[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Seepe's salt for Mbeki wounds
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Jan 30 05:42:11 GMT 2008
30 January 2008
A spent force standing in the path of democracy
by Sipho Seepe
THE Sunday Times captured the government’s mishandling of the energy
challenge aptly in its recent front-page headline: “Guilty: The bright
sparks behind our plunge into darkness.”
President Thabo Mbeki’s wilful disregard for expert knowledge is now
legendary. His legacy is now of gargantuan failure, abuse of office and
betrayal; be it HIV/AIDS, Zimbabwe, crime or misleading the nation with
regard to national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Having ignored expert advice, Mbeki’s sudden search for wisdom from
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille is opportunistic and smacks of
desperation. After all, this is a man who has routinely castigated
members of the tripartite alliance every time they found common cause
with the opposition.
Mbeki’s belated acknowledgement is a pre-emptive strategy. The effects
of power shortages and the disastrous effect on the economy cannot be
wished or explained away.
However, Mbeki’s confession should not replace the need to account. The
decision by Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats,
to call for a motion of no confidence in Mbeki’s government should be
seen in this light.
De Lille’s call for Mbeki’s head follows Mbeki’s humiliating drubbing by
Jacob Zuma at the African National Congress (ANC) conference in
December. The repudiation of Mbeki and some of his cabinet members was
nothing short of a motion of no confidence. Faced with such a defeat,
many a democrat would have resigned as a show of respect for the people.
Unfortunately, Mbeki continually fails to appreciate that leadership is
a privilege, not a right.
We now have a situation where those who lead are rejects from their
party. When Mbeki declared that the people had spoken following the
outcome of national elections, he was affirming the democratic principle
that those who govern must enjoy the confidence of their party. He seems
to have forgotten his own words.
In the same way as Mbeki refuses to understand the notion of political
legitimacy, we are confronted with a strange phenomenon, in which the
leader gets rejected by his party, but the very same leader gets
embraced enthusiastically by the opposition which he has held no regard
for in the past. The accumulative effect of this is the bastardisation
and denigration of the concept of democracy.
Following the outcome of the ANC conference, the opposition parties and
the beneficiaries of the Mbeki regime have launched a concerted campaign
to discredit the new ANC leadership. For these people, democracy is only
useful if it delivers who they want. This crass opportunism by the
opposition and Mbeki’s hangers-on is a threat to democracy.
Polokwane marked a turning point in post-1994 political history. It
represents new confidence among the masses to elect leaders of their
choice. It was a show of force and a showcase of democracy in action.
Delegates sought to remind all and sundry that all ANC members have a
role to play.
The fact that the chairman and secretary-general of the South African
Communist Party (SACP) serve on the national working committee of the
ANC is unprecedented. It underscores the centrality of the SACP and the
Congress of South African Trade Unions in the tripartite alliance. It is
a rejection of efforts of those who have sought to divide the alliance.
The lesson of history is that leadership cannot be imposed. The new
leadership is rooted in community struggles and historical battles.
Yet the new ANC leadership needs to take greater cognisance of the
implications of the return to democracy. The retention of those in the
government who were resoundingly rejected in Polokwane goes against the
time-tested notion of political legitimacy. They are not mandated to
rule and are a spent force .
The new leadership cannot afford to fail the delegates to Polokwane, who
went there to deliver a message of change. They refused to be hoodwinked
by those who spread the message of doom. They sought to disabuse the
conference of the fear-mongering that was opportunistically perpetuated
by some among the so-called leaders of the revolution. The international
community and business leaders have expressed confidence in our
democracy. We have a historic opportunity to deepen it. We dare not fail.
n Prof Seepe is president of the South African Institute of Race Relations.
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