Don Makatile

Don Makatile

Politicians and the truth make very strange bedfellows. They lie - no pun intended - very uneasily together.

So when someone as high up as ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe says they do not foresee an exodus of cabinet ministers after Thabo Mbeki's exit, you should know he's merely being diplomatic.

And, you should know by now that diplomacy is a euphemism for blue lies.

Of course people - read Mbeki loyalists - will follow him.

Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena has indicated he is following Mbeki .

Good for him. The Azapo man is untainted by ANC bad blood and can quit without fanfare.

But it is the Mbeki inner circle, the other camp, as it is called, that will not stay, despite all the diplomacy in the world. If blood is thicker than water, then loyalty of friendship goes much deeper.

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad goes back a long way with Mbeki. They were virtual children when they began life together in exile in England in the 1960s.

It is no surprise that he is going to exit on the date the national assembly effects Mbeki's resignation.

In 1962 Mbeki was a young political firebrand who'd stopped over at Fort Hare to speak to students, among whom was Durban lass Manto Mali. Fast forward to the present and you have Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

It's been 46 years!

Who says a friendship that has lasted that long can be undone in one spring of madness in 2008?

Thabo Mbeki is himself a loyalist, says a former Lovedale student who was on the Alice campus of the historic university when Mbeki touched down.

Today Barney Pityana is vice-chancellor and principal of Unisa. He says: "To his friends, Mbeki's loyal to a fault."

It's no wonder then that when the hullabaloo broke about how Tshabalala-Msimang was a drunk and a thief the only one who was fired was her deputy, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, for taking "an unauthorised trip".

To the erudite Mbeki the phrase "when days are dark, friends are few" remains the lingua franca of the hoi polloi.

It is not his language.

His friends will stay with him because they, like him, will appreciate the wisdom that "gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience. Our strength as a people is not tested during the best of times".

They will know that "we should never become despondent because the weather is bad nor should we turn triumphalist because the sun shines".

The question will Manto stay? does not fall within the realm of rocket science but how does Defence Minister Mosiuoa Terror Lekota stay on when all he got in the Polokwane plenary hall was heckling and utter disrespect?

Even a long speech by party deputy and now mooted stand-in president Kgalema Motlanthe was not enough to earn Lekota a modicum of respect from the delegates that elected Jacob Zuma as the party's 13th president.

Mluleki George, who actively campaigned for Mbeki's third term last December opposite Fikile Mbalula for Zuma, was an object of derision when Msholozi won in Polokwane. Mbalula, on his way out as ANCYL head at the time, likened the deputy minister to "Comic Ali" of the Sadam Hussein era, who kept saying "we are still in charge" even when the ship was sinking.

In his address at the subsequent press conference, Mbalula did not bother to establish if his comrade was George Mluleki or Mluleki George.

Only a stroke of insanity would make the likes of George stay.

The Ngcuka pair, deputy President Phumzile and husband Bulelani, the former Scorpions head, are not exactly the flavours of the moment in the Zuma camp.

Why would Zuma himself say that in parliament "we have capable cadres, like (Kgalema) Motlanthe" if Madam Ngcuka was a thought at all?

All Bulelani has been doing ever since he quit public office is to explain that he was not part of the political conspiracy favouring Mbeki, if his piece in the Sunday Times is anything to go by.

If Phumzile stays on in office, what will the objective be? To clear Bulelani's name?

The same goes for the Nqakula couple, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her spouse, Safety and Security Minister Charles.

Her loss to Angie Motshekga in Mangaung for the hot seat in the ANCWL wasn't just another day at the office.

So when political analysts like Steven Friedman say there's unlikely to be an exodus, they are not reading the situation correctly.

Zwelakhe Jolobe of the University of Cape Town nearly bit his tongue off trying to answer the question on television.

Pierre de Vos of the University of Western Cape says "some of the (ministers) should resign because they haven't been as effective".

Those who go will be Mbeki's friends, loyalists; not just any member of the cabinet.

Mantashe himself said on Interface that while the party might choose which of its cadres to deploy where, behind the cabinet post "is a person, a human being who can decide that I would not want to do this anymore".

Treasurer-general Mathews Phosa says the ANC is "a broad church" where robust debate is encouraged. Those in the Mbeki camp who have tried this have gone on to rue the day they did.

Where was the ethos of the broad church when Lekota was reduced to tears on the podium before 4000 plus delegates in the Limpopo capital?

It was loyalty that made people boo the enemy. It is loyalty that will see others go.