Volatile Matatiele

2008-10-18 00:00

IN many ways, the continuing controversy over Matatiele’s incorporation into the Eastern Cape epitomises what is wrong with the political state of this country. Good sense and bureaucratic efficiency would place the town where it has long been, in KwaZulu-Natal and with ready access to the provincial capital. With the former president’s hand directing the manipulation of a political trade-off, however, the Mbeki administration insisted on transferring it to the Eastern Cape. The constitutional requirement of consultation having been reduced to a token sham, many people in the area never fully accepted, far less bought into, the new arrangement. Now, with Mbeki sacked and the ruling party cracking, discontent has again surfaced. Not only has it become a manifestation of the Mbeki-ite versus Zuma-ite split in the party, but the division over regional affiliations and political loyalties is now being compounded by tribal allegiances. Here we see, too, the dangers inherent in the Jacob Zuma brand of simplistic populism and the “100% Zulu boy” tag that can only aggravate tribal, and hence provincial, divisions.

Mishandled at every turn because the ruling party has put political self-interest above objective good governance, the Matatiele issue has become a festering sore which, as this week’s violence shows, could readily set faction against faction and erupt into dangerous confrontation. Approaches have been made to both President Kgalema Motlanthe and the Constitutional Court to review the demarcation decision. Swift intervention is certainly needed, and this time may plain good sense prevail.

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