The Pirates of Polokwane and the Magicians of Mangaung

2012-10-08 07:15

We've been here before and it seems like a spectacle that won’t be easily forgotten.  There’s naive excitement everywhere while some of us aren’t easily amused.

For the next two months our eyes will be set on the unfolding spectacle that the ANC’s 53rd elective congress promises to be. With everyday annoyingly being a Mangaung Day for the next 69 days; we should probably ask some key questions, like:  What does Mangaung mean to us, the excited and the unexcited?

And more importantly, should we care at all?

An empty spectacle

It’s hard to view the 53rd elective congress of the ANC in a different light, the state of affairs in South Africa’s governing party (note: not ruling party, a term the ANC arrogantly uses) and the country as a whole makes for some interesting scrutiny.

The ANC seems to be divided at its core, the frequent media statements and pressers that try to assure the South African public and members of the party that all is well are not enough to save the sinking ship. More importantly, those leading the ANC seem to be singing different tunes altogether. And of course, the man who is eager to lead the ANC (and the country) for another term is blundering like hell hath no fury.

The ANC leadership debate has permeated our public discourse for a while now.

Like in any election, there’s a fruit salad of contractions that seem to be important for Mangaung: the FYL (Friends of the Youth League), the ANCYL (ANC Youth League) and the ABZ (Anyone but Zuma) groups have become household names.  These lobby groups have been echoing sounds of ‘a generational mix in leadership and renewal of the ANC.'

These are people who seem to be against Zuma’s second term (which he tried to secure by the incoherent idea of a second transition at the ANC’s NGC in June this year).

But this is not new, remember Polokwane? A seemingly disgruntled folk pledged their support for Zuma as their ideal leader. Leaders of the Alliance alike used every possible microphone and platform to spread the Gospel of the 100% Zulu boy evangelically.

Their reasons for this cult-like support made very little sense to most of us. We were told that he was (is) a ‘man of the people’ and that he would ‘unite the party and the Alliance’ and ‘advance the agenda of the working-class.’

These were the catch-phrases that sealed Zuma the top-job.

Five years later seems like an ideal time to reconsider all of this. Without much effort there should be (some) consensus around the fact that Zuma’s term as Head of State is certainly a disgrace to all South Africans and his inability to lead the ANC is unflattering.

To think of his re-election as ANC President as ‘meaningful’ means very little in real terms, it’s an empty spectacle.

The stage is set

There’s a challenger in the race for the top job. The ever-quiet and shrewd Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe might come out and challenge all of this. Famous for echoing out what seems to be the ANC-cliché sentiment; ‘Let the branches nominate me, they will decide’- some think that this chap stands a chance.

It doesn’t matter really, and I’ll tell you why.

The problems of this country run deeper than the ANC or it’s infighting on who should lead and who shouldn’t.  The mere fact that we spend so much time entertaining this is telling of our own misplaced volition.

Our only defense is that, we should worry because 4500 people at a party conference end up determining not only who becomes leader of their party but more importantly President of our country; this comes with the ANC’s 65.9% electoral share.

If Mangaung is indeed a defining moment for the ANC and South Africa then surely the space for discourse and exchange would have been filled with debates and discussions on the solutions for the challenges South Africa faces ?

For example, what are the ANC’s views on growing South Africa’s economy at a rate that can absorb more people into the labour market and create viable opportunities for SMMEs?

In a 35 page policy discussion document unwisely narrowed down to ‘State Owned Entities and Development Finance Institutions’, the document says very little about increasing productivity in key sectors and maximizing our economy’s ascendancy in existing strong sectors.

All we are fed is the myth that a developmental state will be created, this in a shadow of a party believes that state owned enterprises and development finance institutions are the ONLY instruments suitable for economic transformation and growth in SA.

Read the document here:  http://www.anc.org.za/docs/discus/2012/economym.pdf

The 10 policy discussion documents that will largely frame the conference (the ANC lauds these as solutions to our weighty problems) illustrate that the party’s problems are run skin deep. The fierce contest for positions will continue for now, the conference will come to an end, resolutions will be adopted and very little will change. Not because of ‘semi-good/bad leadership’ but because of our own doing, exalting the ANC time and again to a standard it’s incapable of living up to.

For now, tweaking one of Shakespeare’s famed verses from As You Like It is fitting:

All the world's a stage,

And all the Pirates of Polokwane and Magicians of Mangaung are merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts

Full of wise saws

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Don't be deluded, there will be very little magic after Mangaung, ask the Pirates of Polokwane, they know too well.

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