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Mbeki's legacy - The breaking of the ANC

by Nomad Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 03:51:59 AM EST

Watching politics in South Africa has always been, in my 1.5 years of observations, more frenetic to what my European mind is used to. More... Italian, perhaps. I've really lost count of the occasions I've stood flabbergasted (or dismayed) by announcements of a number of South African very rich assortment of flamboyant politicians. However, these past three months of political developments have been exceptional in their pace and fury. And (as far as I can see anyway) international reporting has been very slim on what's, in its potential, a massive shift in the already dynamic political landscape of South Africa. It goes without saying that the current limelight of political reporting had swung to the USA. But well, ET is practically Political Junkies Central, so with the presidential election in the USA firmly decided, here's a bit of insight what's been brewing south.

Because what many saw as a necessary step to secure the foundation of SA's fledgling democracy, but what many thought would not happen for years, or even decades, is happening now: the ANC is dramatically fracturing from within. History was written on the 1-2 November weekend with the launch of a new political party, carried by two prominent ANC-veterans, who had recently broken with the party - former defence minister Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota and former Gauteng-province premier Mbhazima Shilowa. In my perspective, the political groundswell of the past months can be best understood as a yearlong catenation of events, a slow build-up of sentiments and interlocking developments that, for most MSM, makes it hard to digest. The catalysts in this tale are, ultimately, the fanatics surrounding controversial ANC president Jacob Zuma and, more hidden in the background, Mbeki's long autocratic imprint on the ANC.

I've attempted a tentative time-line below the fold, leading up to the announcement of the new political party.

Promoted by afew

Decemeber 2007, Polokwane
On the ANC national conference last year December, the ANC-delegates chose the new members for the party's NEC, the National Executive Committee - the central decision-making organ of the party, which is now 86 members strong. The weeks in advance had already been marked by an intense rivalry between the two candidates for ANC party (and NEC) leadership: governing president Thabo Mbeki and arch-rival Jacob Zuma. The defeat of Mbeki was painfully overwhelming: all the six important NEC seats went to Zuma supporters, and the party presidency was wrested from Mbeki. The Zuma-ites did not take full control of the ANC, but they were firmly dropped in the driver's seat: loyal Zuma supporters were awarded that day with high ranking positions in the NEC, while dissidents and Mbeki supporters were flung back or cast out. Notably, ANC heavyweight Mosiuoa Lekota was thrown out of the NEC completely. This has been interpreted as retaliation by the Zuma-backers for Lekota's wilting criticism on the disruptive behaviour of many Zuma supporters. In other words: it was payback time.

Jacob Zuma

January - July 2008
But payback continued throughout this year. The "Zumafication" of the ANC party hardened on all fronts. A worrying trend of political purging emerged - everywhere in the country ANC delegates who had openly backed Mbeki or who disagreed with the new NEC policies was sidelined. It happened at the provincial and the municipal levels, in Cosatu (the large worker's union that is actually part of the ANC tripartite) and in the ANC Youth League.

It was "the politics of the total take-over" as eloquently put by Rapule Tabane who commented, somewhat prophetically, in the Mail & Guardian (bold mine):

The politics of the total takeover - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

There is no doubt Jacob Zuma has finally stamped his influence on all key structures of the ANC and its alliance partners. It started with Cosatu and the SACP last year. In the case of the latter, Blade Nzimande' group got rid of the likes of Ronnie Kasrils, Charles Nqakula, Phillip Dexter and Mazibuko Jara. This year it has been the turn of the Youth League and now the Women's League, which was reclaimed from Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini.

Even at the level of local government, several mayors regarded as Thabo Mbeki appointees have been threatened with removal. In the Free State, after Polokwane, Ace Magashule's group unsuccessfully tried to get Luthuli House to remove premier Beatrice Marshoff and install Magashule, but the ANC's top brass told them to take a hike.

It is a winner-takes-all mentality that will see the ANC lose top brains who happen to be on the wrong side of Zuma. This short-sightedness is not good for the long-term vibrancy and survival of the ANC. If anything, it may be good news for the opposition parties. No doubt those marginalised will not join the Democratic Alliance, but why should they invest their energies campaigning for next year's elections if they know they are not coming back?

Another growing concern was that even the judiciary was not spared for the ANC's vigorous onslaught, or perhaps I should write, especially the judiciary was not spared. That the ANC had elected a party president who continued to be deeply embroiled in a drawn-out case of corruption charges had, of course, nothing to do with this... Around May, reports came out that the ANC had revved up a three-pronged strategy to make sure that the judiciary would not stand in the way of Zuma's final ascension to the presidency of the country. But in this, the Mail&Guardian noted that these processes of circumventing democratic institutions were in themselves not something new - this process had grown long roots and traditions under Mbeki's presidency. The ANC under Zuma just continued where the NEC under Mbeki had stopped.

A legacy under threat - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

How else are we to understand the threat to "kill for Zuma" to "eliminate" the counter-revolutionaries; how else are we to understand the sustained and coordinated attack on the Constitutional Court? It speaks of a leadership straining to escape the institutional restraints of democracy. Again, that process began under Mbeki, who specialised in producing the veneer of institutional independence, but getting what he wanted through back-room manoeuvres and bullying.

The ANC under Zuma does not have the time or the clout (yet) for such methods. Zuma has a few more legal stratagems left before he has to face his corruption charges, but they are growing more desperate and less convincing. It is worth recalling that Mandela willingly subjected himself to the judgement of the courts when he was taken on by Louis Luyt, surely one of the most odious symbols of those who profited both from apartheid and from post-apartheid opportunism.

In his quest to outmanoeuvre the courts, Cosatu, the SACP (the Communist Party) and the ANC Youth League became Zuma's unquestioning henchmen and blunder boys. Which resulted in Zapiro's most outrageous (but on-point) cartoon of the year:

The reason why Zuma is charged for corruption is an epistle in itself: the notorious arms deal that has been haunting South African politics for a near decade. But the take-away message is: Zuma's corruption case had become extra poignant because he was officially recharged only after his election to ANC president in Polokwane! More fuel for conspiracy theories! Already Zuma supporters long felt that Mbeki was systematically trying to get rid of the gadfly Zuma with use of the courts. Zuma's copious defence team had challenged the decision to re-charge Zuma on the grounds that Zuma should first have been consulted, as stipulated by law. And that's when things really hit a rapid.

September 2008
Well respected judge Chris Nicholson truly upset the nation on September 12 with his verdict:

Round one to Zuma - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

The judge emphasised that his ruling did not relate to Zuma's guilt or innocence, but was merely on a procedural point.

He had strong words for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), saying it would have been wise for the NPA to allow Zuma to make representation at the time of him being recharged.

"I believe the NDPP [National Directorate of Public Prosecutions] ought to have heard the applicant's representation," Nicholson said.

He also said that Zuma's claims that there were political undercurrents in his prosecution were not completely unbelievable.

That final sentence escalated matters - Nicholson strongly implied that Mbeki had personally interfered with the decision to re-charge Zuma. The conspiracy theorists got the confirmation they had been waiting for, blood was in the water, and the end of Mbeki was nigh. The NEC, who could request the president to step down, was already in Zuma's hands and after eight years of relentless manoeuvring, Mbeki had very little friends left but plenty of personal enemies to spare. On Saturday 20 September, the ANC asked for Mbeki's head, and Mbeki gave it to them voluntarily the next day - tendering his resignation in a live television broadcast. With resigned dignity and bottled outrage. A third of his cabinet also handed in its resignation.

This bloodless coup did not result in Zuma taking over the presidency of the country - although his feverish backers were already clamouring for it. Zuma declined and put forward one of the more trustworthy faces of the party: Kgalema Motlanthe - a long serving politician who's perceived as an academic and a fair diplomat. Not someone who will rock the boat - and that's possibly what the party wanted: a figurehead who'd not upset matters further and someone who, as interim president, would steer South Africa to the elections next year. Because the world stood on the cusp of the financial crisis, finance minister Trevor Manuel, the architect of South Africa's economy, had resigned in support of Thabo Mbeki and the financial markets tottered. (His resignation was purely symbolic: Manuel immediately returned to his post when the ANC reappointed him...)

On another side note, one of the finest decisions of Motlanthe's interim cabinet was the replacement of embattled health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang with the capable Barbara Hogan who has shown every sign to unleash a fresh wind through the clogged down health department. Motlanthe's stance on Zimbabwe and Mugabe is also, refreshingly, more strident and stern. So these are good developments. However, as president, Motlanthe is practically invisible - one never hears about him.


But then now for the final fascinating twist: for many in the ANC the camel's back broke with Mbeki's ruthless decapitation - the jousting of Mbeki in Polokwane, the glorification of Zuma's personality, the sinister assaults on the judiciary and the constitution, the buffoonery of the Youth League, all of it may have generated the necessary build-up of sentiments through the year, but remarkably not the incentive to step it up. Yet now, things began changing. Two of the more notable names who resigned from the ANC: former defence minister Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota and former Gauteng-province premier Mbhazima Shilowa.

A bit of speculation. To what degree politics in SA is driven by the acts of only a handful of persons, I can't say, but I can't shake the feeling anymore - and even Lekota and Shilowa appear in some way steered by the psychology of the party that was shaped under Mbeki - they only resigned from the ANC when Mbeki gave up the presidency. I find it remarkable that only when the high king of the ANC was dethroned, people finally drew their line. ANC politicians, especially Mbeki, caution against the glorification of personalities - I suspect partly to douse some of the fragile tribal sentiments. Yet Mbeki's regime was marked consistently with making Mbeki the linchpin in his own government - a lot of his ministers revolved around him. The glorification of personality, although not as blatant, was part and parcel of Mbeki's government. Many people have written about Mbeki, and a thousands times better than I ever could - for the real deal, Mark Gevisser's biography on Mbeki "A Dream Deferred" is absolutely essential reading. So I'll keep it at this.

October 2008
For one month, speculation was rife - but the whisper machine was doing its work admirably. In October everyone knew there would be a new party, which would "reclaim the true values" of the ANC. And with most of what came out, I had to nod in agreement:

Inside the Shikota movement - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

For now, the clearest agreement among his supporters is on the need to "modernise". Said one: "We have to drop the language of Stalinism and the national democratic revolution and move beyond the constraints of an outdated alliance. People from the left, including the Communist Party, are welcome, but if they want to take the revolution on to its second [fully Marxist] stage, they need to go elsewhere."

She said that although the new party will be in favour of a developmental state, the definition of such a state needs to be clarified. "We don't even know what the words `developmental state' mean."

It is said the new party will want the developmental state to be couched in social democratic principles rather than moving to a "harder" leftist approach, as mooted by the SACP, which claims it is playing a more influential role in the ANC than it did under former president Thabo Mbeki.

The ANC, although trying to preserve its calm, showed clear signs of panic, with on one hand a strategy to ignore "the splinter" and on the other hand trying to crack down ruthlessly on anyone who appeared to cross the line. It has been pretty dismal to watch, and showcases yet again the growing flaws within the current ANC structures.

Malema, utter village idiot of the ANC Youth League:
Malema lashes out at 'political imbeciles' - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

"We must not be hoodwinked into believing lies and half-truths the prophets of doom are spreading about our revolutionary movement."

Malema said it was time to educate the "political imbeciles" who have bad things to say [about the ANC] because they had "unfettered access" to the media.

He said the recent campaigning by Mosiuoa Lekota, who has since been suspended with Mluleki George, had been the most "idiotic" political performance the country had ever seen.

Motshekga of the ANC Women's League:
Motshekga blasts ANC dissidents | Times Multimedia

ANC Women's League president, Angie Motshekga said: "the dogs have now left the ruling party". She blasted dissidents ANC members at a press briefing in Luthuli House, Johannesburg.

Not that Lekota comes without faults - he's the reputation of an authoritarian bully with a coarse streak and he has never been unapologetic for the many flaws in Mbeki's cabinet - because he served in that government. Shilowa comes with a better CV on paper, but I don't know him well.

"Shikota" - Lekota (left) and Shilowa
Taken from: The Mail& Guardian

Novermber 2008
The inevitable climax: on the first November weekend, a big convention was held (most of the politics in SA has to pass through big rallies and conventions which more often than not appear mostly customary to me). This one was held in Sandton, Johannesburg - because all convention centres in Bloemfontein had mysteriously been sold out. (Tongues whisper that the ANC had booked them all to prevent the event from happening there.) A few kilometres south, in Soweto, Jacob Zuma led a massive counter-rally in which he called the new movement "a dead snake" and added some other niceties.

This Thursday, Shilowa unveiled the name of the new party: Congress of the People (COP). The party is planned to be founded on December 16 this year.

Meet the COP: Dissidents finally settle on party name - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

Addressing about 200 ANC dissidents in Cape Town, Shilowa said the new party would be called the Congress of the People.

"This is the name we are going to register on Monday with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)," he said.

Shilowa, who said the name was decided after several people had sent in SMSs. He stated that the name resonated with the breakaway movement's vision to unite all South Africans.

"We are not going to build a small party -- we are building a giant party," he said.

Shilowa also used the event to welcome three new recruits who had just resigned from the ANC.

In the meantime the exodus of the ANC continues:

Top Eastern Cape ANC members resign - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

Balindlela, George, former ANC provincial spokesperson Andile Nkuhlu, Amathole regional leader Moses Qomoyi, executive member of the provincial ANC Youth League Nkosifikile Gqomo, and a member of the Youth League executive committee disbanded in December 2006, Thabo Matiwane, announced their resignations on Monday.

In a letter to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Balindlela said that since the ANC's Polokwane conference in December last year, the Eastern Cape, as a province, had accepted the results of the conference and readied themselves to work for unity and cohesion under the new ANC leadership.

It should be sheer impossible for the ANC to still claim this is a minor crisis, which of course they will. But in reality the party is fracturing, and the "Shikota" party (COP) is making inroads in at least seven of the nine SA provinces, where many people are disillusioned with the direction of the ANC. Only KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces, two of Zuma's strongholds, appear unimpressed with the new kid on the block.

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating: how large the damage for the ANC will be in the 2009 national elections will really depend on how well the COP can spread around their new message, how much traction it has, and how much of the electorate will be able to choose another party over the biggest liberation movement that buried apartheid - a not insignificant factor!

In the near future, I expect some pretty ugly confrontations and rhetoric in this always inflammable country. However, SA may just have made one more definite step towards long term democratic stability.

No wonder few papers write about this - it's very challenging to condense the intricacies in their proper context. Already I have, grudgingly, cut out two pages to prevent size spiralling into a skyscraper.

But well. Here you have it. You should rate the ebullient rain in SA, or otherwise this diary would not have been written.

by Nomad on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 10:15:40 AM EST
Fascinating country that doesn't nearly get the coverage it deserves by the press in my neck of the woods.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 10:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting reading - and yes not much is written about this here, at least not with the kind of depth of your diary. So thanks once more for a very interesting diary, Nomad!
by Fran on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 01:01:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks, Nomad. I've been wondering what's been going on with the ANC without having time to look into it. Excellent rundown, thanks.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 04:35:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 04:54:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary!

A great collation of these intricate developments.

Any chance of posting some of the cut out bits as comments?

One thing that I've not paid attention to (distracted by the US elections) is the Zuma faction policy direction.

The new Congress party seem to want to define themselves as Social Democrats in opposition to an ANC rump that is more hard-left - but equally Zuma seems quite comfortable at the head of a status quo...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 11:21:08 AM EST
One thing that I've not paid attention to (distracted by the US elections) is the Zuma faction policy direction.

Zuma remains the ultimate chameleon - pandering to all possible electorate groups. I've no idea where the true Zuma stands in the ANC framework and I'm not sure if anyone not close to him has an idea. Cosatu and SACP fully expect him to swing hard left and finish their "revolution".

by Nomad on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 01:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Zumafication re-alignments were visible at their worst and most sordidly in the ANC Youth League. In April this year, the ANC Youth League chose its new leader on its second annual convention - for the first one was marred by such a display of debauchery (overall drunkenness, sexual misconduct and delegates throwing food and beer bottles at each other) that the presidential voting needed a repeat. Incumbent president Fikile Mbalula, who at Polokwane had been rewarded with a seat in the NEC for his relentless Zuma fawning, was replaced by yet another Zuma hardliner: Julius Malema.

In the course of the next six months, Malema managed to become the biggest joke of the country. Malema's most notorious comment, which set a lot of people atwitter, came in July when he casually remarked:

Malema hardens his heart - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

Malema, at the rally, said the youth league was "prepared to die for Zuma. We are prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma."

But, he said, media reports on his speech were "blown out of proportion with a clear malicious intent and consequence".

"We have noticed a distortion, misinterpretation, vulgar insults and defamatory comments which have been hurled against the ANCYL."

Malema said it was all part of a political agenda to discredit the youth league.

It led many to comment on the gradual devolution of the ANC Youth League, which has after all a renowned history. Political cartoonist Zapiro, as is his wont, contributed the most controversial depiction and took a lot of heat for it:

(With the depicted showerhead as a sign of total Zuma-conversion; Zapiro consistently portrays Zuma with a showerhead - a reference to Zuma's infamous comment that he made during his rape case: he took a shower after unprotected sex with a HIV-positive woman.)

by Nomad on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 02:09:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to ask about the shower head!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 02:46:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The fallout of the arms deal has grown now so complicated, I've given up my attempts to puzzle the pieces together. And I haven't read Andrew Feinstein's more in-depth "After the Party". In short, it's a story of kickbacks and political intrigues leading up to the highest offices.

South African Arms Deal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The South African Arms Deal was a US$4,8 billion (R30 billion in 1999 rands) purchase of weaponry by the South African Government finalised in 1999 which has become heavily tainted by corruption. [1][2]

The South African Department of Defence's Strategic Defence Acquisition was to modernise its defence equipment, which included the purchase of corvettes, submarines, light utility helicopters, lead-in fighter trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft.

Those alleged with corruption are a number of high-ranking politicians and businessmen - one of them Shabir Shaik, who was Zuma's personal financial advisor. As far as I understand things, Shaik is the only South African attached to the arms deal who has been convicted - his final appeal to the Constitutional Court was rejected October last year. In the Shaik case, Zuma was all over the map - which was Mbeki's motivation to sack him from his post as deputy president in 2005, after Shaik's first conviction. However, Zuma was never convicted and never has been: the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) made the decision to charge Zuma separately from the Shaik case. I guess that's why Shaik is already convicted, because Zuma's defence team has perfected delaying and derailing Zuma's appearance in court. An overview of Zuma's court cases here.

And even if Zuma would ever appear for the judge, there would have been a chance the defence team would've called Thabo Mbeki to court - because also his name has repeatedly surfaced in the arms deal. Perhaps it was bluff poker flaunted by Zuma's defence team. I don't think we'll ever know - because things have taken a whole new turn.

In September 2006, the High Court in Pietermaritzburg had struck the charges of the NPA of the roll, and the Zuma team felt vindicated. However, during 2007 the NPA continued pursuing cases for more crucial evidence to implicate Zuma, one of them involved (somewhat farcically) getting access to Zuma's original diary. And in all cases Zuma's team was also fiercely blocking, delaying and appealing wherever possible. Which led many to comment, "if he's as innocent as he says, why is he trying so stall every single piece?" Most of these cases have so far been won by the NPA and Zuma was indeed recharged last year - but now for the poignant bit: Zuma was only recharged after he was made ANC president at Polokwane.

by Nomad on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 03:53:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice diary, Nomad!

I keep hearing people saying things about how the split in the ANC "could be good for the country," in that it might give birth to a real, viable opposition party, but what I think a lot of those people overlook is that the dissidents, at this point, consist mainly of the least popular members of the ANC. They're largely Mbeki loyalists, and Mbeki himself has never had huge grassroots support. There are certainly other people who could have split off to form their own party who would have been much more formidable foes for the ANC. But they're longtime Mbeki rivals and are NOT going to defect on his behalf. (I'm thinking of, for example, Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Matthews Phosa, although I was interested to note that there are reports of Saki Macozoma helping to fund the new party.  None of those guys carries much water for Zuma, but I'm thinking they see their options as better within the ANC now than outside of it, especially with a weakened Zuma at the helm.)

Humorous note: I've been keeping up with the Name Game for the new party, and it's hilarious. Every new name they settled on had already been taken by some other random new party, or was too similar to another party's name to suffice.

Point of order: COSATU is not part of the "ANC tripartite," it's part of the Tripartite Alliance, of which the ANC is also a part. The Tripartite Alliance is the ANC, SA Communist Part and COSATU, the trade federation. Each played a key and separate role in the anti-apartheid struggle, but their memberships are also overlapping.  Many people belong to all three. This is why the SACP doesn't stand in parliamentary elections; most of its members would unwilling to declare themselves a member of one and not the other on a ballot, and voters would have trouble choosing anyway. So the SACP always has some members in cabinet, but they run as ANC members.

It's long been the theory that a new party, if one were to break off from the ANC, would break off via COSATU or the SACP, but it seems to be kind of the opposite.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 08:18:14 PM EST
I didn't want to dwell on the name game too much; it's been tardy as it is. Many just call it "Shikota";  the term got stuck since the Mail&Guardian coined it.

I'm of two minds on the chances of the new party - firstly, because they've moved right of the ANC (and not from the expected left) it looks like they're fishing in the same pool of most opposition parties (lower and upper middle class). So the targeted electorate is a lot smaller.

On the other hand, of the anti-Mbeki sentiments also stick to the ANC and there is the feeling of increasing disgruntlement towards the hypocritical Zuma fanatics. If Shikota manages to paint the party as a viable alternative to the ANC, analysts say 30 - 40% of the electorate could get its vote - part as ANC protest vote. (People are now beginning to see conspiracies everywhere, saying that Mbeki sticks with the ANC on purpose, to boost sentiments for the COP!)

The coming months should be interesting to see what the dominant message will be. Or whether the party can actually stick it out. I must say that I'm quietly rooting for them; partly because I've been so offended by the bloating arrogance of the ANC and their affiliates (Blade, Viva, Julius Malema, etc) who deserve a drubbing. Deliberately conflating the ANC presidency with the presidency of the country is one of the lesser irks of this year.

BTW, I give up on how to write Cosatu/COSATU - I see you write it with all caps.

by Nomad on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 06:19:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Normad, ET national treasure.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 05:40:02 AM EST
and Nomad, ET SA reporter.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 05:40:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A stupid question: how hard it could be to [kind of] infiltrate and blow up an organization like ANC from within (just in case this would be needed or convenient to some)?
by das monde on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 02:45:39 AM EST
The Mbeki/Zuma feud has been festering for years - in some ways I'm suprised that it took as long as it did to break out into open warfare, but on the other hand the ANC has always had a strong tradition of keeping its dirty laundry out of the public eye.

Has anyone here read 'After The Party' by Andrew Feinstein (Fair notice: I know Andrew socially)? The picture he paints is one where the ANC in exile was a militarised 'revolutionary vanguard' style of movement, whereas the activists and fellow travellers who stayed inside SA and mobilised the internal opposition were more a diffuse, grassroots 'community organiser' sort of crew.

Once Mandela's immense prestige left the stage, the leninist/authoritarian culture of the exiles, which was always going to be more vulnerable to capture by chancers and wannabe despots, started to run wild. You got the grotesque AIDS nonsense, the rampant corruption of the arms deal (with something like £200M being skimmed off the contracts) and the abuse of both the state and party apparatus to try and squash the allegations once things started to leak.

The Mbeki/Zuma knifefight is rooted in this 'ANC-in-exile' tradition.


-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 06:26:07 AM EST
They're not openly rolling on the street yet. But Mbeki, now he's no longer president, has finally come forth with one of his letters in which he pretty much demands that Zuma stops treating him as both a comrade and a traitor - I guess he's pushing back more openly at the personal level now he has shed the presidential status.

I mentioned Feinstein's book in one of my tidbits upthread; I guess I need to read it then...

One of the things that most amaze me of African politics is that with yet so many African despots who adopted hardcore socialist/marxist policies which thoroughly failed, the spirit of hard-left/revolutionary marxism remains alive and well.

by Nomad on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 07:46:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things that most amaze me of African politics is that with yet so many African despots who adopted hardcore socialist/marxist policies which thoroughly failed, the spirit of hard-left/revolutionary marxism remains alive and well.

At the risk of adopting an evolutionary approach to political/economic development, the SA situation reminds me of the early industrial capitalism phases of the west - with militant Unions and revolutionary parties always threatening to go the extra-parliamentary route.

The problem with revolutions is that the revolutionary party quickly becomes the establishment one, and frequently as corrupt as the establishment it replaced.  The splintering of the ANC may be part of the development of a more normal multi-party democracy -  SA was in danger of becoming a quasi-Stalinist single party state.

The pity of it is that Mandela is so old and no longer willing/able to add his moderating influence.  Mbeki may have been apolitically incompetent aloof intellectual, but Zuma seems positively dangerous by comparison.  

Many whites feared a Zimbabwe like melt-down post Apartheid.  Mandela and many others helped to prevent that happening.  However SA appears poised on the brink of a precipice of spiraling decline.  Hopeful its polity is sufficient robust to prevent that from happening.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 03:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry Frank but there are a lot of generalities in your comment I disagree with.

Frank Schnittger:

SA was in danger of becoming a quasi-Stalinist single party state.

I don't know what you mean by quasi-Stalinist, but I was hoping to portray how dynamic politics is in this country. Even today I discovered a new political party I hadn't noticed before... Yes, the results of the three previous general elections may have given the impression that the ANC was increasingly on its way to a super-majority - but as far as I can see, there honestly wasn't a opposition party that could compete strategically with the ANC. Also, the ANC had done lots of good in its first two mandates and patience still wasn't wearing thin. It is now. We'll never know now what would've happened hadn't the new party emerged on the scene - but I wouldn't have been surprised if the ANC would've received fewer voters.

I would agree that ANC as establishment party remains boringly embracing its military-tainted language and attitudes from its days as a liberation movement; they seem too much stuck in that outdated frame, IMHO. However, I should abundantly stress how many intellectuals the ANC harbours; it is not to be trifled as "just" a revolutionary establishment. These days, though, the struggle between the populist movement under the veneer of marxism and the more intellectual garde is coming to the surface - a struggle which was there from the start.

Frank Schnittger:

Mbeki may have been apolitically incompetent aloof intellectual, but Zuma seems positively dangerous by comparison

No. Mbeki was never politically incompetent; in fact he was a master at manoeuvring at the highest of levels. Amazing, considering how often he was actually outside the country, busying himself with African renaissance. He was groomed for the presidency from the get-go - but he botched on several issues, notably his stance on AIDS and Zimbabwe have irreparably damaged his legacy, particularly for outsiders, and to the detriment of millions of Africans who can't complain because they've been buried.

The myth of Zuma as a danger to South Africa's democracy is probably thriving biggest outside of South Africa. He doesn't concern me (too) much as a person, although I think his views, when he expounds them, are terribly conservative and a huge leap backwards - but what many outside South Africa don't realise enough: he does represent many majority views, or at minimum panders to them. Don't let the Constitution of SA fool you in thinking how overall liberal this country is; it's not. The Constitution, which I love to bits, is a technocratic construct that poorly reflects on the majority of this country.

But what I'm concerned about is the wave of illiberal, authoritarian, loud-mouthed, hypocritical and staggeringly corrupt backers Zuma has been using to get to the presidency.

Frank Schnittger:

However SA appears poised on the brink of a precipice of spiraling decline

Now I really start suspecting you talk to too many emigrated white Afrikaners...

by Nomad on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 05:47:05 PM EST
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Now I really start suspecting you talk to too many emigrated white Afrikaners...

No my SA friends were all members of the Anti-Apartheid struggle - some banned and who escaped - and others now living in SA.  Kadar Asmal - ex SA Education Minister taught me International Law in Dublin.  However I've lost touch with the situation now, and my musings above were a bit of a shot in the dark.

The economy grew reasonably well under Mbeki but I don't know how its doing now. I suspect it was slowing down even before the global financial crisis hit.  Certainly SA has been slipping down the HDI league table.   It was basically capitalist development creating something of a black middle class but many blacks in townships and rural areas saw few benefits. I suspect their patience is wearing thin - and Zumas response seems to me to be demagogic populism rather than real reform aimed at developing the economy and spreading its benefits further.  

To me his leadership now represents an implosion of what the ANC once stood for and thus I welcome the break up of what I once supported as perhaps the greatest liberation movement of my lifetime.  (That is not to say that I see the splinter groups as being progressive - merely that reducing the chances of one party gaining a 2/3 majority reduces the chances of a descent into totalitarianism).

I know I presented my argument in stark over-simplified terms - and I'm sure that internally, SA is a maelstrom of different political tendencies - based on ideology, class, region, ethnicity and race.  But my fear is that economically its not going to find the going easy in the next few years, and that means the poor have less chance of making it out of poverty.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 06:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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