Accused of being a tribal warlord

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

Presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale has once again found himself in the middle of a political storm.

This time the storm is not about his public declaration that he is being lobbied to stand as a candidate for the ANC to be South Africa's next president.

This time the politician- turned-businessman is in Trinidad and Tobago as a guest of the Carribean island's opposition party, the United National Congress (UNC).

Both Sexwale and US civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton are set to deliver addresses at the UNC Alliance Emancipation Day celebration - where they will speak on emancipation, the struggle for freedom and the need for unity.

Sexwale was invited as a person suitable to talk about emancipation as a former freedom fighter and a Robben Island prisoner.

His visit, however, has caused a political rumbling among Afro-Trinidadians, who are not happy about him being invited by the UNC, which is supported mainly by Trinidadians of Indian origin.

The UNC won control of the government in 1995, initially in coalition with the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), and later on their own. In the 2000 general election, the UNC won an absolute majority.

In 2001 a split in the party caused the UNC to lose its parliamentary majority and tie with the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) in the 36-seat parliament.

In 2002 the PNM won 20 of the 36 seats to become the governing party.

There have been accusations that during the UNC reign, Afro-Trinidadians were badly treated. This has led to bad blood between Afro-Trinidadians, who support the PNM, and UNC supporters.

As a guest of the opposition, Sexwale finds himself in the middle of simmering racial tensions.

On Sunday, both Sexwale and Sharpton facilitated a historic meeting between Prime Minister Patrick Manning and UNC deputy leader Jack Warner.

Political commentators lauded Sexwale and Sharpton for having succeeded in bringing the two political enemies together.

However, the public responded with scathing attacks on Sexwale and Sharpton, accusing them of trying to confuse the Trinidadian electorate by pretending that there was now peace between the opposing factions.

Public comments posted on the website of the local newspaper, Trinidad and Tobago Express, dismissed the meeting between Manning and Warner as a sham.

"Just look at them: All prancing and posing for the cameras like a pack of clowns, pretending to make peace. "The country is selfdestructing under the incompetent 'leadership' and 'opposition' of two of these traitors and yet they can still find time and money to bring in a race pimp and a tribal warlord to sweeten up the cake," wrote one reader.

Sexwale's Trinidad excursion came at a time when developments around the ANC succession race have pitted him (and Jacob Zuma) against probably his most formidable opponent - government strategist Joel Netshitenzhe - in his quest to become the next president.