Mbeki’s challenge

2008-02-01 00:00

Mbeki is in the middle of a crisis. The symbols, in Chinese script, for crisis are danger and opportunity. Mbeki is in a dangerous situation. There are opportunities as well. Mbeki’s status in the country and internationally has taken a probably terminal knock as a result of his defeat at the African National Congress’s Polokwane conference. The ANC has basically binned Mbeki.

The ANC wants to handle him like a puppet on a string. It has already done it with its people in the two key ANC parliamentary roles of chief whip and chairman of its political committee. It has issued warnings to premiers and mayors to dance to its tune or face the music.

The huge blow to his reputation and prestige that the national crisis and emergency around Eskom’s load shedding has caused, also should not be underestimated. Mbeki has caused untold damage to South Africa and to the nation’s confidence in him and his hand-picked Cabinet.

Mbeki and the ANC have driven a racist and sexist agenda under the guise of “transformation” and it has nowhere been more obvious than in his choice of top civil servants and in Eskom. Some have even said that his objective was not a new “rainbow nation” but a new “bantustan”, where white, coloured and Indian South Africans are marginalised. Sadly, but correctly, most South Africans of all races will see not only the load shedding but also the growing levels of corruption and steadily degrading levels of service and delivery in so many areas as a direct result of Mbeki’s racist restructuring in favour of blacks.

Internationally, it has reinforced Afro-pessimism by demonstrating that not just another black-run country has perpetrated a colossal failure but the most powerful economy on the continent has as well. Mbeki’s African renaissance and Nepad now have little credibility left. The world recognises that a government which allows criminals to murder its citizens by the thousands and cannot make a simple engineering decision to build more power generation capacity is incapable of ruling.

It is in this awful national and continental crisis that Mbeki’s opportunity lies. Leaders are recognised as great when they can provide leadership in difficult times.

The whole nation looks to Mbeki for leadership. He should respect the ANC, but do his own thing in the remaining 16 months of his presidency. The Eskom crisis gives him that opportunity. He should address the nation, share his embarrassment over causing this national emergency, take us all into his confidence and appeal to all of us to join hands.

He should show his resolve by firing those responsible and by reshuffling his Cabinet. He needs to bring in South Africans of experience and ability, and they need not be all black or ANC members. He should establish a task force of the most experienced engineers and economists in South Africa, and he must accept that they will probably all be white males.

He should also vigorously tackle crime and appeal to the nation to help him to get tougher on criminals and appoint people who have a proven track record and skills in fighting crime. Again, they may be white but so what? All South Africans supported the Springboks because they were winners and Mbeki will have the nation behind him. He knows. He was in Paris.

Like Nelson Mandela, he should embrace all our citizens because he will not lead South Africa out of this situation nor rescue his own reputation if he doesn’t do so. To provide that leadership will require an enormous paradigm shift for Mbeki. He has nothing to lose because the ANC has rejected him but he could go down in South African history in the same category as Louis Botha, Jan Smuts and Mandela. He is, after all, the president of the Republic of South Africa and our leader.

• Graham McIntosh is a farmer and a former Democratic Alliance member of Parliament.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.