Friday, 23 December 2011

Only renewal will save ANC from devastation

Nombonsio Gasa
by Nomboniso Gasa, The Daily Dispatch

UNGAYIQALI ngehle ikoyise (do not  start that, it might devastate you!).  My mother often cautioned me  whenever she felt I had not examined long-term implications and possible destructive  results of something I was planning.

Recent developments in our national  politics have reminded me of this warning. In December 2007, the nation watched  with bated breath as the ANC tore itself  apart in a succession battle in Polokwane.  If there were any political faults, these  were deeply submerged in the fight between personalities to snatch control from  then-President Thabo Mbeki.

These scenes are etched in our memories. They were similar to those outside  the Johannesburg High Court during the  rape trial of the man who is now our  president, Jacob Zuma.

The supporters of Zuma insulted those  whom they considered enemies. They invoked imagery of witches, crawling animals and, at times, Zuma was depicted as  Jesus Christ, the man who had risen again  from the political dead.

If he was disturbed by any of this, he  said nothing. His behaviour betrayed no  discomfort. Not once did Zuma say to his supporters: “Not in my name.”

Even at taxi ranks, those who assaulted  women for wearing mini-skirts because it  is contrary to their idea of what is a  custom, could draw strength from the utterances of Zuma who interpreted the wearing of a short skirt as a sexual overture by the woman who accused him of  raping her.

Far from any sense that what he said  was inappropriate, Zuma was audacious.  Outside the Johannesburg High Court, he  jumped on the back of trucks and sang his  favourite song Awuleth’umshini wam.
 He later treated the nation and international community to a remixed version  of the same song Yhe wethu uyandibambezela, awuleth’umshini wam (Hey you,  you are delaying me, give me my machine  gun) to the great applause of his  supporters.

His supporters, we were told, comprised  men and women who had been excluded  and were “the coalition of the wounded”  damaged by the Mbeki regime.

Along the line, those who had often  begun parliamentary speeches by referring to what “the president had said, and  effusively praised Mbeki as an original  and brilliant thinker; a strategist and tactician” now told us they, who had enjoyed  the fruits of office, were his “victims” all  along.

Getting rid of Mbeki seemed to be the  binding vision shared by those who gathered around Zuma. When seemingly tight alliances shifted  so suddenly, how are we the citizens supposed to read this politics?  Are we to commend young children to  learn how to conduct their civic duties  from this?

Buoyed by the victory in Polokwane, the  new purified ANC leadership or “the true  ANC that we have always known”, as the  protagonists told us, recalled Mbeki from  office. This was followed by the hard push  to drop the corruption charges against  Zuma. After seven years, the man who  wanted to have his day in court did not  get there.

The nation which waited to hear Zuma  clear his name was left none the wiser as  to what happened. Instead, the man became the president of South Africa.

Like all “great visions”, the movement  of Polokwane has to be constantly reinterpreted by its “great thinkers”, who constantly re-define what is “un-ANC or alien  to the ANC culture”.

Today, some of those who pushed for  the “pure ANC free of Mbeki legacy” before, during and after the Polokwane conference, are no longer in office or about to  depart from the political and administrative scene.

 Post Polokwane, allegations of factionalism and abuse of state apparatus, especially intelligence services abound.

 Was this not part of the culture that  was to be kicked out in 2008? Governance  has become a casualty in this politics of  intrigue, at national level, in provinces  and in local government.

Now, four years later and just three  weeks before the ANC’s centenary, are we  to get out of this crisis? It is not inevitable  that the ANC must tear itself apart and  self- destruct.

 Too many people died and lived to make  the ANC the bearer of South African  democratic values. The ANC can and must find a solution  to the crisis it has created for itself and  the country.Yes, that is easier said than done but it  is not impossible.

Firstly, there are people who can make a great contribution in the renewal of the  ANC. By renewal, I mean an intense and fully engaged process of rebuilding an organisation that is apposite to the conditions of  today taking hard lessons from its history. The most important group to do this is  comprised of those people who are constantly evoked as “the masses”, the ordinary members of the ANC.

They are very good at articulating what  they want, what they need and their vision.

Sure, they need leadership which will  embrace, give direction and bring to life what ANC members and South Africans  in general want – a stable democracy and  truly transformative society.

Why am I so confident that ordinary  people can help change the course of the  ANC, you may ask?

Well, because ANC history is replete  with lessons where this has happened.The  Morogoro conference is always cited as a  turning point in ANC history. At a time of  great tensions, ANC members asserted  their problems and vision. On his part,  Oliver Tambo offered to step down as  leader of the ANC. The conditions are  different and so are the challenges of today.

And yet, whatever are our times, the  ANC is desperately in need of a leadership that serves and unites its members  and the people of South Africa.

Only renewal will prevent devastation  of the ANC. Renewal begins with acknowledgement that the very foundations  of this house are shaky.