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Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers

Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers

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Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers

178 pagine
3 ore
Nov 12, 2012


In Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers political journalist Mandy Rossouw takes us from the last elective conference of the ANC, at Polokwane, to the present day, where we’re introduced to the eight men who have the most influence on what will happen at Mangaung, and following that, in the race to the national poll in 2014. And then we take a tour through ANC politicking in South Africa’s nine provinces, because branch-level dynamics are still the key to understanding the ANC. This is the book to read if you’ve ever wondered whether the ANC’s claim that collective will trumps individual ambitions is actually true. Mangaung: Kings and Kingmakers explains who has been in power, and who is taking over. Most likely you’re not one of the 4 000 delegates with a vote at Mangaung, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to know more about who’ll be smiling at you from near the top of your ballot paper come April 2014.
Nov 12, 2012

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Mangaung - Mandy Rossouw




Kwela Books


On 16 December 2012 more than 10 000 African National Congress members, government officials, international guests and journalists will descend on Mangaung – as the metropolitan municipality which includes Bloemfontein, South Africa’s former judicial capital, is now officially known. Of these delegates, about 4 000 will participate in a crucial vote that will decide who the president of the ANC will be for the next five years. So what? you might ask. What’s so important about that vote? Why does it matter?

Since becoming a reporter in the Gauteng legislature in 2003, I’ve learnt that politics and policy in South Africa are what happens inside the African National Congress (ANC), not what happens at the ballot box. Although the Democratic Alliance (DA) controls a province, it still has a long way to go before it can credibly contest an election on a national level with the ANC (at least twelve years, analysts speculate). So, those 4 000 delegates, give or take a few, hold not only the future of the ANC in their hands, but also the future of South Africa.

In 2007 many South Africans sighed with relief when Thabo Mbeki, a man who brought so much confusion about HIV and Aids, was removed from the ANC presidency at Polokwane, and later from public office a few months before his term was due to expire. Post Polokwane we have seen that no one is sacred in the ANC – something that began with Mbeki’s ousting. We have also witnessed the erratic policy-making that followed the election of the new leadership – economic policy, for instance, has become stagnant (with one part of government favouring a youth wage subsidy to deal with youth unemployment, and another stating that the policy would not be implemented, despite money being put aside for it). Once again, this reflects the way that the ANC’s elective conference was destabilised at Polokwane.

At Mangaung ANC members will make key decisions about how the party, and therefore the government, will conduct its business in the next five years – just as they did at Polokwane in 2007. The effects of at least some of the decisions taken at the conference may not be immediately clear, while others will be implemented almost on the spot – if the way the ANC dealt with the crime-fighting unit the Scorpions after Polokwane is anything to go by – but because the party infiltrates every part of our society we have no choice but to pay attention. So, Mangaung matters, because unless you’re packing for Perth, the decisions taken there will affect your life, at least for the decade to come.

The long road from

Polokwane to Mangaung

Remember Polokwane?

In 2007, the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane broke the mould of ANC politics as we had come to know it.

Firstly, there was contestation. Never had there been open contestation for any position in the top leadership of the party, and certainly never for the position of president. Secondly, what Jacob Zuma managed to do at Polokwane was the stuff that legends are made of. He harnessed the resentment that had been building up against Thabo Mbeki and what Mbeki represented and turned it into a definitive force for change – a force that made him, by a margin of 10%, the president of the ANC.

If Thabo Mbeki were on Facebook, his relationship with the ANC would be listed as It’s complicated. Even now, five years after the ANC humiliated him in the worst way possible, many still lament his loss. Some miss the intellectual air he gave to speeches, even if they didn’t always understand what he was droning on about. Others miss his decisiveness, although in hindsight many have come to realise they didn’t really agree with some of his decisions.

So why did they let him go? And not let him go quietly either, but instead chase him out of the Union Buildings like a dog? Resentment between the inziles – those who fought apartheid from inside the country – and the exiles in the ANC had been brewing since, well, people left the country to become exiles. And a low-intensity battle has been taking place since 1990, when the exiles returned from Lusaka, London and Leipzig. Photographs of the victory were plastered over newspapers as families reunited and leaders triumphantly waved their fists in the air exclaiming: The battle has been won! Inside the country thousands awaited the returnees, eager to hear their counsel about what the next step should be.

But as 1994 came and went and the new South Africa settled into itself, many started wondering why the cabinet was made up mostly of those who fought the struggle from outside – beyond the reach of the people on the ground. The Zuma camp’s gravest criticism against Mbeki was that he was out of touch with ordinary people. The underlying message, however, was not just that Mbeki had been out of touch during his presidency, but that he had always been out of touch. Growing up within the educated classes and then studying and working abroad, they felt, did not prepare him for a job that is essentially about reaching out to people far below your pay scale and level of education.

Although Mbeki, to prove that he was a president of the whole nation, made a point of not giving his home province – the Eastern Cape – any special attention, he did ensure that his close friends sat beside him in government. Only those who shared his vision and followed it unquestioningly were allocated a seat at the top table of government. Enemies – perceived or real – were swiftly shown the door, outside of which they found a very cold and even hostile environment.

Trumped-up allegations in 2002 that Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa were plotting to overthrow Mbeki are perhaps the best-known example of how Mbeki dealt with perceived enemies. But there were other stories doing the rounds. Like the one about current higher education minister and South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande, who allegedly rocked up in Cape Town in 1999 with a brand-new suit and an entourage in tow, in anticipation of being made a member of Mbeki’s executive. Apparently Blade was sent home with his tail between his legs.

And virtually all the newly elected national executive committee (NEC) members at Polokwane had similar stories to tell: claiming that they had lost their political positions, jobs and livelihoods through underhand interference by Mbeki. Whether the circumstances were exaggerated by some or not, they helped build a powerful narrative around a group which the media took to calling the coalition of the wounded – people who were ideologically polar opposites, but united in their resentment of Mbeki.

Other than those who felt they had been personally wronged by Mbeki, the other group at Polokwane that wanted Mbeki out were those who simply never thought he was the man for the job in the first place. Some of the inziles, who were popular leaders in their own right, felt they were better equipped to be in power. For them, Mbeki was too cerebral, and not someone to whom South Africans could easily relate. He spoke English like an Englishman, and his tweed jacket and ubiquitous pipe did little to dispel his image as an international statesman who would never get his hands dirty back home. Some in this group of detractors felt they had worked harder and sacrificed more to help liberate South Africa. They had been happy when it became clear in 1996 that then-president Nelson Mandela wanted inzile Cyril Ramaphosa to be his deputy, and successor. But after consultations with ANC and other leaders, Madiba had conceded that Mbeki, with his wealth of experience, was the more suitable choice – a decision that led to a great deal of resentment.

Mbeki compounded this negativity through his choice of deputy. After Mbeki was secured of his position, it became clear that Mathews Phosa had enough popular support to make a bid for the deputy president’s position. But the politically savvy Mbeki wanted Jacob Zuma, then the national chairperson, who had done well in handling the conflict in KwaZulu-Natal. Some claim that Mbeki championed Zuma because he thought that he would not threaten his own ambitions, but whatever the case Mbeki got his way by selling Zuma as the better candidate.

Earlier infighting aside, the Polokwane battle was to be the most gruelling battle the ANC had yet experienced. Right until the end, the ANC vehemently denied that there was a Zuma camp and an Mbeki camp. Mostly, I think, because Mbeki himself did not believe he could have enough opposition to warrant any sort of camp. Dissenting voices, yes, but a camp? Never.

In December 2007 it rained in Polokwane. Not the usual thundershowers that offer some relief to the unbearably hot savannah in December: it poured. Many believe the rain was an omen that things were about to change more dramatically than anyone could ever imagine.

As journalists, we were about to witness the spectacle of a lifetime. A national ANC conference spun out of control, right in front of the nation, courtesy of SABC’s rolling coverage. Delegates openly sang opposing struggle songs, inserting where appropriate the name of their leader of choice. It became almost impossible to make a speech, with Fikile Mbalula, now sports minister but then Zuma’s cheerleader-in-chief, interrupting speakers by singing Zuma’s anthem Umshini Wam into the microphone from his seat at the back of the hall. Struggle veteran and women’s activist Bertha Gxowa (now deceased) battled to explain conference rules to the 3 000 delegates and when she came to the counting method – electronically, she suggested – the Zuma-aligned delegates were ready to bring the house down. Eventually their demand for manual counting was acceded to – an important victory for them because, to popular thinking, electronically the votes could be manipulated. No one was to be trusted.

So it was that delegates went to the voting booth clutching scraps of paper, with the list of names they had to vote for in the different top positions, and a new ANC was born.

The recall

If you turned around the very moment it was announced that Jacob Zuma was the new president of the ANC, you would have seen a single tear roll down the face of the boyish-looking Andile Nkuhlu, Mbeki’s chief lobbyist.

Nkuhlu prides himself on being the one who convinced Mbeki to aim for a third term, even if it meant he would no longer run the country, but would rule instead from Luthuli House in Johannesburg. Mbeki and his kitchen cabinet – brothers Essop and Aziz Pahad, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Frank Chikane – were more than ready for the challenge. It seems that they never imagined, even for a minute, that Mbeki might lose, what with his mix of struggle royalty and intellectual depth, two terms in which loyalty was rewarded with patronage in the form of jobs and wealth, and a contender that was everything he was not.

Compared to Mbeki, Zuma flaunted his flaws in a breathtakingly careless way. He stood accused of rape and corruption and has yet to entirely shake off this image. He lacks the education and intellectual background South Africans had come to expect from ANC leaders and his role and achievements in the struggle were more opaque than Mbeki’s – he was the intelligence chief, after all.

In that single tear – a tear that Nkuhlu will now never admit to

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