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Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)
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It's ironic that Cope's Mosiuoa Lekota, cheered on loudly by the Economic Freedom Fighters, has copied the tactic once used to tragic effect by the apartheid regime, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
It's a typical, boring and increasingly exhausting South African style of political diversion. When you have run out of ideas to gain political support, you adopt a diversionary tactic against your opponents.
The tactic has two components. The first is to accuse your opponents of having been apartheid agents. This was, of course, the greatest crime of betrayal in the anti-apartheid movement.
In those days, there was neither process nor need to prove the allegation. Rumour was enough to warrant the ultimate penalty: killing of the alleged traitor by placing a tyre around their neck, dousing it with fuel and burning it.
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Having learned of the weight anti-apartheid activists attached to rumours of spying against each other, apartheid security structures simply planted such stories in the liberation movement. The effects were devastating.
Post-1994 necklacing is no longer possible. We are about to celebrate a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid and the establishment of a constitutional democracy where such barbaric methods of punishment are unconstitutional. But making unproven allegations of spying for the apartheid government has the effect of necklacing individuals' political reputations.
The second component is to claim that your political opponents lack struggle credentials and, if they have, they didn't contribute as much as you did in the fight against apartheid.
Congress of the People (Cope) leader, Mosiuoa Lekota, under whose sole leadership the party is teetering on the brink, has decided to unleash the ultimate weapon of political diversion on President Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa was not the anti-apartheid activist that we have always known him to be. He was an apartheid agent who sold out his comrades, Lakota suggested in a privileged parliamentary speech for which he cannot be sued for defamation.
The purpose of this accusation and the timing, coming as it does a few weeks before the national elections, can only serve to detract from Lekota's dismal performance as a leader of Cope. Lekota ticks the boxes of two components of political diversion.
It's ironic that Lekota, cheered on loudly by the Economic Freedom Fighters, has copied the tactic once used to tragic effect by the apartheid regime. Freedom fighters were labelled terrorists and communists. Such labelling was not a small matter, as Lekota himself should know.
After 1994, the tactic of diversion by labelling was adopted by Jacob Zuma's supporters against Bulelani Ngcuka, then head of the National Prosecuting Authority, when they accused him of having been an apartheid spy. The accusation against Ngcuka was part of a strategy to divert attention from the real possibility that Zuma was going to be prosecuted for alleged arms deal corruption. It took a judicial commission of inquiry to clear Ngcuka.
The nation is fatigued by judicial inquiries. However, Ramaphosa might decide to institute an inquiry into the claims by Lekota to clear his name. With all the urgent national issues that need tackling, from state capture to load shedding to unemployment, do we really need to waste time focusing on apartheid era conspiracies?
It boggles the mind that Lekota sat with this "information" for decades. When they were university students in the 1980s Aaron Motsoaledi and his comrades had asked Lekota about so-called agents and if he knew any. He didn't mention anyone, according to Motsoaledi who took a few minutes in Parliament this week to challenge Lekota's claims.
It's curious how Lekota for years worked with Ramaphosa as members of the national executive committee of the ANC but failed to raise his concerns. How could Lekota allow an apartheid agent to rise to the position of secretary general of the ANC, to be appointed by the ANC to co-chair of the Constitutional Assembly responsible for drafting the Constitution of the republic? This is the same Constitution Lekota usually waves in Parliament and at political rallies.
The political traitors of our time are those who violate the Constitution. No effort should be spared to bring them to book. If Lekota wants to be taken seriously he should propose innovative ways to ensure constitutional compliance. Necklacing the reputation of your political opponents won't get the country anywhere.
South Africa needs a strong, multiparty constitutional democracy to ensure that the Constitution is not taken for granted and that there are high levels of accountability in government. But for as long as we have weak leadership among opposition parties, as demonstrated by Lekota's conduct, our democracy will not reach its full potential.
- Mkhabela is a regular columnist for News24.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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