Monday, February 22, 2016

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe Gives US Stick
22 February 2016 at 21:25pm
By Peter Fabricius

What was ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe thinking when he accused the US Embassy of trying to topple the South African government? Did he just involuntarily slip back into struggle-era mode because of the occasion? Or did he have a purpose?

He warned ANC supporters after an anti-racism march to the Union Buildings to be vigilant against those trying to effect regime change in South Africa.

“We are aware of the meetings taking place regularly at the American Embassy. “These meetings in the American Embassy are about nothing else other than mobilisation for regime change. We’re aware of a programme that takes young people to the US for six weeks, brings them back and plants them everywhere in the campuses and everywhere.”

The natural reaction to such absurdity is to laugh it off, as, indeed, US ambassador Patrick Gaspard did when he tweeted; “I wish that someone would invite me to these meetings. I’m so disappointed as I always imagined that if I organised a coup it would look like Mardi Gras.”

Yet the ANC seems to be taking the matter seriously as ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said on Saturday: “We will elevate this (matter) to a formal level.” He added that Gaspard’s flippant response had not put the ANC off seriously dealing with the matter.

But Gaspard can hardly be blamed for treating this as a joke because such allegations are hard to take seriously.

Especially because neither Mantashe nor Khoza seemed to be aware that their own party leader, President Jacob Zuma, is on record as praising the very “regime change” programme they were condemning.

The programme Mantashe was referring to is the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, as the flagship programme of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

It takes promising young Africans to the US for six-week programmes in US universities in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, public management or energy.

On August 7, 2014, after Zuma’s return from attending Obama’s summit, the presidency said; “The president also welcomed the Mandela Washington Leadership youth initiative established by President Obama which takes African youth to the US for training and leadership mentoring.”

So if Mantashe is right that this is a regime change initiative, should we assume Zuma is part of the plot to remove the ANC – and himself – from power? These wild accusations at best make the ruling party and therefore this country look silly and paranoid, at worst they could quite gratuitously damage relations with an important country which invests a lot here in direct aid and through more than 600 businesses.

It’s hard to imagine how YALI could be promoting “regime change” unless of course Mantashe is implying that learning to respect good governance, proper public management and the right civic values would automatically turn these people against his party.

One wonders. For in the same speech Mantashe did something more disturbing than irritating the US when he said; “Democracy is about us exercising our right of being the majority party. It can’t be that every time we take a decision in the legislature, it must go to the judiciary for ratification.”

This repeat denial of constitutional democracy was rather strange, coming so soon after Zuma had so strongly reaffirmed the principle by conceding in the Constitutional Court that both the executive and the ANC-controlled legislature were wrong to have overridden the public protector over Nkandla.

And the attack on the US comes after Zuma had to concede the power of foreign investors by reversing the appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister when it pushed the rand over a cliff and wiped billions off the JSE.

So maybe Mantashe was just trying to reassure the party faithful that the ANC is still, despite recent appearances, fully in charge.

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