[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Ngonyama on Zuma etc
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue May 30 06:26:16 BST 2006
Percy Ngonyama 29 May 2006
Last year, in one of his rare interviews with a South African radio
station, Thabo Mbeki told listeners of the now defunct Metro FM’s ‘Given
Mukari Show’ that ANC members and structures “would laugh” at anyone
suggesting they had become ‘rubber-stamps’ of a technocratic presidency.
Mbeki seemed to suggest that ANC branches play a huge role in the
adoption of policy.
When sentiments of an undemocratic and ‘sub-imperial’ presidency were
echoed by former Cape Town Anglican Church Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he
was ridiculed and accused by, Mbeki and his many hangers on in the ANC
and the many sycophants in government, of being “ignorant” and ill
informed about the functioning of the ANC, since he had never been a
member of the organisation. Grossly humiliated and, most probably,
surprised by such antagonistic commentary, Tutu was silent.
Laughable for most people, especially those within the left [outside and
within the tripartite alliance] would be Mbeki’s disingenuous
insinuations that working class ANC branch members are responsible for
the current economic policies that have condemned them to living
conditions most would find unsuitable for even their pets.
Very Strong claims of power centralisation around the presidency have
once again surfaced. This time around from a very ‘credible’ element,
even according to Mbeki’s standards, of the tripartite alliance.
The South African Communist Party and Cosatu have, in an unprecedented
manner, strongly condemned Mbeki’s Machiavellian leadership style,
which, the SACP argues, has rendered parliament ineffective, and Cosatu
argues might lead to a Zimbabwe autocratic situation. Both the SACP and
Cosatu have also reiterated their dissatisfaction with the current
anti-poor neo-liberal route the ANC government has taken.
Indeed, the very nature of the current unpopular macro-economic policies
demand a technocratic style of leadership.
It would take someone like SA’s ‘Denialist-In-Chief’-Mbeki- to dispute
credible claims that the ANC masses are excluded in the formulation and
implementation of pro-rich market-friendly policies, such as the
infamous Growth Employment and Redistribution Programme (GEAR), which
advocates for privatisation and outsourcing of basic services by
municipalities, with dire consequences.
It is however very crucial to place these current attacks on Mbeki in a
correct context: While it is not doubtful that Cosatu and the SACP are
pro-working class, it would be very naïve not to make connections
between the current renewed attacks on Mbeki and his capitalist
market-friendly policies that have rendered democracy and freedom
enigmatic for the masses, and the ongoing Zuma saga.
Certainly, Zuma has become a symbol of resistance for all those
dissatisfied with government’s cosy relationship with the private sector
at the expense of the working class.
A large majority of Zuma supporters are mostly poor people who, having
seen no improvements in their lives in the past twelve years of
so-called democracy, honestly feel that a Zuma presidency will deliver
the elusive “Better life for All” or maybe even result in the fulfilment
of “A people’s contract to create jobs and fight poverty”
To a large extent this sense of hope has been fuelled by the SACP and
Cosatu’s unyielding support for the former Deputy President. On a number
of occasions, Zuma, because of his disadvantaged background in rural
Inkandla, has been portrayed as a friend of the working class and the poor.
A messages printed on a SASCO [an affiliate of the ANC Youth League-a
strong member of the Zuma camp] t-shirts equates support for Zuma to
support for the “revolution” To many, justifiably so, this implies that
Mbeki no longer represents the “revolution”, but Zuma does. Within
progressive pro-poor anti-capitalist formations, the question would be:
Implications that a Zuma presidency will be pro-working class are
grossly misleading, particularly, given ‘Msholozi’s’ lavish bourgeois
lifestyle and the capitalist nature of some of his close associates who
continue to ‘take care’ of his huge legal costs.
In 2005, internationally renowned investigative journalist Max du Preez
asked a very critical question: “When did Zuma become a friend of the
poor? The day he got fired”
Unsurprisingly, none of his staunchest supporters, within the left of
the alliance, have provided an answer to this very valid question.
Therefore, to suggest that Zuma is a friend of the working class or has
a left political orientation is laughable. Zuma’s actions and latest
pro- working class rhetoric and tendencies, are clearly opportunistic.
The SACP and Cosatu, with their strong working class following, are his
only available options for ascending to the presidency, whose craving
has become very difficult to conceal.
Furthermore, Zuma continues to endorse the very capitalist economic
policies of Mbeki that impact negatively on the masses. He has praised
Mbeki’s leadership and expressed support for his disastrous economic
While the shenanigans around Zuma continue to trouble the fragile
tripartite alliance, one cannot help but commend or even envy, to some
extent, the high level of radicalism and conviction that Zuma supporters
have demonstrated. This kind of defiance, which places a lot of emphasis
on the power of the masses, was last seen within ANC structures during
In an unprecedented manner, the masses within the ANC have stood up and
utilised the only power they truly posses to influence bureaucratic and
political processes within the organisation. The recent decision of the
ANC NEC to re-instate Zuma with full responsibilities as the deputy
president of the organisation was largely influenced by the large
support that Zuma enjoys within the ANC and tripartite alliance.
Also, it is because of the power of the ANC masses that the Zuma issue
remains a matter for intensive debate and discussion at the Union
Buildings and Luthuli House. Zuma continues to use his popularity to
intimidate Mbeki and his government.
In the 1980’s people’s power rendered the apartheid state ungovernable.
Mass protests, within and beyond South Africa, ultimately forced the
very arrogant Nationalist Party into formal talks with the exiled ANC.
Within South Africa, the power of the masses, which manifested itself in
consumer boycotts, strikes, bus boycotts, etc. played a huge role in the
demise of apartheid.
Mass protest is very critical in the context of the ANC’s economic
policies that have not only failed to improve the lives of the poor, but
have also resulted in millions of job losses and exacerbated poverty
levels. The ever-complacent Mbeki will be compelled to conduct an
intensive review of his government’s policies.
Cosatu and its allies can be rest assured that relentless massive
campaigns against Mbeki’s neo-liberalism will receive support from even
the most progressive social movements in the country, who continue to
warn the government that its economic policies are directly responsible
for the appalling socio-economic conditions.
While the Zuma issue is responsible for reviving mass protest within the
ANC, the public needs to be warned that a Zuma Presidency will not
necessarily change their lives for the better. The struggle against
neo-liberalism and capitalism is much bigger than any one individual.
And certainly, rallying behind ‘Giorgio Armani - Range Rover’
politicians, like Jacob Zuma, who only appreciates the power of the
masses when their positions of privilege are threatened, is a step in
the wrong direction in as far as the struggle against the free-market
economic systerm is concerned.
Collectively, the poor SA masses in the 80’s managed to put the
apartheid era bourgeoisie on the run before they cunningly negotiated
the “World Trade Centre” compromise.
The disgruntled masses, once again, have the power to rise up and demand
from Mbeki and the capitalists [old and new] a genuine “Better life for
All” A clear message needs to be sent to Mbeki-whose “I am an African”
speech is celebrated world-over that the current criminal neo-liberal
project is devoid of any African values.
It is a grave insult to African principles of ‘Ubuntu’ for Mbeki to
suggest that an economic systerm that forces many to adopt humiliating
tactics to survive, such as selling their bodies and begging, is a
direction towards an “African Renaissance”
Limiting the wide spread dissatisfactions only to the ‘succession’ issue
is a bad strategy that stands to backfire. Mbeki has once again shrewdly
emerged as ‘Mr Clean’ by suggesting that the next president should be a
This has been welcome by even some of the most progressive feminists.
Assuming that Mbeki is a champion for women’s rights is very flawed.
Not so long ago, he appeared on TV unashamedly ‘shoving’ Winnie Mandela.
He also saw nothing wrong about joking about “beating” his sister up if
she came home and told him she was dating Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP.
Such a man has a very narrow and perverted understanding of “women
Moreover, it is largely poor women that have suffered mostly as a result
of government’s economic policies and Mbeki’s continued HIV/AIDS denialism.
Finally, very unfortunate, is the sad reality that those, within the
alliance, who purport to have the interests of the working class at
heart, while being at the forefront of the ‘Zuma for presidency’
campaign have been, ironically, absent from militant working class
struggles for better living conditions and affordable basic services.
Ngonyama is a social-movement activist based in Durban
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