The alliance nurtures our nascent democracy

Mzwanele Mayekiso

Mzwanele Mayekiso

South Africa has experienced a serious political fallout in the tripartite alliance.

Alliance tensions have intensified as the ANC's national congress in Limpopo in December draws closer.

Pundits from divergent political schools have pondered the reasons for the crisis. One diagnosis has been that the historic alliance has outlived its usefulness and that individual organisations should now chart different paths.

My argument is that because of the intrinsic nature of the political alliance, it is critical to appreciate the structural cause of the tension.

The alliance is historically important and must be nurtured and retained.

But equally critical is the proper conceptualisation of the political alliance. Three cogent reasons talk to each alliance partner.

The most critical challenge is that of avoiding talking past each other in as far as the political and economic direction of our democracy is concerned. Even more central is the tried-and-tested political culture of engagement which involves frank political discussion and discourse as practiced in the 1980s.

This approach allows for a particular point of view to be defeated without viewing the winning argument as reactionary and counter-revolutionary.

The problem with the political discourse is that political inferiority abounds, with the political vulgarity of labelling other members of the alliance becoming the norm.

This best epitomises the inability to politically engage instead of hiding behind rhetoric and realising that one could be defeated in the discourse, but live for another day. What needs to be avoided is the political hyperbole couched in careless language.

For example, the issue around former deputy health minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, could have been handled with better care, recognising that the president is allowed by law to appoint and fire his cabinet members.

Individual heroism doesn't and shouldn't be given space because it leads to political anarchy as shown by the public outpouring of support for Madlala-Routledge.

The existence of separate organisational structures formed by individuals outside of the formal organisational paradigm can be destructive.

The Friends of Jacob Zuma campaign is such an example because it operates outside the ANC organisational structures.

If the alliance does not seek to redress the political crisis, the low intensity political warfare will continue into a full- blown insurrection which could undermine the very foundation upon which our democracy is founded.

l Mzwanele Mayekiso is head of the Inkhwezi Research Institute.

Charles Mogale's Flipside returns next week.