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ANC faces a tough battle in next year's elections

By unknown | Oct 16, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The suspension and imminent expulsion of ANC stalwarts Mosiuoa Lekota and Mluleki George by the ruling party are likely to give impetus to the formation of the much talked-about breakaway party.

Since Lekota and George announced last week that they were disgruntled with the direction being followed by ANC president Jacob Zuma and his new national executive committee (NEC), a day hardly passes without news about the new movement.

At the time of going to press, the ANC NEC was deliberating on the possible expulsion of the duo, while Lekota was expected to announce further details about the new party, and Mbhazima Shilowa, former Gauteng premier, officially resigned from the ANC.

So far this process has helped shift the focus away from former president Thabo Mbeki as one of the two main protagonists in the episode. Mbeki has left the stage for Zuma and Lekota as the main players but he is being praised in some quarters for the dignified way in which he responded to his unceremonious removal by the ANC leadership.

Sooner or later, many political analysts will run short of ideas of what to say about Mbeki, and many political journalists will struggle to formulate their story intros, while the ANC Youth and Young Communist leagues will run out of profanities with which to attack Mbeki as he slowly disappears from the scene.

Many will remain kicking his shadow, or, should we say, his legacy? The latter-day political punching bag is gone.

Retiring from active politics, as his predecessor Nelson Mandela did, would save Mbeki the trouble of having to campaign in elections that would elevate Julius Malema and his cohorts into government.

When Gwede Mantashe announced Mbeki's recall after the NEC's decision, the ANC secretary-general did not anticipate a split in the party.

It was a day filled with emotions for those NEC and alliance members who had always dreamt of seeing Mbeki go.

The decision had the exact opposite effect to party unity that Mantashe spoke about when he announced Mbeki's recall - a division and a subsequent split in the party.

Those who think that a new ANC splinter group led by Lekota will not go any further than the convention they are talking about, must think again. They should look up north at neighbouring Zimbabwe and learn.

Also, they must understand that the ANC of 1958, when Robert Sobukwe led a breakaway to form the PAC, is different from the post-democracy ANC, whose voters have been longing for an alternative political home since Mandela left the political stage.

As political analyst Professor Susan Booysen pointed out this week, the period of the Sobukwe breakaway was completely different from the current situation. A lot has changed and new conditions dictated by the dynamics of democracy prevail in the country.

When Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change was formed in Zimbabwe, few imagined that it could defeat the ruling Zanu-PF at the polls.

The last two general elections the MDC won proved to all and sundry that Zimbabweans were not wedded to a liberation movement that had failed them for at least two decades.

Mugabe's failure to respect the country's constitution and judiciary became anathema to Zanu-PF's dwindling support.

The former struggle hero had to survive on political machinations and high-handedness to cling to power, while preventing the opposition from assuming its rightful place as a government. Zimbabwe should be a lesson for those who think that the "ANC will rule until Jesus returns", as Zuma once said.

When Sobukwe broke away, the ANC was not in government, and the PAC came into being at a time when AB Xuma and James Calata had turned the ANC into a monolith of mass movement. People were not interested in any new party. The same cannot be said of the ANC of today. Through its own making and as a result of the history of liberation politics post democracy, the ANC is crumbling - a la Zanu-PF.

The ANC is going to face a tough battle this time around, and the 2009 elections are unlikely to be a simple walkover for the ruling party.

The surveys conducted so far, including one by this newspaper, show that people are hungry for change. Instead of disappearing into political oblivion as Zuma claims, Lekota and his comrades are most likely to be thrust to the forefront by circumstances.

The latest split in the ANC could have been avoided if the organisation had a thinking leadership - one that does not ignore the phenomenon of history.

Such a leadership cannot be traced from the current ANC and alliance elites - where the centre does not hold.

The "real" ANC leadership ended with Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and the "real" SACP died with Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki and Moses Kotane. Those leaders had the interests of the ANC and the people at heart.


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