The ANC’s ‘loyal rebel’
If Makhosi Khoza’s critics hope that by calling for her recall and accusing her of grandstanding that she will cower, they should think again. The firebrand ANC MP with a reputation for forthrightness seems even more resolved to speak out against the politics of patronage in the party that she has been loyal to since the age of 12. After taking to Facebook last Sunday and warning the ANC that it was ignoring the public’s resistance against President Jacob Zuma at its peril, she had a “significant experience” this week.
A Grade 7 St John’s pupil approached her in Sandton City shopping centre. His name was Mdvumo Dlamini.
She recounts the chance meeting: “‘Dr Khoza, which side do you stand on – are you with the people, or on the other side?’ The way he asked the question was remarkable. I couldn’t sleep that night, I don’t want to lie. I told him, ‘of course I am on the side of the people’.”
Khoza has raised concerns about “leadership injudiciousness” within party structures.
During the ANC’s most recent caucus meeting, she warned of the “perils of indifference”, referring to the title of a chilling speech made by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel at the White House in the US in 1999.
Then her request for an urgent meeting with the ANC chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal – her home province – fell on deaf ears.
Khoza was driven by her conscience when she broke ranks. ANC leaders who had spoken out against Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle were backtracking. Instead of engaging at national executive committee level, the party’s leaders were calling on MPs to use their majority to block a motion of no confidence in the president.
What made a huge impression on her was the unprecedented message from the public who participated in nonracial marches against Zuma on April 7.
Describing her dismay over the ANC’s response, she says: “This was not a moment to flex one’s muscles, but a moment to listen; to be sensitive to what people are saying. People were not revolting against ANC policies, but against a particular individual. Yet we were finding nonexistent conspiracy theories about racism and white monopoly capital.”
She took to Facebook after reading the papers last Sunday. She felt angered about “reckless” comments attributed to senior ANC figures that made light of the country’s downgrade to “junk” status.
“I could not believe that people didn’t understand the implications,” she says.
Khoza has no regrets about her heartfelt comments. Messages of support on Facebook and from within the ANC far outweigh the backlash.
Speaking out is nothing new for Khoza, and earned her public respect during the recent parliamentary inquiry into the SABC. Her outspokenness dates back to her teenage days as a United Democratic Front (UDF) activist. At one point, she was jailed and her house in Pietermaritzburg was burnt down.
“I have always stood up for what I believe in, even to Madiba,” she says.
When former president Nelson Mandela called for peace at a rally in Durban in February 1990 and appealed for weapons to be thrown into the sea, Khoza stood up and said to him: “Then what do we do? Our houses are being burnt down.”
ANC and opposition parliamentarians will not be terribly surprised by her latest stance, including Yunus Carrim, who chairs the standing committee on finance. Carrim has known Khoza since she was about 14, which is when she sought refuge at his home after being forced to flee her house during the Inkatha Freedom Party-UDF violence in the mid-1980s.
He says Khoza, from a disadvantaged background, had done well to triumph over adversity to get a PhD, write books and serve as a local government lecturer.
“Actually, when she stayed with us, she was already dabbling in poetry,” he says.
Until recently, as a member of his committee, Khoza, a single mother of two children in university, brought her technical knowledge of the financial sector to bear.
“It was good that she was promoted to being a chairperson [of the public service and administration portfolio committee], but she’s been sorely missed in our committee,” says Carrim.
“What she wrote was not out of a sudden impulse. It has been brewing. She has been immensely politically, morally and emotionally challenged by what’s happening to the movement.
“I know people will attack her for being individualistic, undisciplined, divisive and presenting herself as holier than thou. Others will say she’s just grandstanding. Ours is a very broad national movement … Makhosi comes from the younger generation and has a considerable amount to offer … At least she’s taking responsibility for her views,” says Carrim.
Khoza wrote on Facebook that a “triumphant story has turned tragic in my lifetime”, but she has not lost complete hope that the ANC can be rescued.
If the debate of no confidence goes ahead, how will Khoza vote?
“My instincts are telling me which way things should go; what needs to be done … The writing is on the wall,” she says.
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