Unpacking SG Mantashe’s ANC presidential contest #HeritageDay Tweets.
–Captured suspended between smooth transition, succession and the relevance of organisational democracy–
The upcoming ANC Presidential 2017 contest manifests in jolts of commentary, and personal opinions that often needs unpacking, especially when the Secretary General ventures a personal opinion in a very contested terrain and space.
Mantashe the ANC’s colourful SG, for the last decade, is one not easily silenced, and fears not expressing his opinion on diverse matters. We are told he is not in any race for number one or two spots and as rumour has it has set his eyes on chairpersonship of the ANC come December 2017. The SG of the ANC is a significant position therefore we pay attention to what the office bearer says regardless if it’s a personal comment or organisational. It usually is understood as an organisational position hence the social commentary volcano that erupted in response to his tweets.
Mantashe has overtime given us in a sense his personal running commentary of how he was approached by both leading contenders NDZ17 and CR17 and how he turned them both down.
This week, Mantashe chose Heritage Day to share with us another piece of his own mind on ANC presidential handover analysis and what the way forward may look like for December 2017. Let me therefore first defend Mantashe’s right to express his opinion it is acceptable in a democracy and in a democratic ANC.
Let us now turn to his now infamous tweets: “when Tambo handed over to Mandela, that was smooth. Mandela handed over to Mbeki. When Mbeki resisted, there was a crises (sic). If President Zuma recists (sic) to handover to Deputy President Ramaphosa, there will be a crises (sic). If that happens, there will be a crises (sic). He added his personal advice: “ if we elect Ramaphosa to be a president, let us have a woman Deputy President. That will be smooth. That is my personal advice # HeritageDay.”
While Mantashe must be afforded his opinion, the challenge is his personal opinion is construed and misconstrued as an organisational position because of the centrality of his senior position.
Mantashe’s comment stands in the forming thinking of some who prognosticate unity as only attainable in what he terms a smooth transition of succession.
This transition of succession for Mantashe is a deputy president automatically succeeding the incumbent.
The first challenge with this thinking is that it presupposes an idyllic reality and not a confirmed acknowledged polarized democratic ANC in 2017 with 8 candidates vying for number one spot. It appears those who advance this want to have their cake and it eat. They want a smooth transition of succession in a democratic context, which registers a glaring contradiction.
There are those who believe the ANC is now more a democratic organisation then in the Mandela era. A quick reflection of that era will confirm a form of pragmatism because the ANC was new to governing and the then emerging culture of standing back for another as Chris Hani showed with Mbeki in 1994, is assumed as culture and standard. Back then you could persuade a personality not to contest and thus what appears or is claimed today as culture in history of this past of Mbeki election was hardly a tradition but an accidental reality aided by the reality of its newness to governing.
What is indisputable is the ANC in 2017 attests a democratic organisation if there is one thing Zuma as president came to do is to let that democracy stand, whether by de-fault or intend, this may not be understood or acknowledge by all. Democracy dictates anyone can stand for elections and everyone therefore feels entitled to stand. The means and art of persuasion is not as simple in an entrenched democratic context in a post 2004 context. To therefore prove desirous of a smooth transition immanent in a hand over when you want democracy to stand is to ask for democracy not to stand. That’s the first error with Mantashe’s prism expressed as his personal view.
Secondly, Mantashe in his most recent tweet unequivocally tells us because Mbeki didn’t want to hand over a crisis emerged. Depending on ones polarised mind one may agree or disagree with this analysis, however the prism of Mantashe is this act of resistance on the part of Mbeki, constitutes the fundamental reason for a precedent that he envisages may repeat in 2017. This is not necessarily the gospel truth.
The third error Mantashe and those of the school of smooth transition makes is to disown the 2017 ANC election as having a number of particular and cardinal different dimensions than any before. The first new reality is the non-negotiable reality of a very strong woman candidate in NDZ. The second reality is that, that woman candidacy is a rival in a very close battle, and is not in the top six. This by itself alters the historical realities that for many have became the foothold claim of a practice and even asserted policy of a succession.
Mantashe’s fourth error is not acknowledging the stark reality of a different contest, since it is the first time in the ANC in democracy after Mandela that a sitting president upfront made it clear he will not run for a third term. Let us pause and reflect, when Mandela handed over to Mbeki the leading of government business in his second year of leading SA a situation evolved that saw Mbeki leading the government for the better part of Mandela’s term and his own two ensuing terms. At the end of his two terms as ANC president as afforded by the ANC constitution Mbeki was not ready to retire. He was nominated and opted to stand despite counsel. There was not anything constitutionally wrong for him to stand.
Mantashe therefore commits a glaring mistake of not factoring in the reality of the colossal differences between Mbeki’s (2007) and Zuma’s (2017) respective choices at the end of their respective ANC two terms. His analysis is therefore flawed, unless he knows something we don’t of a definite Zuma third term. We have it on record that Zuma is not contesting so he cannot be considered as one to hand over as was rightly expected from Mbeki.
To therefore claim, if President Zuma do not hand over we will have a crisis, is to compare dissimilar circumstances and choices. In my assessment President Zuma’s handover will be to accept the contest for a new president, and not to pave the way, or anoint his successor in claims of new ANC tradition. Thus President Zuma’s acknowledgment of candidates contesting for the position he will be vacating is his biggest confirmation of handover.
Mantashe in the fifth instance assumes a former President Mbeki standing in 2007 was incorrect, yet he does not explain why, because we cannot even argue former President Mbeki was wrong to stand at Polokwane because the constitution afforded him to stand for it prevents no one a third even a fourth term.
Mantashe’s sixth and plausibly gravest error is when he advises – if Ramaphosa is elected he must have a woman deputy president. This appears an innocent comment veiled in defence of a woman candidacy but it is laden with serious contradictions. The first is on the diaphragm of his now confirmed smooth transition dictum, he sees Ramaphosa naturally succeeding because Zuma must not resist handing over.
He then continues to assume the deputy president candidate whoever that may be must be a woman.
With this SG Mantashe attempts to craft his theory of succession in which we must assume the female therefore in 2022 will succeed the Deputy President Ramaphosa if he is not re-elected for a second term. This may make for logic if you are a smooth transition succession theorist who operates in an ANC of 1994, the ANC of 2017 as already advanced is markedly different, and democracy an entrenched reality, as the plethora of candidates confirm.
Mantashe is particularly careful if not dismissive not to accommodate a scenario of – if Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is elected her deputy must be a male or female. It is interesting that Mantashe opts to be smooth transition succession captured immanent in an automatic handover, and not to let democracy count and stand in its own shadow in presidential elections. At one level this is also personal for Mantashe’s legacy to be remembered in the dying days of his decade in that position to have worked for unity. That unity has presidential succession as it anchored tenant and that succession is only possible in handover from a sitting president to his deputy.
I would want to believe that SG Mantashe did not remotely suggest or in veiled sense imply with his Zuma handover claims, the latter has the unilateral power to ask Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to step aside to attain this smooth transition for Ramaphosa, when he suggested Zuma must hand over to Ramaphosa to avert a crisis. If this is what was meant he clearly falls into the precarious trap of denying NDZ her human agency, her democratic right to contest and therefore ignoring the branches and ANC structures that have already pronounced her as their preferred candidate. It may also be interpreted as bordering on typical male chauvinism.
We must therefore conclude Secretary General Mantashe’s personal analysis proves flawed because it is premised on four false notions, a claimed smooth transition is only interpreted in succession will confirmas organisational democracy. Mbeki should not have stood in 2007 at Polokwane; and he discounts the fact that Zuma in 2017 is not standing for a third term. Lastly a female candidate regardless to how real in 2017 can and should only deliver a deputy president in final role.
Mantashe will forgive us for seeing his own male chauvinism in claims of a woman candidate only fit to be deputy president in a season when some claim NDZ is the front runner and the candidate to beat. He will thus struggle not be read as saying the deputy president position is the male ANC offering to a loud female claim to lead.
Let us not forget Mantashe in paraphrased sense is on record to have said much earlier, the presence of a deputy cannot mean he is not fit, what would the purpose of a deputy be if he were not to succeed?
The challenge with this conclusion is its ambivalence for the post of deputy secretary general, why is Mantashe not extending that same logic to mature into saying we need no contest for the SG position because the fact that Deputy SG Jessie Duarte already serves naturally must translate to her readiness to succeed him as SG.
The one time when the SG advanced a position immanent in candidates he ventures to assume 2017 must only deliver a man still in charge with a woman as his deputy.
This thinking confuses and misdirects the undeniable reality of a rival contest between Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. This contest is so real that if we accept, as before the pronouncements on candidacy by the Women, Youth and Veterans leagues of the ANC, NDZ is the contender to loose come December 2017.
Mantashe therefore invokes the order of a deputy president as sacrosanct and is perhaps conveniently oblivious to the choices of the recognised Leagues and to his possible surprise that of branches, who already have pronounced on their choice for number one candidacy. Are we to assume Mantashe does not respect the ANC structures and their respective choices?
To Mantashe we say the 2017 elections is therefore no ordinary contest given the reality of the candidates in leading and the ANC structures known choices, and the challenge of democracy as a practiced reality in the ANC. There has never been an ANC president that was not chosen or supported by the ANC structures. Are we to assume 2017 will be different and that the SACP and COSATU preferences will outweigh the ANC structures? From where this comfort of conviction?
Those who advocate for a non-contest and claims of farcical unity of smooth transition and handover claims, refuse to acknowledge the proverbial horse have bolted a long time ago. They refuse to acknowledge and see the two rivals in full bloom of contest for number one spot and nothing less and with due significant support.
May we remind those of the doctrine of third candidate alternate option of the 2016 Tshwane Municipal elections where branches and grassroots told the ANC to allow for a contest, and the ANC led by its provincial leaders opted for so called unity immanent in third neutral person, of Thoko Didiza which delivered an ANC loss while the divisions continue.
Clyde N.S Ramalaine
As published in ramalainetalkpoliticalanalysis.com September 25, 2017