Back to basics

2008-10-08 00:00

Following the palace revolution which saw the sacking (quaintly put as the “recall”) of President Thabo Mbeki six months before his term of office was due to come to its natural end, followed by the resignations of several prominent ministers and the Gauteng premier in sympathy, there has been growing speculation of a possible split in the ruling ANC despite the efforts of new president Kgalema Motlanthe and other ANC leaders to dismiss such talk.

Former party chairman and Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota’s news conference yesterday stopped short of announcing his resignation from the ANC and the formation of a new party. It represented, however, he said, “probably the parting of the ways”. He called for a special congress of all those opposed to the ANC’s direction within four weeks to discuss the way forward and how to restore democracy inside the dominant party and in South Africa.

Quoting the Freedom Charter and its mantra that “the people shall govern”, Lekota pointed out how the government has increasingly been hijacked by a faction. While he did not refer to the U.S. election, it is instructive to compare the elaborate process under way to change the U.S. president, in which well over 100 million voters have a direct say, with what has happened here where Mbeki’s fate was decided by the 88-member National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. And one cannot but think of the quite extraordinary influence of members of the South African Communist Party (SACP) which has increasingly been setting the agenda for the ANC, despite the fact that the SACP has never had the courage to test its popular support by standing as an independent party in an election, preferring rather to cling to the coat tails of its big brother.

Referring to the unchecked inflammatory statements of loose cannon ANCYL leader Julius Malema about “killing for [Jacob] Zuma”, Lekota pointed out how the ANC had fallen victim to tribalism and populism. A mob rule psychology had entered an organisation which had long taken pride in its principles.

Lekota’s remarks came as a breath of fresh air in their outspoken frankness about the present state of the ANC. There has been a confusion between antipathy towards the style of an unpopular former president and principle. Many people who subscribe to the principles which the ANC has stood for but are most unhappy about recent developments will have been cheered by Lekota’s frankness.

The ANC has always been a broad church and commentators have long been predicting its split. It is starting to look as if these predictions might soon come to pass.

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