The Rapture of Mangaung: An Empty Spectacle

2012-12-16 05:55

Mangaung may not be the fruitful affair the ANC says it will be but it is an empty spectacle worth watching.

Like any empty spectacle, all our senses are drawn to the stage. The actors are many and the roles they play happen to be interesting. The props are everywhere, the ambiance electric – the plot however is still unclear, or not?

Last night I waited patiently at the ANC National Conference’s Media Centre for the press conference on the ANC Free State Constitutional Court Case. This much anticipated presser was delayed by hours on end with the NEC locked in what was obviously a highly contentious meeting.

The meeting itself was for show. When the Constitutional Court announced it’s decision last week, regarding the illegality of the ANC Free State Provincial Congress in June this year, scores of anti-Zuma supporters, the Free State Regime Change crew and many more saw light in a dark tunnel.

Two days after the decision of the Constitutional Court was announced, various ANC leaders (including the implicated ANC Free State Chairman, Ace Magashule) confidently assured the public that the Constitutional Court’s decision wasn’t all too bad. At most, the only implicated party was the Provincial Executive Committee of 20 and not the 324 delegates to the conference. Nothing was special about last night’s presser, it merely confirmed this view.

There were however some thrilling parts of the empty spectacle that are worth sharing.

Caught in a rut: Trading principle for the rule of law

While the NEC meeting was in session yesterday afternoon, it became clear that the tussle of the day was between, Zuma’s Henchman in Chief, Gwede Mantashe and the rocket that failed to launch, Kgalema Motlanthe.

In this NEC meeting, Motlanthe and his supporters urged the NEC to not allow the 324 ANC Free State delegates to attend the conference.  His view is one base on principle. Since the Constitutional Court ruled that all the contents and decisions taken at the ANC FS Conference in June were null and void, Motlanthe saw it fit to tow this line. He did this not only for principle but as a means to salvage his failed campaign.

For Motlanthe this could’ve been 324 less votes for Zuma.

Mantashe on the other hand treated the Concourt’s decision like the gospel. At the press conference, he kept on asserting that the ANC respects the rule of law and will abide by the court’s decision. Mantashe played it cool in the NEC meeting. He argued that the ConCourt’s decision has nothing to do with the status of the 324 delegates, but rather affects the ANC Free State Provincial Executive Committee of 20. This argument is a purely legalistic one, and correct if viewed in light of the ConCourt’s judgement.

Motlanthe’s view however (besides it being self-serving) is a principled one. It is vaguely supported by the ConCourt’s decision, but not explicitly. For Motlanthe and Co. Having the 324 ANCFS delegates is legitimizing the farce that the Provincial Congress was and going against the spirit of the ConCourt’s decision. Motlanthe is right. Although the ConCourt case put a spotlight on the election of the ANCFS PEC, the ruling could be extended to the delegates who attended this ‘unlawful’ conference.

This is the principled stance. These delegates participated in the unlawful conference and even the way in which they landed up at the Provincial Congress is questionable too. Yesterday when the NEC decided to allow the 324 delegates to attend the conference, it did so within the ambit of the ruling. This decision however falls short in terms of principle.

Taking the ANC to court, treason much?

Few things excite me like listening to Gwede Mantashe (Secretary General of the ANC) answer questions from the media. When asked about the status of the ANCFS members who took the ANCFC PEC to court, Mantashe on more than one occasion said, ‘Those who take the ANC to court, remove themselves from the party’. For Mantashe, going to court without exhausting ‘internal ANC processes’ is a serious offence. It could well be treason in the eyes of the ANC.

Now of course the ANC has the right to set parameters on what it’s members can do or not. But the idea that taking the ANC to court as an ANC member is absurd. These ‘internal processes’ that Mantashe advocates for are usually marred with irregularities; even ANC members don’t seem to trust the party’s internal machinery to solve arbiter disputes.

More fun is expected today as Jacob Zuma is set to give the opening address. Nothing exciting is expected. The Nkandla Man will assert his dominance in a boring monotonous way.

For now, we’ll watch this empty spectacle, for fun. Nothing substantial will come out of it.

Sibusiso Tshabalala will be blogging live from the ANC National Elective Conference this week. Follow him on Twittter,@SbuTshabs  for updates on everything happening in Mangaung.

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