-Back to voting along apartheid identity markers? –
2016 is an elective year for the AFM-SA, this election sees for the first time Dr. Isak Burger not contesting. It is important to pause and reflect on what the Burger factor is in AFM-SA elections. Nobody defines the AFM – SA unity more in elected leadership than its current serving President and Leader, Dr. Isak Burger. Burger is the embodiment of the unity project, it is in him that the unity of the church is actualized, contained and defined. He has been the proverbial glue that kept the white church still as part of the unity. Perhaps a fact that is about to be altered as the glue makes way and the agenda of netwerke becomes more pronounced.
It is a known and open secret that from before the 2012 Elective Conference Burger wanted to leave, yet he conscious of the impact of his departure was compelled to stay because the white constituency of the church was not ready for a black president. He also stayed because there were mumbled threats particularly from the white section to leave. One must first appreciate that the AFM- SA of 1996 is the not AFM-SA of 2016.
This may sound like an empty statement yet if one considers the structures of networks in the AFM – SA today and their unique and separate power within the AFM – SA to direct a future be it at leadership or a continual unity. It appears that the white church may never be ready to have a black leader.
Hash brown, bacon and eggs, is the title of this work and in this pre-final chapter on the eve of the 6th national elections, I will attempt to use these to anticipate the role of the significant groups of the AFM-SA. This year is significant for it marks 20 years suggesting the current leadership as I earlier advanced have been at the helm for the entire period of the unity of the AFM-SA.
The question remains, what will we expect to happen at the 2016 September elections. It will be the elections where the Hash browns, will have the least influence in election outcome.
Through the review mirror of the 2012 Elective Conference, we know at that stage that Burger was ready to retire; he tested the efficacy of him stepping down among his original constituency and found out that his original constituency of 1996, was simply not ready to see him leave the office.
It is claimed at the time Burger was willing to push for La Poorta to be president, yet the latter at the time did not carry the support of a deciding cross-section of AFM-SA members across all apartheid racial classification identities. It appears the campaign to push for a La Poorta candidacy went awry and lost steam quickly for the aforementioned reasons. Yet La Poorta’s original constituency the Coloured section of the old Composite Division proves a very interesting crowd. Never a uniformed group, yet often the deciding factor in elections. It is the same constituency that has played a decisive role to keep Burger as president for the 20 years of the unity project.
I hope to conclude the work with an analysis after the election results have come in as is anticipated by the beginning of the conference. It is here that postulate this election cannot be about the old guard, it cannot be about rewarding any individual who had served and thus became entitled to become president. This election must be about a future, it has to be about the road ahead. My concern is that the AFM-SA constituency has grown so accustomed to the musical chair leadership changes that below and above surface campaigning.
I have pleaded before that the 2016 Elective conference cannot be about the past, the present but its must significantly focus on the future. Equally it neither can be an elective conference where individuals are rewarded in typical musical chairs leadership out of sense of obligation.
If the elective conference elects a president for 2016 going forward on the basis of reward for work done before tested in claims of validity or not, it will confirm it has not understood the current reality and is not in sync with the need to work for a future where the youth remains the centre of that developmental focus.
It is a known secret that when is elected in high office in the AFM-SA you pretty much set for life, to be assuming that role and function. Let for example use the Sunday School Ministry as a classical case. Pastor Shabalala is a beyond question a capable leader, that is not in dispute, yet such successful leadership must evidence itself in a new breed of leadership that are groomed to take over and built in newness of perspective on the foundations of that erstwhile leadership. What we more likely to see come September 18-25, 2016 is the anticipated re – election of Pastor Shabalala as Sunday School Director / Superintendent or President.
Let me as before attempt to predict the elections outcome, I will only focus on what we all know are the real significant positions namely, President, Treasurer and Secretary. I will therefore as always attempt to nail my colours to the mast in saying the following:
This prediction singularly focuses on the presidential race:
You will notice I will give my analysis in colour shades of apartheid identity configuration and not the less visible Singled and Composite Divisions that defines the partnership for a unity. The reason for that is we have come full circle, we back at the church as understood in descriptions of apartheid anthropology and life- expanse.
This race will see Pastor George Mahlobo coming to the conference with the African vote in the bag, not only that but he will also have the white vote in the bag because for the first time whites’ has run of options in white nominees to stand and thus they will opt for what is in some circles considered safer-hands ‘ black’ Candidate.
No one more than Pastor George Mahlobo represents the safer hands option. Let me first deal with the African component in support of Mahlobo. Mahlobo ran in 2012 and that running became the testing of a future candidacy for high office. He has served since 1996 as the General Secretary of the Church. Hence no one understands the organization AFM-SA from an administrative and membership context better than him.
The African vote previously was duped by the Coloured section into all forms of deals and pacts that has since 1996 delivered a white president, it is clear the African vote is not going to be that ‘goed-gelowig’ anymore. They have equally awoken to the idea that they can have their own, and the first black president less dictated to by the architects of a very questionable unity scarred with claims of let down and sell-out at critical stages of this 2 decade long journey.
Therefore I fear no contradiction to claim that the African vote will make its own choice, no has made its own choice and that choice is George Mahlobo. On the part of the white vote, they are always as in normal elections concerned and need a sense of security. That security with the leaving of Dr. Burger was first tried in another white candidate, not for lack of trying, but that candidacy they pretty much have come to accept is redundant because the moment of true transformation is a burdened reality and such requires the AFM-SA be led by a African president as the majority of members attests.
Whites have come to accept they wont forever have a Burger, not that they didn’t try; hence their fear is who will be safe hands to trust the church in care off? They have not considered Dr. JJ. La Poorta safe hands, out of a history of revolutionary utterances particularly in the season that led to the forced unification. Unfortunately their memory of him and his entourage of 4/5 very vocal young Turks who muscled the unity into a 1996 reality, has not subsided. Equally whites have not been subliminally absent minded on the political of slates that shaped the elections and the deals made, promised and betrayed. A combination of the past as earlier mentioned with the add on of the latter stated renders La Poorta as not trustworthy.
The coloured vote, attests a shadow of what it used to be in the heyday of the vocal 4/5 voices that led the battle charge of a unity none has yet taken the time or heart to write on. From many circles it is widely accepted that it was the voiceferous and radical as some called out activism of the 4/5 vocal Coloured AFM pastors led by Pastor JJ. La Poorta that engineered the unity process.
We cannot say the unity was a Coloured majority opinion or desire; rather it was a minority of coloured elites who had in the composite division shown their personal and individual claimed mettle that forced the unity in typical activism of role. That constituency today is lobbied to look back and reward Dr. La Poorta for his contribution for he is on record to murmur about not being rewarded and almost feel done by that such reward – the moment to lead the AFM-SA as president. The fact that he has served in a number of other positions even his current as Vice president is not enough. Hence the Coloured vote is not a singular block and has a presence not anymore as strong in the Cape Peninsula region where it used to be the home grounds.
Those who lobby for a reward of La Poorta today makes up sections of the Northern Cape, Western Cape and North West. Yet I hold that is by no stretch of any imagination a significant group. People like Pastor Barend Petersen are perhaps much better candidates and ought to life their hands as I have previously told him. Yet we must respect him because he will not contest his church-elections-mentor, and will attempt to be pragmatic in rather supporting the reward campaign. This therefore has little to do with what the AFM-SA needs in this day rather who must be rewarded in claim of history of unity involvement.
I therefore hold that Pastor George Mahlobo will be confirmed as President strongly carried by a combination of the African vote and the safer hands – fear based white vote. Mahlobo will thus become the first ‘black’ president of the AFM-SA in its 20 yearlong history of being a united church. He though being apart of national leadership as general secretary for the all the time of the unity thus represents not a younger generation but what is fondly referred to as the old guard. Yet his vote will be historical because it appears the AFM-SA is more ready to make history than to trust new younger leadership to lead the church forward.
Mahlobo’s vote strange enough will also spell the end of the unity project because more and more whites will find comfort in the networks of church management and structures rendering the church perhaps for the first time in naked sense to the segregated context of apartheid. It would this seem Hash-Browns, Bacon and Eggs the title of this book will fall apart, because the original unity never required the same contribution from all three groups, the unity was from the start a forced one by the group that has the least of membership but proved very vocal in activism for it.
The unity is as some of us from outside now claimed farcical from the start and comes apart at the seams, weigh-laid by the politics of elections, self- interest, deals and promises that left some with a holy distrust in others and their efficacy to be trustworthy and lastly a fear that blacks cannot lead anything successfully.
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
September 18, 2016 (London UK)