[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Neoliberalism and Mbeki's 'impeachment'
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Jun 17 06:43:08 BST 2008
Patrick Bond wrote:
> (This failure to reproduce neolibs is rather encouraging: ""It would
> be good if he did stay on, but it would be even better if there were
> five more of him waiting in the wings." Cronin's rebuttal to
> Netshitenzhe amuses, but is rather serious, as he pointed out at the
> CT Book Fair yesterday. There may be a backlash and reconfiguration of
> centrist and conservative forces in both Mbeki and Zuma's camps in
> coming months. So it seems reasonable to keep Mbeki on the run with
> this SACP recall strategy, particularly as the various socio-economic
> crises intensify.)
And here's the thesis more explicitly stated:
17 June 2008
Read between the lines of Mbeki, Zuma joint letter on ANC unity
LAST weekend’s jointly authored letter in City Press from state
President Thabo Mbeki and African National Congress (ANC) president
Jacob Zuma had an ostensibly noble purpose: to curtail provincial
conflict over candidate lists and premierships, and to insist that local
factions must stop waving Zuma and Mbeki “camp” banners in their battles
for control of state resources.
The letter’s stunning subtext was that Zuma has terminated his marriage
of convenience with the left.
The idea of “two hostile camps” captures something real, if not tidy or
definitive, about national ANC politics. The first broad grouping is the
political establishment that has ruled SA for the past decade, dominated
by Mbeki’s own ministers and senior officials. The government has
included leftists and liberals too in this period, but they have been
subordinated by the dominant group’s backbone of conservative
The second camp has its origins in the leftist exile faction of Chris
Hani, Joe Slovo and Mac Maharaj, and in the alliance this group formed
with the leadership of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and union
federation Cosatu in the early years of SA’s negotiated transition.
As UDF networks were dissolved, trade unions demonised, and the SACP
leadership strategically co-opted in the decade after 1994, this leftist
camp was kept perpetually on the back foot.
Three years ago, however, it entered into a marriage of convenience with
Jacob Zuma. Mbeki’s tragically victimised deputy needed the support of
the left to survive; and Cosatu and the South African Communist Party
believed that they could not defeat Mbeki at Polokwane without Zuma.
Zuma’s alienation from the ruling establishment has turned out to be
brief. As the two leaders explain in their City Press letter, “both of
us worked together closely for three decades as friends, brothers and
comrades, and (we) remain friends, brothers and comrades”.
Zuma is now heading home and the establishment is certain to welcome him
with open arms. First, the City Press letter contemptuously rejects the
idea that Mbeki imposed a “class project” through the macroeconomic Gear
“Since 1994, when we openly informed the nation about our Reconstruction
and Development Programme”, Zuma and Mbeki write, “the ANC has not
implemented any government programme that was hidden from the people.”
Second, whereas leftist challengers have promised a crackdown on
enrichment and an end to mediocrity in the cabinet and official
appointments, Zuma and Mbeki insist that feeble and sometimes corrupt
members of the elite who have failed SA — the “perceived losers” of
Polokwane as they call them — will stay in office and get Zuma’s protection.
Third, the joint letter resurrects a contrast between “genuine” and
false ANC cadres. The leadership’s critics, former UDF members,
communists, former black consciousness activists, and trade unionists:
all of these are only incompletely members of the ANC.
The “genuine” ANC remains the exile network of Zuma and Mbeki — the
politically cunning but practically ineffectual exile right that had to
scuttle back to SA in 1991 to make sure a settlement was not negotiated
Finally, the letter hints at political instability if any move is made
to replace Zuma with an alternative leader. Warning “there can be no
surprises”, Zuma and Mbeki caution against actions that might divide not
just the ANC but “the nation”.
In so doing, they provide a chilling reminder that most of Zuma’s
immediate rivals for the presidency are linked by descent with the north
of the country, and that the so-called “xenophobic attacks” that also
left 20 South African citizens from the north dead have allegedly been
associated with Zulu chauvinism.
Now that he is back with his old friends, Zuma can depend on Mbeki to
stall transitional arrangements that the left’s serial optimists are
forever expecting to materialise. If Zuma enters the Union Buildings as
state president next April, he and his enforcers will preside over a
fundamentally unchanged government and national bureaucracy.
His rhetorical commitment to the ANC as the “only centre of power” will
quickly fall away and leaders of the movement’s leftist camp, deputy
president Kgalema Motlanthe and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, will
find their leverage extends little further than the front doors of
In the presidency’s budget vote speech on June 11, Minister in the
Presidency Essop Pahad read out passages from Zuma and Mbeki’s City
Press letter so fluently and passionately he could almost have written
them himself. “The ANC does not function as a double-headed monster”, he
quoted. “The ANC has no camps.”
In truth, the ANC continues to have two camps. Motlanthe and Mantashe
are in one; Mbeki and Zuma are back together in the other.
# Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.
More information about the Debate-list