Sipho Pityana’s rant says more than what we all heard!
Shakespeare in his seven ages of mankind, aptly reminds us, “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts his acts being seven ages”
Last week Reverend Mankhenkhesi Arnold Stofile, a gallant member of the UDF and ANC, a former Eastern Cape Premier, Minister of Sport and finally an ambassador to Germany was laid to rest and thus made his exit. Rev. Stofile is revered in some circles as a formidable intellect, a great leader and we choose to remember him for that.
He also at an organisational level can be remembered as a loyal, disciplined, soft-spoken, ever smiling and humble ANC cadre known for poking fun. I will be the first to admit that listening to the eulogies rendered I wondered what had happened to all those complaints levelled against his so-called pathetic leadership as Premier. It is perhaps good no one apparently exists anymore of those who considered him a pathetic premier and had expressed grave reservations on his leadership. The avuncular Boet’ Stof entered that stage and he played his many parts.
Among those who were part of the eulogisers was Mr. Sipho Pityana. I was asked for both my clergy and usual personal political commentary on the presentation of Mr. Pityana. I herewith attempt to nail my colours to the mast; since Pityana took the liberty that the Stofile family afforded him to make broad very definite statements and patronizing request for a president to resign.
Hence my attempt is to advance what I observed, experienced and understood from his address. Let me in the beginning make it emphatic that Sipho Pityana is entitled to his opinions, he is entitled to air them therefore my response is not to deny him his constitutional right neither to attempt narrowing his prerogative in being afforded to eulogise Rev. Stofile.
In the aftermath of his speech which trended on ENCA even 48 hours later, the debate became are funerals the correct place to raise or make political statements.
This question is perhaps a rhetorical if not a redundant one, for those of us from the youth of the 80’s of which I can speak in an informed sense of knowing that funerals became mass meetings, rallies and points of extraordinary mobilizing where messages were sent, and political utterances were made. It also became the place of sharing information. This took place feeding on the raw pain of those who lost loved ones as families and cadres.
Funerals therefore became one of the very few gatherings apartheid’s machinery not for lack of trying could succeed to stop, because we were dying at their hands and week after we were burying those whose blood watered the tree of Freedom. Thus the subject of political statements, incitement and raising of opinions and positions contra to the Apartheid-State and status quo was the order of the day at most funerals. My challenge therefore can never be a political statement made at the funeral of a politician, member of the clergy, academic and avid sports lover.
Perhaps we must accept that anyone with any common and political sense would have expected a form of a ‘fight back strategy’ and the funeral of the late Rev. Stofile became the fitting spot for that. The location for this eulogy more so prominent because this was at the University of Fort Hare, a hallowed place of intellectual and liberation preside respected by many of us.
My first challenge with Pityana’s statement is that it clearly adopted a fight back strategy attempt exemplified in a conscious and lecturing rebuke of the current ANC leadership. In typical proverbial referee sense Pityana was red-carding the democratically elected and serving president of the ANC who by default is the SA President.
My second challenge with Pityana is the coat hanger he chose in convenience to make his justified argument for a castigating of an ANC leadership and its president in call to resign. He hung his entire hypothesis of a constitutionally deviant ANC leadership on the pretext of a constitutional infringement on the part of the ANC and SA president, which the Constitutional Court ruled on. He did this conscious or should we assume oblivious to the fact that the president and the ANC leadership accepted in totality the Constitutional Court’s 11 findings and instructions.
Pityana in mischievous sense reminded his audience how this president flaunted his constitutional obligation imperative, and thus is unfit to be in office. It is said a sophism oft repeated assumes truth for those who incessantly repeat it.
We all know the interpretation of the constitution assumes a fluidity informed by time, space and situation and thus it changes all the time since the constitution is an evolving Magna Carta. The interpretation of the constitution has scholars of law at odds regularly; yet the jurisprudence principle does not naturally translate to a condemnation of those whom the Constitutional Court ultimately finds against or differs with.
This aspect of a breach of constitutional mandate on the part of the President has been interpreted from the day of the Constitutional Court findings by various legal and non-legal minds, and we have seen how this became a proverbial rag doll in which it was argued, from one vocal side for a president that has broken his constitutional obligation, the basis for the last failed impeachment attempt.
On the other hand there are some of us who argued the Constitutional Court with its findings for the first time brought clarity on a matter concerning the powers of the public protector as it relates to findings as binding and where it may be reviewed. This last argument is further supported by the fact that a High-Court judge equally had ruled that the powers of the public protector in findings are not binding. That is beside the fact that two previous public protectors shared the esteemed High Court’s prism on their office in remedial definition.
Therefore to advance the notion of a president having broken his constitutional obligation is perhaps lazy and shallow if not convenient particularly from those who wear the gowns of academic high office.
To make this more salient, in the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the subject of the land issue, there were two rulings evidenced in both majority and minority incidentally in binaries of “black” and “white”. We also know that on a daily basis the Constitutional Court rules against both High Courts, Supreme Courts even Court of Appeals often full benches of the aforementioned. Should we assume these are all to be condemned to resign for flaunting the constitutional uphold of law.
With this armchair, lazy and illogic of Mr. Sipho Pityana and those who share this myopic interpretation of law we are in a precarious space, because these are the self-same ones who claim a custodianship of our egalitarian constitution.
Disagreement in the effervescent environment of hermeneutics or interpretation and application does not lead to those with an opposing view being berated as condemnable of breaking the constitutional code as is conveniently claimed by Pityana and others.
Are we therefore saying that where the Constitutional Court even internally whenever it concludes in a majority and minority ruling that makes its findings, somebody in the Constitutional Court must be condemned as is advanced by the Pityana’s of this world?
Thirdly, Sipho Pityana chose the funeral of Rev. Stofile a disciplined member of the ANC until his last moment to perhaps prove the opposite of what Stofile stood for namely ill-discipline. It is a known fact that people join the ANC as individuals; it accepts its constitution and structures, its codes for its member’s conduct and benefits of membership when they decide to join. Not only do members accept the aforementioned but they equally accept the unspoken culture, subcultures and traditions of the ANC of which one is to respect the organisation as sacrosanct and the principles of collective leadership and centralised democracy.
When Pityana had his moment in the baking Alice sunlight he took it upon himself to berate, castigate and rebuke a democratically elected ANC leadership, who had just come from a municipal elections that confirmed the ANC still remains the entrusted leader of our democratic franchise though by smaller majority. This has to constitute ill-discipline and bringing the organisation in disrepute.
He ascended the rostrum and began addressing the ANC leadership devoid of us knowing if he had upheld the known ethic and practice of a disciplined member to raise his conscious concerns in the relevant structures of the ANC as is to be expected of all loyal selfless and disciplined ANC cadres.
Pityana, thus as an individual, possibly a member in good standing claimed a carte blanche right and prerogative to prove vituperative in his lashing of an elected ANC leadership where at least the Deputy President and Secretary General was present in the front lines of the audience that Pityana addressed.
I dare assert his address to a sitting leadership in the fashion he did, attest a clear disregard for the elected ANC leadership that has in the aftermath of the ANC’s drop in municipal elections percentage confirmed their collective ownership and guilt and a willingness to engage all groups and people to improve the ANC at an organisational presence in future elections. Pityana knew that the ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe articulated the resolutions of the NEC after deliberations on the elections performance, yet he in his exceptional individual mind was not satisfied and wanted a certain outcome unfortunately not carried by the ANC NEC.
In the fourth instance Sipho Pityana with his rant, confirmed a new notion of former officials who have of recent days become a “para-structure” of the ANC in claims of the only true custodians for a constitutional democracy defence. He along with some other very vocal ANC members who were blessed to serve the ANC as officials attests less former officials but politicians in this season. It can be argued his berating and rebuke of a democratically elected ANC leadership is justified because as a former director general Mr. Pityana unlike other members deployed or not of the ANC has earned the right because of a claimed South African constituency.
This behaviour on the part of former officials is unbecoming and not sustainable neither is it befitting to assume they are the natural custodians of our constitutional democracy. They do this on the untested and convenient diaphragm that the current ANC leadership at all levels is unfit, corrupt and not the legitimate custodians as the 2012 elections confirmed.
To Pityana and those of similar mind we must ask, when did former officials become the natural custodians of our constitutional democracy, even more when did this group become an ANC structure that innately warrants to be heard in an unequal respect more than others only because they held an office before?
May we also know how these vocal former officials performed according to the auditor general as accounting officers? Perhaps former officials must go the 2017 Elective Conference of the ANC and test how much support they have in availing themselves for office, because one will be forgiven to conclude that many of them are reasonably young in political retirement and have rightful and justifiable political ambitions to lead the ANC and by extension SA, but has not yet been trusted to lead.
My last challenge with Pityana’s attitude I had hoped I would not venture, but my conscious would not allow me not to advance my take on such. Pityana perhaps confirmed the thin membrane of ambivalence in his public commenting on issues of leadership evidenced in ethnic interpretation.
I looked high and low for a public comment on the part of Mr. Pityana on the claims of a Mbeki Presidency that as is widely claimed oversaw the deaths of human lives placed as high as 380000, over his theorizing and denialist stance on the subject of HIV & AIDS at a crucial time when leadership was needed.
Certainly the moral rectitude of a Mr. Pityana as a crusader for a constitutional uphold ought to have lived and proved real when South Africans were told by a Minister of Health to eat beetroot and veggies to deal with the scourge of HIV& AIDS. I had thought Pityana’s crusade for a human rights ethic would have been recorded somewhere yet until now no public comment on this.
I equally thought that the events that defined the life of the AmaThembu King Dalyindebo in very lows who is currently serving a prison sentence, would have elicited a public opinion, comment, rebuke and berating of the King, yet as in the case of the former President of the ANC and SA, the silence on the part of Mr. Pityana is deafening.
I therefore am compelled to ask did Pityana not come from a somewhat ethnic informed mind when he thought it his right to speak from arguably the heart of Eastern Cape institutionalised intellectualism (Fort Hare) to address a president of another tribe who is not educated?
Can the case be made that Pityana with his attitude inadvertently but tacitly enforced old unscientific misbeliefs and ill-directed prisms of what it means to be Xhosa and Zulu in the historic reality of what we have been forced to believe from a blighted history?
It is not cynical to argue that it is no secret that Sipho Pityana and his older brother Rev. Professor Barney Pityana never had any regard for the 12th ANC president, the evidence of this is recorded, because they plausibly had worshipped the 11th ANC president one of their own. Equally Pityana as a middle aged African would never dare to be this instructive to his kin yet he takes latitude and invokes a right to be this way, perhaps because the one he addresses is the other.
Thus, Pityana had his moment in the Alice sun, and his finest moment in public description anchored on a false and mischievous evidence of constitutional breach on the part of the president.
He had his moment of moments on the bases of disrespecting a disciplined ANC member and leader with his ill-disciplined attitude. He equally had his second of fame at the expense of the ANC leadership.
He had his prime time in proverbial lights, camera, action presence in disrespecting the ANC its values and its principles of collective ownership of good bad and ugly of the ANC.
He had his minutes of fame on the back of a self-serving claim of being more equal than others only because he falsely represents a new structure and somewhat endangered species in the ANC namely, former senior officials.
Pityana had his finest moment gravely laced with an ambiguity of ethnicity as a plausible reality if his attack, patronising and instructive attitude to the sitting ANC leadership and its SA president are the assumed yardsticks.
So equally Pityana last week played his part on that same stage, he made his political entrance, he was the talk of town for a few days, he did so to be remembered and we certainly shall remember him for a very long time for this part. Unfortunately I will remember him as the one who proved ill-disciplined even uncouth and ethnic.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator, Author and Writer