Let's start talking
IT IS well known that the ANC either does not like or is afraid of opening a leadership succession debate within its ranks. The party has gagged its members and structures from discussing leadership issues until October, when the nomination process officially opens.
The moratorium notwithstanding, though, the ANC Youth League has made it clear that it wants President Jacob Zuma replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe at the ruling party's national conference in Mangaung in December.
But others have a different view. The eThekwini region of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has publicly pronounced its support for Zuma. The KwaZulu Natal provincial ANC leadership said it would go to Mangaung "united" behind Zuma.
Cosatu's president Sdumo Dlamini has said the labour federation would support the current ANC leadership "beyond" Mangaung.
This while Cosatu is still discussing the characteristics of the kind of ANC leader it would like to see elected.
On Saturday the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), one of Cosatu's biggest affiliates, said it would make a submission to Cosatu to pronounce in favour of Zuma.
Zuma has already begun to present himself as someone who knows "what I am doing" - a clear indication of his desire to get re-elected despite the seemingly endless controversies surrounding his conduct.
In another development a campaign dubbed "Anything but Zuma" has been launched in Eastern Cape.
These developments raise doubts about the effectiveness, let alone the desirability, of the gag on the succession debate.
It seems the gag is meant to silence the public from expressing views about leadership.
Whoever is elected president of the ANC in Mangaung is certainly likely to be the president of the country in 2014.
So it is in the public interest that qualifications - or a lack thereof - of potential candidates, including the incumbent, be thoroughly debated.
The public should ignore the gag and continue to debate the leadership question.
ANC members should go to Mangaung with a sense of who and what communities around them want. If the ANC is truly a leader of society it should establish mechanisms to take into account the public's views on leadership.
Otherwise it risks alienating itself from the very society it claims to lead.
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