Lindiwe Mazibuko and the Anonymous Attackers

2013-07-22 11:05

Shanti Aboobaker’s front-page report in the Sunday Independent (21 July, “DA’s Mazibuko Under Attack”) is most revealing. Correction, it is only revealing of what a handful of malcontents in the DA’s national parliamentary caucus may be feeling – and not much else. Typically of politicians it would seem, Mazibuko’s detractors have sought to rubbish her on the front page of a national newspaper while keeping their own identities secret. Talk about having your cake and eating it!

The attacks against Mazibuko are neither serious nor accurate. However, responding to them is necessary for a failure to do so could mean that these untruths gain traction. That should never be allowed.

The first attack is that Mazibuko is arrogant, autocratic and has a poor management style of the caucus.

These labels are interesting. Not only because in politics, they often come from those who want (or demand) to be consulted and then end up being rather jaded when their opinions don’t win the day. But also because these labels seem at odds with other issues that Mazibuko’s detractors have raked up. Mazibuko is, it seems, “arrogant” and “autocratic,” and “not very self-assured or confident” all at the same time.

Whilst I am sure that Mazibuko is no saint (which politician is?) and that her leadership of the caucus may improve (which politician is perfect?), Mazibuko cannot be faulted if she, as the duly elected leader of that caucus, decides on a strategic course of action for it. Yes, she must consult. No, she doesn’t have to change her opinion merely because there may be disagreement. That is how political leadership works.

Political leaders often have it difficult: if they consult too broadly then they are indecisive and lack personal conviction. If they don’t consult too much, then they are arrogant and autocratic. The nuance of critiquing them is almost always lost as these labels are thrown around all too easily – and often in ignorance of the facts (the DA is doing very well according to the party’s own polling data – notwithstanding Mazibuko’s supposed failings).

Provided there is a broad consensus around the course of action and that the results for the party are good, then the Leader should continue, and ignore the professional backbiters. It is only natural that a small minority will be unhappy with who their leader is. Whether they should be allowed to hijack the entire perception of the caucus because of their own, unshared misgivings, I am not sure. And if there is no consenus, then those disaffected MPs should do the right thing and challenge Mazibuko for her office.

Secondly, these unnamed MPs probably hope to inflict major damage upon Mazibuko’s tenure. Unfortunately, they don’t do damage to her but damage to the party as a whole. Some of their criticisms echo the same ageist, sexist, racist nonsense that the ANC throws at her. Soon, the ANC won’t have to dispatch Moloto Mothapo to spew vitriol in Mazibuko’s direction, all they will need to do is copy and paste what some of her colleagues are saying about her.

I am not advocating that the MPs should keep quiet if they have an issue with her. By all means they should attack her as viciously as they like. They should however have the courage of their convictions and challenge her openly, especially if the disaffection is as widespread as they make it seem. Anything else can rightly be classified as being rank opportunism and cowardice.

There seems little positive impact of attacking her from the backbenches whilst doing little to change things. Ask Julia Gillard, and maybe even David Cameron! Voters abroad, and at home, don’t like infighting. These MPs seem to be unaware of that.

One wonders though whether these departing, senior MPs are doing this because they are operating under the aegis of another or whether they are doing it as a swan song to make them and their soon-to-end careers relevant. In either instance, I for one will not be sorry to see them go. If they don’t have the courage of their convictions to fight Mazibuko openly and fairly, then I do not want them to claim to represent me.

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