-Walking with the wounded, the gateway to Tuynhuis –
‘Advice to the ‘anointed President Motlanthe’: Take a leaf from the books of Mbeki and Zuma’
There is an adage that an old clergy shared with me many years ago on the three stages of the life of a pastor. He said the first stage is when they sing your praise, the second stage they question you and the final stage they call for your head. In my short life I have seen that over and over yet this is not limited to the church but is playing out in front of our eyes in ANC politics as the political trade winds are blowing across the arid spaces of South Africa.
This weekend the subject to final appeal expelled president of the ANCYL, Julius Malema in Limpopo in mix masala of threat, sadness and defiance, at a rally officially called for a replacement of Zuma with Motlanthe his deputy. This call is gradually gaining momentum in some circles. It appears we are set for the sequel of a Polokwane 2007, which i for nomenclature shall call the ‘Promised Mangaung of REVENGE’. It is said history ‘repeats itself the first time in a farce the second in tragedy’.
One most probably can go through the entire history of the ANC and draw parallels as to a role the Youth League played in electing ANC leaderships. Yet that is not the focus of my attention in this article for I draw a distinction between the ANC elections before an ANC Led government and elections under an ANC Led Government. It is still my contention that as powerful the presidencies of a Tambo and others are made out, it simply cannot be compared with that of Mandela, Mbeki, Zuma and potentially now a Motlanthe. These come mixed with power and enormous control of resources, purse strings and political machinery attended by governance these bring a dynamism to the table that the ANC itself is apparently struggling to acclimatise with, and possibly like other things of governance was not ready to contend with.
The history of the elections of presidents of the ANC who ultimately become SA presidencies lends itself to the same dictum of firstly celebration, then question, defiance and ultimately either recall or dethroning. Perhaps with the exception of a Mandela, who opted for one term only, all others are subject to the adage of the clergy.
This past weekend the deputy president of the ANC and SA as requested by the Youth League addressed as keynote speaker a Youth League rally at the Nkonkowa stadium in Tzaneen, Limpopo. The process followed as confirmed by the secretary general of the ANC is that requests are lodged at his office for a speaker to attend an ANC or structure rally or gathering. The ANCYL complied with such procedure and its wish was granted to have their “anointed president” address them. Hence Motlanthe attending this rally came with the blessing of the ANC leadership.
The print media headlines for this weekend and this morning attest of the happenings of the rally. It is without any doubt Kgalema Motlanthe’s finest hour, the dream elections are made of when a constituency as powerful in historic and mostly in rhetoric claim outrightly confirms once candidature, without you asking for such. This though the actual succession debate is claimed to only officially open according to the ANC in October 2012. One would be fooled to believe no election campaigns are under way, with the visible lobbying and preferred lists doing the rounds.
The reality is Motlanthe will do well to appreciate the fate of others before him who similarly were once first celebrated, adored, then questioned, defied and ultimately demonised.
Less we forget that it was the Youth League under the late Peter Mokaba who was instrumental in the election of a Thabo Mbeki; it was the same Youth League, under a Fikile Mbalula who along with a concentration of voices began to complain of his aloofness, his claimed use of state machinery to silence contenders. It was the Youth League who questioned his loyalty to the ANC and accused him of silencing debate in the ANC.
So harsh were Mbeki’s detractors until T-shirts with his face on was set alight and Ma’ Mbeki a loyal and disctinct member of the old guard had to respond in defending her leader who happens to also be her son. It is in the final analysis the same Youth League as propelled by a Fikile Mbalula who in the spring of 2008 called for his proverbial head as president vowing to remove him before the end of the the longest week in post democratic politics. This articulated in the mouth of a Malema declaration. By late that Saturday in the spring of September 2008 in what Mbeki’s most loyal and forever lieutenant Rev. Frank Chikane immured in biased fashion memoralised as a claimed coup-d’état, his head was delivered in the same way Herodias asked for of John the Baptist’s on a platter. He would not even conclude his second term of which a mere 7 months was left.
Then the villain was Mbeki, and the victim Zuma. The Youth League declared their undying love for a Zuma, a love which would see them take a bullet for Zuma.
Malema even swayed COSATU’s Zwelinzima Vavi to also admit his preparedness to take a bullet for Zuma. The songs “my president” reverberated as Zuma went from court to court until Polokwane and ultimately Tuynhuis. The youth league was fierce in their support, unbridled in their pursuit and claimed a victory in having their man, Zuma regardless of a legitimate case to answer or not. Vavi, talked in his scorched voice of the unstoppable Zuma tsunami en route to Tuynhuis.
The same Youth League led the charge for a political solution. It is hardly three years since then and the tables have so decisively turned. In the first year of Zuma’s reign, the Youth League began to claim the lack of leadership, mobilised by a cohort of interest thinly snared all vying for the soul of control of the ANC. The centre of the ANC became contested terrain as the claim love waxed cold. Celebration made way for questioning as they began to question more and more with veiled nuances a mumbled suspicion of the Zuma leadership.
The Youth League, by virtue of their offical spokesman, Malema proved more and more defiant as they began to pronounce as if they lead the ANC. The first signs and indications of this questioning of mother body leadership and jibes were shielded by amongst others the president and the secretary general as youthful utterances. They pleaded with the public that we all prove patient and afford Juju time to grow as a leader for he possessed the qualities of a future president.
It was not long when Juju led by whomever openly began to compare the leaderships of Zuma and his predecessor. The proverbial horse bolted, and questioning grew into defiance. It took the NGC of 2010 for Zuma in his political report to lay down the rules of organisational discipline. Yet as much as we celebrated this as the return of sanity and discipline in the organisational context, the factions were formed and the dissent was mounting. Malema briefly suffered haemorrhage at the NGC; as he cut a lonely figure save for the available shoulder of Mother Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The Youth League managed to get their twin-proposals of nationalisation adopted as future research work and the generational mix leadership nuanced manifested in a Fikile Mbalula and Malusi Gigaba becoming deputy ministers among others in this first round of reshuffle, they both ultimately would be given full cabinet minister status in the second reshuffle. The Cabinet reshuffle of Zuma did not quell the dissent, for it appeared the council of the wounded was fractured and all bidding a leading of the ANC, in which the sitting president became the target of all to share their views and ideological stances.
To make matters worse the demand of discipline from some circles in the ANC particularly the old guard became louder as the need to align the Youth League to what is called ANC organisational discipline culture mounted. The ANC instituted disciplinary hearings which concentrated the us – and – them of imaginary circles. Knowing our South African insatiable apetite for a victim and villain narrative, the Youth League begin to claim a victim status as the NDC and NDCA findings confirmed the variety of cases against them.
Let us not forget how the open defiance and rejection of ANC leadership under Zuma was evidenced when Zuma in the middle of his speech turned around on the podium and publically rebuked Floyd Shivambu the spokesman of the ANCYL. Zuma resorted to the vernacular to emphasise his rebuke. The lines were drawn for if Floyd Shivambu was this vocal, on the strength of what did that come or as we always say on whose behalf did he speak? The Youth League never speaks alone but shares the views of some in the motherbody who have their own political agenda, it was the same with Mbeki, Zuma and will be the same with Motlanthe if he manages to make it to out of the Mangaung elective conference as the President of the ANC.
The second disciplinary hearing, though necessary exacerbated the gulf between what the Youth League defined as leadership and what a Zuma leadership stood for. The die was cast, as the voices began calling for the proverbial “substitute Mr. Referee”.
This weekend the Youth League sported in defiance the T- shirts of their preferred president, they went to Limpopo, where presidents are made, recalled, rebuked and ultimately dethroned. Limpopo where victims become villains and villains become victims. Yes Limpopo where it is claimed Malema runs the tenders and companies associated with his friends have won tenders of over half a billion rand. Limpopo a provincial Government where 5 departments are National Administration.
Kgalema Motlanthe the apparent reluctant and claimed less trusted lieutenant in many circles, accused as one who waited very late to join the Zuma group at Polokwane has finally shown his hand, as the Newage Newspaper Henry Jeffries pleaded for him to do a few days ago.
For lifting his hand Motlanthe deserves no rebuke for there is nothing wrong with that in an organisation that claims a democracy of structure and being as ethos. If he has any hopes of running South Africa again, then he needs a constituency. If he has any hope of running successfully in Mangaung he must need start early. The constituency that elected him the Youth League more out of anger has chosen him as the anointed president. As Motlanthe spoke and delivered a speech it was soaked in Youth adoration, it was critiquing the very administration he is the second in command of. It was his call for a militant youth- this under normal circumstances an acceptable call, yet now loaded with ambivalence for the political machineries are at work in the ANC and campaigning is underway.
The Secretary General Gwede Mantashe came under attack for an augmentation or claimed fabrication of NEC minutes and was openly questioned by among others the aspiring secretary generaland anointed future secretary general if the Youth League has its way. Such is the tale of a sea-saw power in which emotion and less reason dictate the meridian of sanity. This past weekend’s rally even had a Zanu-PF Youth leadership member castigate and articulate his rebuke and dissatisfaction of a Zuma mediation, by telling Zuma – ‘Zimbabwe is a sovereign state, and not a 10th province of south Africa”. It is becoming clear that SADC’s second longest serving president Oom Bob Mugabe except for Angola’s quiet Eduardo Dos Santos, has invested more than a few cows in the ANCYL president’s future farming prospects but may have an active hand in the happenings south of the Limpopo River.
As the Zuma star is falling, (with all over community uprises, a COSATU and its antics of e-tolling, a DA successful appeals court bid to have access to information on why charges were withdrawn against Zuma by the then serving national Prosecuting head Advocate Mokotedi Mphse, real challenges of service delivery as exposed by a visible public protector, who more and more is seen as the president of SA) and he is now the subject of open abuse, cursing and scorn, a Motlanthe star is rising and shining ( not witsstanding consistent media reports of shady corruption deals) if the rally is the barometer of assessment. It is Motlanthe who walks among the wounded, as their hope for unseating what Julius now call the man with a bighead in reference to the one he swore to die for.
So for now Motlanthe like Zuma and Mbeki much earlier must be allowed to gloat in his moment of blissful Youth Celebration, for the same Youth League maybe with a new president will afford him less than a year before the vicious cycle is repeated. The same the wise old preacher warned me about in which as a preacher you are firstly praised for you are invited to all parties and dinners then the questioning informed by mistrust, which leads to open defiance and ultimately your head is called for in which you become a villain and the very ones who praised you the victims. For Zuma joins Mbeki in the song they together bellow in melancholic tune captured in the Holy writ of Old Testament prophet Zechariah : “i was wounded in the house of my friends”.
Hence we wish Motlanthe well for, he will need all of this, when he as is claimed is elected at a Promised Mangaung of Revenge, for as the same Youth League now sings his praise so they will question his leadership, accusing him of indecisiveness when he fails to deliver nationalisation the way they see it. The will castigate him when he prove slow to enact the wishes and prove bias against their personal empowerment aims. They will tire of him trying to lead them, as their wishes prove not consistent with his. They will remind him like Zuma is reminded of his many sins from a claimed rape, corruption, pregnancies and who knows what. They will remind him of his claimed oilgates saga, his partner’s claimed corruption of R10million bribe deals and anything that has a tinge of taintedness in his past known and unknown, for Public Protector or none, they will have the arrows when it matters, tested or not to release against him.
One thing is certain in SA a two-term presidency for elected individuals appears something of the past if the Youth League has its way. I suppose come 2017, if the Promised Mangaung of Revenge happens it will be a Sexwale or a Phosa who will be invited to the rallies as the new villain will be the current celebrated future president, when he too is offloaded for having misled them to champion the cause of nationalisation etc.
My biggest fear was heightened when Malema for the first time fired a salvo of a tribalism, the precarious and venomous ingredient we all simply cannot afford, for it is not impossible that the Promised Mangaung of Revenge may finally become tainted by the less stated, hushed theme of the advent of tribalism. My prayer may we not get there.
Clyde N. Ramalaine is a member of “The Thinking Masses”