What were they thinking?

2009-11-27 00:00

IF Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was telling the truth about how the African National Congress lost a by-election in Tembisa recently — and, by the way, I have no reason to think he was lying — then the ANC has lost the plot completely.

Motlanthe is reported to have said the ANC deserved to lose a recent by-election after fielding “a drunkard” as its candidate in a Tembisa ward by-election.

Talking to a Sunday newspaper, Motlanthe warned against mismanaged deployment, saying the ruling party could ill-afford to field candidates who are not wanted by the people.

“The ANC lost a by-election to Cope because the candidate of the ANC was known to be a drunkard,” he said.

A drunk! But how is this possible? How do you field a drunk to represent a party at an election? Is it possible that people could lose sight of such a basic principle?

You cannot be represented by a drunk, and this is very, very basic. You see, drunks are social outcasts in any society or community that is self-respecting. So, when this “drunk”, as the deputy president laments, was imposed on the people of the ward, they simply boycotted the by-election.

But the key question is why was the ANC branch not able to grasp such a basic problem, especially after the wave of violent protests against poor service delivery in some of the areas not far from Tembisa?

What message does this send to the country? Does it tell us there is such widespread complacency at these leadership levels that party branches are not able to use plain common sense to deal with basic issues, like saying “no” to a drunk?

How does service delivery happen if the ANC branch is prepared to be represented by someone whose brain faculties have been affected by booze? Are we in trouble here? Someone please tell me we are not, because this is scary stuff.

How would this candidate have been able to deliver service to the people had the residents been stupid enough to vote for him?

Thank God, the residents were smart enough to know better.

As in most townships, there are serious challenges and problems facing the people of Tembisa.

How would a drunk be able to tackle challenges affecting people on the ground?

“The ANC got the message loud and clear. This is what the community told them. They [the ANC] disregarded it and the community, and the community then did not vote. They simply stayed at home and the ANC lost. If people in leadership of the branch manipulate processes, the community must be able to punish them, that’s how they will correct it,” said the deputy president to a Sunday newspaper.

Motlanthe’s open lambasting of his own party comes as a backdrop to a wave of violent service delivery protests in some of the ANC’s strongholds where municipalities are dysfunctional.

The 2011 local government elections are around the corner. That’s where it matters most. The ANC had better fix this. It’s dangerous. We will all pay a painful price.

The deputy president was right to be livid.

— Moneyweb.co.za

• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He was one of the original team members of Business Day when the paper was launched in May 1985. He was a correspondent at international news agency Dow Jones where he reported on markets and companies in the early nineties.

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