Guest Column

Mmusi Maimane: Cyril, Pravin and Tito may be Mzansi Avengers to some, but cannot save ANC from itself

2020-01-24 09:00
President Cyril Ramaphosa sang happy birthday before dignitaries cut a green and yellow cake in celebration of the party’s anniversary.

President Cyril Ramaphosa sang happy birthday before dignitaries cut a green and yellow cake in celebration of the party’s anniversary. (Bertram Malgas, News24)

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We all grew up playing the game of cops and robbers but ironically in South Africa we live a life of robbers and robbers. 

We have robbers in Parliament and robbers on the street. 

We are obsessed with the politics of big names because we are looking for someone to come and save us from this confounding governance system. 

It is understandable but it's a dangerous approach to politics.  

Our search for heroes has been to our detriment. 

We have invested a significant amount of time worried about who is leading, and it has taken our focus off what is important.

The problems are systemic, and they need a collective willing to solve them, not a hero or team of heroes. 

This search for heroes also leads to an impression that there are some people who can come and just snap their fingers, and everything is solved.  

The current obsession in the political chattering class is the discussion around the Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.

One side of the divide is clamoring to have him removed, they claim that he has failed to do an effective job.

Even commentator Peter Bruce, a robust supporter of the President and his agenda, has failed to justify why Gordhan should stay in his present job.  

The other side of the debate has the view that Gordhan is part of the good guys fighting back.

They have the view that there is an ANC version of "Avengers" that will clean up the muck of state capture, corruption and poor service delivery.

This Mzansi Avengers is made up of Cyril Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan, Tito Mboweni as the lead actors.  

Both sides of this debate get it horribly wrong and fall into the dangerous pit of South African politics.

The cult and elevation of personalities.

Whilst I agree that one individual such as Jacob Zuma or a dubiously motivated Public Protector can create profound damage; it is equally revealing that selection and accountability of each of these actors lies within our current political system.

That in cadre deployment a party loyalist will be sent to do the party work in government.

That in this good guys, bad guys analysis may be the source of hope for some, but it is not helpful in addressing the systemic failures of government. It absolves responsibility from some and approbates undue praise onto others.  

They all get it wrong because all of those actors operate within the framework of the ANC. 

The party is the problem, the choices it has made in terms of policy are inescapable and are the cause of the tensions we are currently witnessing. 

The party has made binding resolutions on the following to state a few:  

  1. The expropriation of land without compensation.  

  1. The nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.  

  1. Rigid Labour laws which make it binding for any leader to make the changes required changes be at Eskom, SAA or any other state entity.  

  1. That corruption and the policing is a political ploy as expressed by certain ministers where one faction fights off against another  

If you are a member of a faction, or ideological grouping that opposes the policy positions outlined above then you will be in for a fight within the organization.

A fight that you wont win ultimately. 

All you can do under the above set of circumstances is to delay the inevitable. 

This is what Cyril Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni are currently doing.

They are buying time but ultimately the will of the party will prevail.

Those who oppose the above reforms cannot defeat them regardless of who they pick. 

The expectation that Cyril and co could find a way was naivette at worst and blind optimism at best. 

The party provides the mandate and with each month of delay those who voted at the 54th National Conference raise their voices louder and louder.  

Rather than search for heroes, we need to review our policies and how we pick government policies from a party level. 

Systemic problems require intelligent policy, planning and lastly a clear operations and project management team.

The first challenge is that South Africa is often stuck in the policy phase with never ending policy debates. The second challenge is that the policy is changed quite frequently.

One ruling party but a policy tsunami, I recall once former finance minister Trevor Manuel in a lecture, saying it would seem that the solution to policy failures to this government is more policy.  

The other problem with our policy approach is that we have conflicting ideologies feeding the policy frameworks. 

South African policy formulation and adoption stems from the inherent culture of winner takes all at the governing party conference.

The winning resolutions become binding and as such commitment by the leadership to implement these in government.

Tragically, this is an old method, designed by a party in need of reform and frankly need change from the 108-year-old frame of thinking about governance.  

What we need is a two-fold approach.

A system that is grounded on civic participation and a national direction that is guided by systemic thinking. 

We can learn from the lessons of the US. 

The left leaning political community made a mistake when Barack Obama came into power.

They celebrated and called his election a post-racial moment.

They thought the work was over because the man of their preference had won. They thought they had found Captain America.

Barack Obama recognized the dangers of their approach and cautioned that there would be no real change unless the movement continued to play an active role in nation building. Post his election a fightback campaign like no other was fought ultimately resulting in the election of the anti-Obama.  

We need to move away from the big man syndrome that has been plaguing our politics. We need genuine political reform. I propose a few.  

Firstly, we need to change the electoral act, to move away from a proportional system to a constituency-based system.

In a constituency-based system the constituents choose their leaders in a more direct way. Our present system sees the party controlling representatives through a list system.

The list considers the party dynamics more than it does the community dynamics. The proposed reform will mean that each MP has to honour the wishes of the constituency that votes for them and ultimately not to be beholden to a party but uphold allegiance to the constitution which all MP’s swear an oath to.  

Secondly, we need a different coalition.

The ANC coalition is a broad church but there is no genuine agreement on government policy.

There are some within who are speaking of part privatisation of SAA and others not.

We need reform our politics. I propose that the ANC must split if we are to prosper as a nation.

The coalition is not working and hobbling SA. We need South Africans who agree on a non-racial future, social market system, flexible labour regime and aggressive eradication of corruption to work together.

We must bring the best skills on to boards of SOE’s.  

Thirdly, we need a new political movement. I have spent much of time, encouraging citizens to take back their power.

To engage politics afresh. To ensure that civil society, business can come together to bring change. This is an urgent call. Reformation in South Africa will depend on change in our politics. If we don’t, it will be irrelevant which party comes into power, we will maintain the same script just with different actors.  

Let's get citizens active and reform our politics if we have a chance of getting South Africa out of the space it is in.

I maintain a long-term vision is critical.  

Read more on:    anc  |  tito mboweni  |  pravin gordhan  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  politics  |  leadership


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