JULIUS Malema, the ANC Youth Leagues extrovert leader was given short shrift by the South African Communist Party today.
Malema demanded the right to address the delegates, apparently because he deems himself worthy of airtime and more than a mere delegate.
He was turned down by the party’s Gwede Mantashe who doubles as the ANC’s secretary general.
It was too much to bear and Malema, his fellow delegates Tony Yengeni and Billy Masethla, walked out of the conference, setting the scene for a worsening of relations between the party and the ANC.
Like a school-yard tattle-tale, Malema said he was going to tell President Jacob Zuma what the SACP had done to him.
But will the ANC go along with Malema or will it value its relationship with the SACP enough to avoid a full-blown stand-off?
The question is intriguing because it goes to the heart of the growing stand-off between “nationalists” and “socialists” within the ANC.
This is the fissure that has expressed itself in government’s indecision about how to proceed on economic policy.
The result has been stagnation which has effectively allowed the status quo — a statist liberalism — to survive although without any supporters willing to stick their necks out.
At some point this state of uneasy inertia is likely to give way to movement in one or another direction.
The irony is that Malema wants nationalisation while the SACP’s Jeremy Cronin has argued it is not always the way to transform an economy.
Mantashe and Malema have just pushed the SACP and the ANC into their biggest public confrontation. Which way will Jacob Zuma bend? Or will he continue to abdicate the leadership role to those with the loudest voices?
WHEN was the last time you heard from President Jacob Zuma? He has been on a world tour of Mbekiesque proportions, attending summits and, most recently, visiting Egypt.
At home he has been absent while those who work under him have had to put out some major fires. The ANC’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, appears to be fighting a lone – and perhaps a losing – battle against the rising tide of Youth League and trade union demands for changes to policy, most notably on nationalisation.
In his absence, construction on South Africa’s 2010 stadiums ground to a halt due to a strike and it was left to the Labour Minister to cobble together a “compromise” which appears to amount to caving in to the union’s demands out of desperation.
What are Zuma’s views on these matters? Perhaps he counselled Mantashe and Mdladlana, perhaps he didn’t.
But he certainly made no attempt to reassure the nation in the face of serious challenges to economic policy and to our 2010 bid.
THERE they were, our brilliant political journalists, elevating the ANC Youth League and their “king-making” power ahead of the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December. They went so far as to compare this bunch of attention-seeking kids and their fax machine to the politically potent youth league that Nelson Mandela led in the 1940s.
Never mind the widely reported associations with Brett Kebble, never mind the fact that they there was no substance behind the string of tired old cliches that pretended to be policy.
No, to South Africa’s political journalists, these were powerful people, cutting a bold new political path ….
It was not a sustainable illusion and the bubble has burst rather spectacularly at their Free State conference where they have engaged in the worst type of drunken, misogynistic, homophobic politics of personality cults. I don’t want to defame toddlers, but that is the level of their political nous.
Well done, political journalists! You have created a monster. Now that it has fallen, you will no doubt turn 180 degrees and feed off its corpse.
THE chickens of Polokwane are returning home to roost and its an awfully messy little nest that they’re building.
When it eventually got under way three or four days late, the ANC Youth League’s conference at the University of the Free State degenerated into a drunken display of factionalism and macho politics.
The youth league leadership were quite happy to boo and jeer President Thabo Mbeki, so they should not have been surprised when they were treated in the same way by their impressionable members.
Speakers have been jeered, bottles have been lobbed across the hall, no discussion has taken place on policy and several days late, voting finally began for the leadership yesterday.
More alarming was the fact that the youth appeared more interested in drinking and partying than meeting to discuss the heady questions facing the nation.
Some went so far as to tell our reporting staff yesterday that they were planning to burn down the technikon campus because they were “bored”.
Polokwane entrenched the politics of populism and personality cults and this culture is finding ready purchase in the ANC’s youth league.
The fact is that once the personalities contesting leadership positions eclipse questions of what they stand for or how they might offer leadership, political decay is inevitable.
The decay must grow exponentially as the populists placed in high office are dependent on beerhall politics to stay in power.
The ANC’s Youth League is nothing but a crystal ball into a political future which promises thuggery instead of considered debate.
Is there a youth leader who can stand up to this tide and win enough support to rise to the top? Apparently not.
Thabo – I might have destroyed your political career, but you are still my friend, okay?
To my supporters: You shouldn’t have shouted at Thabo like that, it made us look like rural trash.
Business must chill out, I’m not planning to take your toys away, although I will be asking the unions and communists what they think before I make policy.
I will be making a lot more noise about crime and Aids, but I don’t have any specific plans yet.
This article first appeared in the Sunday Times in June 2005
Mbeki’s toughest decision
By Ray Hartley
Sunday June 12 was a crisp winter’s day on the South African highveld. By the afternoon, President Thabo Mbeki had finally made his decision.
His deputy, Jacob Zuma, a man he had counted among his most trusted friends for 30 years, would have to be fired. The Durban High Court Judge Hillary Squires had convicted Zuma’s financial adviser Schabir Shaik of paying more than $256,000 to Zuma for favours to advance his business interests. Zuma and Shaik, he said, had an inappropriate relationship.
It was the moment of truth for Mbeki, who was showing, in the words of an aide, that “quiet resolve, that silent resolve you see in his eyes”.
The friendship was over. All that remained was deciding how this grave political task would be carried out.
That afternoon he met three officials at his Pretoria residence. Joel Netshitenzhe, the head of government communications was accompanied by the Rev Frank Chikane, a former church leader who has run Mbeki’s government office throughout his presidency, and Mojanku Gumbi, Mbeki’s legal adviser.
He asked their opinion. What would work best? A nationally televised address? A press conference? Parliament?
All agreed: it had to be Parliament. Read More…
PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki left the stage a beaten man on Tuesday night. He was defeated by one of the canniest political campaigns ever waged in South Africa as Jacob Zuma transformed himself from a fired, corrupt, misogynist rape-accused into a people’s champion in two short years.
The story of how Mbeki lost his political mojo has the makings of an epic screenplay, perhaps along the lines of Luchino Visconti’s classic The Leopard, in which Burt Lancaster portrayed the decline of Prince Don Fabrizio Salina as power shifted from the aristocracy to the populists.
But this comparison is a sentimental exaggeration. The truth is much simpler: Mbeki is the victim of a massive failure of spin-doctoring.
Consider this: Here was a man who in 1999 led the ANC to a greater margin of victory than that achieved by Nelson Mandela in 1994, who presided over the most sustained period of economic growth in the country’s recent history and who presided over South Africa winning the right to stage the 2010 football World Cup.
These achievements, large though they were, were dwarfed by Mbeki’s macro-economic successes. Under his and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s watch, the country’s economic fundamentals were stabilised, the deficit was reduced, inflation was reigned in, the currency was brought onto an even keel and conditions were created for a stock market rally that has swelled the pensionable income of workers as much as it has made share-optioned executives extremely wealthy.
Mbeki had his political failings. He presided over an arms deal that has spawned a thousand corruption stories. He failed to deal with the haemorrhaging of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and, perhaps most tellingly, he failed to respond to the Aids pandemic with conviction.
All leaders have their failings. The difference with Mbeki is that these failings were allowed to fester, multiply and, ultimately, overwhelm his successes.
The blame for this resides first and foremost with Mbeki himself. While in exile, he was the supreme spin-doctor, convincing white South Africans who visited the ANC in Lusaka that his party had good intentions for South Africa.
This was no mean feat, given that the ANC was a banned organisation engaged in guerilla warfare at the time.
But, somewhere between exile and the long, lonely night of December 18, 2007, Mbeki lost his patience with spin doctoring.
On the eve of his presidency in 1999, he made an effort to build a relationship with political journalists, holding a warm, informal discussion with them about matters of state in a disarmingly honest fashion. The very next day, a daily newspaper broke his confidence and the die was cast. Mbeki retreated.
Nelson Mandela’s brilliant spin-doctor, the late Parks Mankahlana, found himself unable to stem the ooze of negativity. Mandela had cut him loose, allowing him to work the press with a free hand. Under Mbeki he was cramped for style, constantly having to defer to higher authorities.
It did not help that he was sent to the front line to fight for Mbeki’s questionable stance on Aids as the disease ravaged him. He was a man in turmoil and Mbeki’s front line finally gave in when he died in 2000.
After Mankahlana came a succession of dour yes-men, terrified to pass on information and unable to find a way to cast Mbeki’s introversion and his odd utterances on Aids and Zimbabwe in a positive light.
Mbeki’s new front line became the Minister in his office, Essop Pahad, laughingly referred to as South Africa’s Lord Haw-Haw. If it was Mbeki who wrestled his own public image to the ground, it was Pahad who put in the steel-toed boot. Angry, finger-pointing and prone to temper tantrums, Pahad cut a swathe of alienation through the press corps.
In April 2001, Mbeki’s then Minister of Safety and Security, the late Steve Tshwete stunned the nation by announcing that Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa were plotting to overthrow Mbeki.
Mbeki’s response to the claims suggested that he was behind the bizarre move, instantly turning three powerful figures in life-long enemies. He told eTV: “It’s a conspiratorial thing. I know you have business people who say, ‘We will set up a fund to promote our particular candidate and we will then try to influence particular journalists’.”
The seeds of paranoia had been sown and, while the public at large was bemused, there was palpable negative shift in perceptions of Mbeki within the ANC. Respect turned to dread.
The rest, as they say is history. Despite rolling out a massive Aids campaign which now enjoys the support of highly critical Aids organisations, Mbeki failed to convincingly distance himself from Aids-denialism.
In the months leading up to the conference, Pahad launched an all-out assault on the country’s most influential newspaper, the Sunday Times, calling for a government advertising boycott. Whatever hope Mbeki had of turning around public opinion vaporised on Pahad’s hot breath.
On Tuesday night it all boiled down to 400 ANC delegates at the ANC conference. It would have taken just 400 ANC delegates to switch their support from Zuma to Mbeki for Mbeki to survive the political onslaught by Zuma.
But, when Mbeki rose to claim credit for his successes, no-one was listening. Success had long been overwhelmed by the untamed tentacles of failure.
SOUTH Africa has entered an uncomfortable eighteen months of political uncertainty.
As of today, the country is living with the much speculated about phenomenon of “two centers of power”.
Jacob Zuma is ANC president while Thabo Mbeki remains president of the country.
It is not the first time that this has occurred. In 1999, Nelson Mandela continued as president after Mbeki had been made ANC president.
But that was different. Mbeki was the sole candidate for president and the party was united behind him despite Mandela’s failure to give him a ringing endorsement.
South Africa barely noticed that it had two political leaders as Mbeki had by then assumed many of the duties of state from Mandela.
This time around, the president of the country, Mbeki and the ANC president, Zuma, are bitter enemies.
Zuma took power in the party on Tuesday night following two years of vicious faction fighting during which supporters of both men were alarmingly ad-hominem and vicious in their assessment of their opponents.
The stage is set for government to grind to a halt as Zuma demands that Mbeki run big decisions by him before implementation.
Exactly how law-making, the appointment of senior officials and day-to-day decisions will take place will have to be worked out between Mbeki and Zuma.
How will a decision to prosecute Zuma by the Scorpions play in such an environment.
Zuma might insist that such a decision enjoy the same “review” process undertaken for Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Would Mbeki accede to such a request? And if he did, what effect would this have on the integrity of crime-fighting institutions.
Mbeki and Zuma have entered uncharted waters. They must quickly work our a modus operandi that enjoys public confidence.