measure, the schisms in the ANC are good. Transparency is high – it’s not difficult to get information, as our pages show week in and week out.

If North West is anything to go by, legislators are beginning to hold their own compatriots to standards of accountability that have always proven elusive to a revolutionary party suckled on the teat of partisan solidarity.

But by the second measure, this permanent state of war in the ANC, as it rolls from party elections to national elections, is terrible for us.

From now until December, there will be a virtual standstill in governance as positioning and electioneering gets into gear for the festival of Mangaung.

This week, mind-bogglingly, almost the entire executive council of Limpopo took off to support Malema in his court appearance on money-laundering charges.

I thought they worked for us and were engaged in the important work of developing the beautiful province in the north that could be at the heart of economic revitalisation.

But no, they were toyi-toying in court, and by the time of going to print I had not read of the MECs suspension by Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale.

For the next few months, we are going to play “guess the slate” as the ANC decides who will lead it.

On my slate, Mamphela Ramphele is president and Trevor Manuel is her deputy. Let me know what you think.

» Follow me on Twitter @ferialhaffajee

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