The time for our silence has ended. I regret that we as leaders have been so reticent. Political engagement is a hard and exacting process. It is often filled with tough talk and vigorous contestation of issues, ideas and policies.
That is the life blood of politics. If the political space is occupied by parties and people who have a political track record and history, debate is made much easier because it can be based on available facts and not on wild allegations.
The current scrum around the ANC leadership is striking for the manner in which obfuscation, supposition and rumour have been utilised as a replacement for available public evidence and honest debate. This first sign of the absence of ideas and the pursuit of ambitions other than the good of the ANC came with name calling.
The president was called a dictator, cabinet members were silenced by being labelled sycophants and we even saw rigorous attempts to twist facts through assertions that our democracy is a failure. Even more surprising were the claims that there is no prosperity or attention to socio-economic justice in South Africa.
Those who make these abusive statements expect that there should be no response. They believe only their warped perspectives should enjoy public space.
The politics of name calling relies on fear and intimidation. An MP who speaks up and says we change legislation substantially is called an acolyte of Mbeki. Another who breaches party discipline is extolled as revolutionary - as long as he falls in line with the name calling and dishonest labelling.
All of these "new" non-ANC practices should make every member pause and reflect on the path we are being asked to tread. If there are no new rich ideas, new ideological perspectives, new principles for our organisation, why should we give the cover of respectability to the dishonest name-callers who have caused mayhem, confusion and despondency? Let us support an ANC based on well-honed principles, focused on policies and strategies for achieving social equity, and led by leaders who will bring fresh ideas rather than personal grievances and ambitions.
Naledi Pandor, Arcadia