Max du Preez

The truth has set us free

2007-11-07 09:55

Max du Preez

I was wrong about the succession battle in the ANC. Very wrong.

I have said and written numerous times during the last two years that the power struggles and personality clashed in the ruling party were dangerous for stability and bad for the country. The president, the Cabinet, the police, National Intelligence and the civil service were so obsessed by who will be the ANC's (and South Africa's) new president that they forgot about governance, I said.

It's a month before the ANC's all-important elective conference in Polokwane and I'm changing my tune. (Isn't flexibility a hallmark of a good political analyst?) I now believe the succession battle was one of the best things that has happened to us since 1994.

Sure, there are the minor considerations around the abuse of power, the firing of good people and the protection of bad ones, etc., but all in all we have been enriched by this fight for the top job.

So what were the "gains" of this "site of struggle", as we said during the bad old days?

True colours

Truth, comrades, truth. It brought us truth. The politicians got so pissed off with each other that they started showing their true colours and started saying things we would otherwise not have heard.

Take our president's stance on HIV and Aids, for instance. All his spin doctors have been denying vehemently of late that he was ever a dissident. Until presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale declared last week with a crystal clear reference to our boss man: "HIV causes Aids - which tyrant will stop me from saying that?"

During the same week former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein revealed that President Thabo Mbeki had once told the ANC caucus that the link between HIV and Aids was an American invention to sell more drugs. Now we know.

Another example is the ANC's long-standing commitment to media freedom. We all believed them, until some newspapers recently started giving them a few problems.


First the president's personal fox terrier, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, threatened that government advertisements would not be given to such newspapers. Then came the news that the editor of the Sunday Times and one of his colleagues were being investigated by a top team of cops - for allegedly stealing our embarrassing health minister's medical records.

We also learnt that the ANC's December conference was going to discuss a proposal for a tribunal to control the media, and then we heard Mbeki's closes allies are planning to buy the Sunday Times and the Sowetan. Ok, so now we know.

We also learnt recently that we were wrong in assuming the ANC was united behind the presidency on the policies on Zimbabwe. Two weeks ago senior ANC leader and former cabinet minister Kader Asmal declared he was deeply remorseful that he never spoke out before against what was going on in Zimbabwe and against South Africa's lack of action.

Another top leader, war hero and former minister, Mac Maharaj, declares in a book that was just released that if Thabo doesn't like you, watch out for that knock on your door. "All things being equal, if you are perceived to be a friend of the president's or within his political circle, the less likelihood there is of being investigated by the Scorpions."

Maharaj writes in Padraig O'Malley's book, Shades of Difference - Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa, "For several years, prominent people - in business, government, and senior cadres in the ANC - have been wary about talking on phones for fear their phones are tapped.

"This wariness, I believe, arises from the perceived abuse of power, and this threatens our constitutional freedom. There is a growing undercurrent of fear: fear of getting on the wrong side of investigating authorities and ending up being investigated."

Hmm, we didn't know that.

And then we heard some really frank talk from Minister Pallo Jordan and Mbeki confidante Saki Macozoma and...

Let's just say life after the succession battle is over will be very dull.

Send your comments to Max.

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