ANC left must stop obsession with 'non-issue'

THE leftists within the ANC must be among the most cowardly group of people the liberation movement has had.

THE leftists within the ANC must be among the most cowardly group of people the liberation movement has had.

In their attempts to hide their lack of courage, they pronounce on what in the great scheme of things is a non-issue - President Jacob Zuma serving two terms as president of the country and of the party.

It is a non-issue because, as Zuma has said, the decision was always the ANC's, not his or some faction of the organisation and because, whether he stays one or two terms, he will, as he said even before the elections, be implementing ANC policy, not the left's.

But the left, in their obsession with tilting at windmills, conveniently ignores the fact that the ANC president is not a leftist and has never claimed to be one.

Pledging to eliminate poverty can hardly be described as being leftist. I know of no politician or party in South Africa who would say they find the poverty levels acceptable.

What the left should rather be doing is to start grooming an instinctively and philosophically leftist leader for the future. Someone in the mould of Chris Hani, whose leftist and ANC credentials are not in doubt.

This is not to say that JZ is a lousy leader. But he cannot be expected to champion a course he has never chosen.

Sure, Zuma will implement leftist policies should the ANC choose those, but he cannot be expected to be as passionate about these as say Blade Nzimande or Zwelinzima Vavi might be because they firmly locate themselves within the left of the movement.

Revolutions are led by men and women who do not need convincing that the course they have chosen is a correct one. If the leftists are serious about wanting a leftist revolution similar to what has been seen in South America in recent years then they must get their own Lula da Siva, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales as Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia, respectively, did.

Our home-brewed leftists know that a deal similar to the one that saw Vodacom being listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange would not have happened under a leftist government or president.

For whatever we might think of them, past presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki led a movement they believed in beyond the broad mandate they were given.

Not everybody was happy with Madiba's "reconciliation" theme and, as history has proved, many were extremely unhappy with Mbeki's Aids, macro-economics and foreign policy, but those were the courses they had chosen as defining their tenure.

This is also not to delegitimise the left's course, which is not only noble and lofty at heart, but necessary to cure us of capitalism's overstated benefits.

The same logic would apply to the right wing of the party, if it wanted a president who would lead a right wing course.

For example, nobody expects the Jewish Board of Deputies to ask Ronnie Kasrils to be its spokesperson solely because he has Jewish parents.

He does not share their passion.

Even local football has learnt this lesson. After employing chairperson after chairperson and losing money hand over fist, the PSL decided to get one of their own, with a board of peers to run their business, and they have been fairly successful.

They are today one of the richest leagues on the continent.

So for its own sake the ANC left must stop playing games. They must find a comrade who is willing to lay his life down for their course - hopefully not literally. And once they have, they just might temper the vigour with which they fight a government they helped entrench and, by extension, the comrades they deployed to that government.

Put differently, the left must stop kicking down a door that is not only open, but one they have keys to.