Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ANC Update: Party Unlikely to Lose Sleep; Shilowa Under Attack; No Collapse in Sight

ANC unlikely to lose sleep over new party


The rumoured breakaway party by former African National Congress chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota is unlikely to give the ANC sleepless nights, a respected political analyst said on Wednesday.

"You need half a million votes to get a seat in Parliament. A few thousand attending a meeting is no real indication," professor Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, told a convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg.

"I'm quite sceptical that this party is really going to get the kind of attraction to give anyone in the ANC sleepless nights," he added.

Friedman said he did not believe ANC leader Jacob Zuma was concerned about the talk of a new party.

"I don't think that Zuma and the people around him see this as a problem in terms of building the relationships they think are important.

"I think Jacob Zuma and the people around him have made a clear strategic calculation ... to keep [ousted former president Thabo] Mbeki and the senior people around him [Mbeki] in the ANC," said Friedman.

"I think that if Lekota is going to move out of the ANC, then he [Zuma] does not want to have a relationship with him ... They are trying to get him [Lekota] to leave."

Friedman said he hoped that the ANC would respect the right to start a new political party but "one would not expect Mr Zuma to send a Lekota a Christmas card".

"Politics is going to get rough if people break away," said Friedman.

Lekota accused the ANC last week of deviating from past policy and said he was "serving divorce papers" on the ruling party.

Former Gauteng Premier Shilowa resigned alongside Lekota and a string of Cabinet ministers out of loyalty to Mbeki.


Shilowa said on Wednesday that a national convention which could lead to the launch of a new opposition party by disgruntled ANC members will be held in November.

Shilowa, who resigned from the ANC on Tuesday night, said he would be the convener of the convention to be held on November 2 at a venue to be announced.

"After much soul-searching and interrogation of the aims and objectives of the national convention and the possible outcome thereof, I have decided to resign my membership of the ANC with immediate effect and to lend my support to the initiative by making myself available on a full-time basis as the convener and volunteer-in-chief together with comrade Mosiuoa and others," he told reporters in Fourways, Johannesburg.

He said he expected to be vilified for his decision and, playing on Zuma's warning that people who left the party would be left out in the cold, said: "This being sunny Africa I can say without any fear that most will find there is a lot of sunshine out there".

Shilowa said he would first help establish a preparatory committee comprised of "prominent individuals" and they would tour the country to consult sectors of society on how to "defend democracy" and improve prosperity in South Africa.

He encouraged people to bring their views to the convention.

"This includes those who believe that the convention should also pronounce a platform for a new political party," he said.

Discussions would also include electoral reform to directly elect a president, instead of the national president being elected by the party.

If a party was formed, it would be "a hard slog" opening branches and forming party lists and dealing with the inevitable in-fighting.

Quipping that for now he was just "one man and a cellphone", he said he planned to hold the first of these planned countrywide pre-convention discussions in his home village Olifantshoek in Limpopo on October 17.

He and Lekota would lead the convention.

Lekota said he was concerned that the ANC was deviating from the principles of the Freedom Charter in the way it had lobbied against the prosecution of Zuma on corruption charges.

These charges were set aside by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September and Mbeki was forced to resign, a move that Lekota and Shilowa publicly questioned.

Radical decision

The ANC said it had welcomed his resignation, calling his behaviour "unacceptable and untenable". It is expected to make a "radical" decision concerning Lekota at a meeting on his future in the party on Wednesday.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who was also expelled from the African National Congress, said he was appalled by this threat, saying it created the environment for violence and hostility.

Shilowa's political career spans the Mass Democratic Movement before the ANC was unbanned, secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and an South African Communist Party central committee member, as well being part of the negotiating team at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa.

Shilowa said people were too preoccupied with ANC internal affairs.

"The ANC is an important player, as an agent for change, but there is broader society as well."

Questioned on the political allegiance of his businesswoman wife Wendy Luhabe, he replied: "I don't know that my wife will do. She is an independent woman. I make my decisions, she must be able to make her decisions." - Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Shilowa 'tried to destroy the ANC'


Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, despite years of hard work, will now only be remembered as someone who tried to destroy the African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions said on Wednesday.

Shilowa's resignation earlier on Wednesday followed the suspension of former ANC chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota on Monday, along with Mluleki George, who served as Lekota deputy in the Defence Department.

"We won't remember Mbhazima as a good leader, but somebody who tried to destroy our movement," Cosatu Gauteng secretary Siphiwe Mgcina said at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

Describing Shilowa as a "black sheep", Mgcina said Cosatu was not surprised by his resignation and the public appearances he made thereafter.

"We had long expected it, since the Polokwane 52nd ANC national conference. This has indeed demonstrated that some among us in the ANC, particularly former ANC members who were also in the state executive, were loyal to an individual instead of the organisation and its constitution."

Last week Lekota and George said they were concerned that the party had moved away from its founding principles in the manner in which it and its affiliates had expressed support for Zuma while he was being investigated for alleged corruption.

Mgcina said Cosatu and the ANC will do everything in their power to protect the resolutions and the outcomes of Polokwane.

"We will be convening general meetings in all our factories, institutions and communities to ensure that our members understand and indeed defend the national democratic revolution."

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was not surprised by Shilowa's resignation as he had turned into a power-hungry monster.

"His association with the whisky-drinking elite has blinded him and turned him into a power-hungry monster," NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement.

Seshoka described Shilowa as a capitalist activist and the champion of the 1996 anti-revolutionary class project.

However, he called on union members and the working class to "disassociate themselves from this mob" whose agenda is to pursue political patronage at all costs.

"The working class must be more united than ever before to defeat the rising riot of few members of the bourgeoisie whom Shilowa belongs to," said Seshoka. "A coalition of the ill-disciplined ... who do refuse to accept democratic decisions will not succeed".

On television

ANC leader Jacob Zuma was expected to discuss the breakaway movement from the ruling party when he appears on national television on Wednesday evening, the party said.

Zuma cut short house visits along the West Rand to attend a national executive committee meeting, which, he had said earlier in the week, would make a "radical decision" regarding the future of Lekota and others the party considers dissidents, said ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu.

Zuma would discuss on television the outcomes of the NEC meeting as well as a "reflection on the state of the organisation and the challenges facing the organisation".

Lekota had suggested a national convention to gauge how people felt about developments in the ANC -- including the party asking president Thabo Mbeki to resign in September after a court judgement setting aside corruption charges against Zuma.

Earlier on Wednesday, Shilowa, who had resigned in support of Mbeki, set a date for the convention. It is to be held on November 2, and Shilowa said it may lead to a proposal for a new political party.

Wednesday evening's broadcast is set for 6.30pm on SABC1.

ANC deputy secretary Thandi Modise, speaking in Pretoria, also said on Wednesday that the ANC will not allow indivuals to destroy the movement. "You cannot allow people to use your structures to destroy you ... to rubbish you," said Modise.

She said the formation of new party would not necessarily be wrong but that the way it had unfolded could have been handled differently.

Another resignation

Meanwhile, Charlotte Lobe, an ANC national executive committee member and a former Free State secretary, resigned from the party on Wednesday.

Lobe also resigned as an ANC member of the Free State legislature.

She stepped down as provincial party secretary in February this year, indicating she did not agree with how the ANC had been handling organisational matters.

On Wednesday, Lobe said she had resigned from the party for the same reasons.

She said she had not resigned from the ANC in February because she was convinced the NEC would address the issues raised in provincial structures.

Lobe said she was attracted to the ANC because of certain norms and standards, but was no longer convinced the party was living up to those standards. She could no longer identify with the way things were being done.

"For myself and my conscience, I would rather join those who speak out and seek alternative ways of protecting the Constitution of South Africa," she said.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

The ANC is not collapsing!

by Lazola Ndamase

It would be naive and dishonest to accept the argument by Sentletse Diakanyo that the ANC has collapsed such that we should “welcome a new beginning”. Despite the pomp and demagogy that surrounds his thinking, his paper is premised on two main hugely empty arguments: (1) the ANC took a “fatal” decision by “firing” Thabo Mbeki; and (2) sealed its collapse when it took a “reactionary” decision to suspend Mosiuoa Lekota and Mluleki George.

With both these arguments, I beg to differ. Is this allowed on Thought Leader? I wonder, but I hope it is.

First and foremost, Sentletse’s argument is theoretically weak and factually misguided. (I use these terms guardedly in a well-meaning manner, for they may be misconstrued as labelling tactics or intellectual “purges”.)

Sentletse’s argument is factually misguided in two main areas. Firstly, the suggestion that there have been “great purges” is entirely untrue. When the ANC suspends its members pending disciplinary hearings, it has not purged them because it has not sat to assess their (mis)conduct, so nothing has been done to these people yet. We can’t then predict and call these “purges”. The non-election of ANC members in provincial congresses post-Polokwane is a matter of ANC members choosing leaders and not purging people.

Secondly, the argument that the ANC leadership must go ahead and “draft the epitaph of the ANC” is based on the thinking that the ANC will die when Lekota and his ilk leave. This thinking has not been substantiated by anything else hinting that the ANC shall only require a coffin and a sermon after the departure of the dancing Lekota and the ever-optimistic Mluleki George. This is only substantiated by nothing but the ink used to type that paper by its author.

I suspect that Sentletse has allowed his own wishes to take the place of reality and pose on its behalf. Elevating one’s wishes to objective reality can be nothing but the biggest error that a person can commit, for it leads to adventurous and failed missions that are a product of personal sentiment rather than reality checks.

Of course, I agree with Sentletse that the ANC cannot live forever, nor should we expect it to do so. Engels put it much clearer when he said “the only thing stable is instability itself”. However, it can be confidently stated that at present and in the near future, the ANC has not — certainly not yet — fallen. To read a “huge” collapse out of the Lekota split is a bit far-fetched.

Stepping back, if we are to use historical fact, the ANC was harder hit by the split of the PAC than it had ever been in its history. This was a split based on policy positions rather than one based on individual hatred and co-option of the Freedom Charter. The PAC was even more popular than the ANC for almost a decade after its inception, but that was not to last for long.

The ANC suffered innumerable defeats at the hands of the UDM in the Eastern Cape under the tutelage of Mandela himself, but by 2004 and 2006 it was as if the UDM had never existed, especially when it started losing even in the area where Holomisa himself was born.

So, will the ANC suffer at the hands of Lekota? Yes. But this must not be misconstrued as a collapse. The values for which the ANC actually stands are still relevant today. The co-option of these by Lekota shall not last; remember the Gang of Eight tried doing the same to Oliver Tambo, accusing him of losing the true ANC and being taken over by “communists”, but did that last? Check the history books!

The ANC’s moral high ground was on the rise from the late 1970s to the 1990s, but once again, the party was been infested by criminals (Bruno Mtolo), hooligans (who committed innumerable crimes such as rape and theft in places such as Angola, Mozambique and other the countries where the ANC was situated — Manto is one example) and bullies such as Pahad. They were there even before 1994, but the party has been able to shake off these elements as time went, though some are still there. Can the ANC survive problematic elements like some we have seen recently? It certainly will.

The one matter that I believe we should be dealing with here is why the ANC finds itself cracking. If we wish or even believe that the ANC would slide and collapse any time soon, we had better look somewhere else for collapses, because they are not coming from the ANC.

The issue that has sought to hang the ANC is the conflict of interest among its members as a result of the accumulation that has occurred since the ANC took state power, the Zuma-ites and Mbeki-ites among the beneficiaries.

Unfortunately the ANC has never systematically dealt with this issue. I believe the contestations between ANC members are not about the Freedom Charter, as Lekota would have us believe, or about revolutionary discipline, as others profess, but about who shall pull the strings or decide on the tender line, and kickbacks arising from government activity and those of parastatals or from BEE inclusion by private capital after government pressure. From top to bottom this seems to be the main issue.

But Rosa Luxembourg says: “Freedom only for supporters of the government, only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all.” Has membership of the ANC not been a guarantee for posh jobs in the recent years? To suggest otherwise would be to bury our heads in the mud!

This is one of the reasons why those who feel socially alienated from the new leadership and its stooges in lower structures have felt disempowered; for them the best way has been to look for alternatives, and a new party is certainly that.

This has nothing to do with the “blunder” by the ANC to fire Mbeki. After all, Zuma was fired and there was no split. Ordinary people might be fooled to believe this for the moment, but lies have short legs; they cannot cover enough ground when running and will soon be caught, and so will Lekota and others who claim to be militant, but whose militancy is only expressed in newspapers.

I must be careful not to write part three of my response to Lekota; it is still coming. This was just to Sentletse and I hope it is received well. I wanted to reach Sentletse through comments but I realised it was too long.

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