Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the pages of the Sowetan to Gods ears

Why breakaway party has appeal

22 October 2008
Zoleka Ndayi
The ANC being dominated by leftists will not sit well with foreign investors and the international community at large

The “anger”, “dented egos” and “selfish political ambitions” of the “disgruntled” versus the “arrogance” and “limited intellectual capacities” of the new ANC leadership and the PAC split from the ANC could not be used as the only points of reference in testing the viability of a breakaway party in the current scenario.
The policy and principle informing the split as well as the era during which the breakaway occurs are equally if not more important than the widely publicised personality elements.
Domestically, white conservative nationalism that informed the National Party and the resultant intensification of discrimination, segregation and repression led to the split of the ANC. The split was a response to white conservatism or dominance.
The radical elements within the ANC were to respond by espousing black conservative nationalism in the form of the PAC on the one hand, while the ANC, on the other hand, took a soft approach and embraced multiculturalism, hence the Freedom Charter with emphasis on equality.
But the current breakaway from the ANC is informed not by policy but principle. It is wildly held that the ANC under former president Thabo Mbeki excluded those who had alternative views. The centralisation of power meant the marginalisation of the lower party structures.
In a bid to change the status quo the Polokwane conference saw the excluded and marginalised becoming the centre of power.
But the new centre now tries to maintain the status quo by excluding and marginalising the former centre through “purging” them from the party and government structures.
In response, the former centre breaks away from the mainstream party by openly calling for the observation and restoration of the principles of the Freedom Charter, some of which the former centre itself did not respect during its tenure.
In tackling this challenge, the new leadership hides behind the “ANC culture”, the “ANC traditions” of internal debate, forgetting that political stability is a question of national interest and not necessarily party interest.
This stance was clearly demonstrated by ANC president Jacob Zuma on national TV when he objected to Mbeki’s challenge to a public debate about the reasons for his sacking from the highest job in the country.
This objection has the potential to strengthen the support of the breakaway party not only from within the ANC but among the citizens at large.
From an international perspective, the era of globalisation means that any political and economic agenda that seeks to attract the attention of the international community should embrace liberal principles. It seems then the breakaway party could be more appealing than the ANC.
The current leadership of the party includes such leftists as the South African Communist Party’s Blade Nzimande.
Though Zuma constantly assures the business and international community that there will be no policy changes under his government, it remains to be seen how the left will lead or live with neo-liberal ideologies.
This doubt is further supported by the feeling that the party is “dominated” by the SACP. On the other hand, the pioneers of the breakaway group are members of the middle class that espouses neo-liberalism, the principles of which dwell well with foreign investors and the international community at large.
Three main actors in the transition period, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Allan Boesak and Mosiuoa Lekota, played an influential role in attaining a democratic South Africa.
In the eyes of the international community and South African citizens this could add a score on the credibility of this trio’s venture outside the ANC.
This means those who hold on to the ANC through sentimental attachments, despite their lack of trust on the capabilities of the new ANC leadership, and those who are skeptical about its arrogance, might soon follow the three aforementioned leaders.
Mbhazima Shilowa on his own is an asset to this “outside-the-ANC” venture. Besides his struggle credentials and having been part of the mass democratic movement, he has a wider network in business domestically and internationally. He has a good track record of delivery during his tenure as Gauteng premier.
In addition to being appealing to the middle class, all these factors are in line with the interests of foreign investors, and add weight to the credibility of the breakaway party.
lThe writer is a lecturer in the department of international relations at Wits.

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