Gimme a C-R-I-S-I -S
Who needs a smooth transition?
SO X PRES THABO was right all along. There’s no crisis. Not in South Africa, anyway. Mbeki may well be remembered more for the way he left office than what he did during his tenure. Contrast the brief and calm Mbeki departure with that of Bill Clinton. During his drawn-out impeachment hearings Clinton was reduced to finger-wagging and arguments about what the meaning of the word “is” is. Mbeki said thanks to the party and the country and left the building (granted, only to file papers at the Concourt soon thereafter, but even Mbeki must realise his rearguard action is something for the history books and won’t alter his future).
The un-resignation of 13 ministers and deputy Cabinet ministers felt like a real crisis for about three minutes. Mbeki’s Cabinet had become fossilised long ago and wholesale replacement of the dinosaurs in charge, I would have welcomed wholeheartedly. (Speaking of dinosaurs, news footage of the post-unresignation Cabinet meeting shows there are too many of the ministers that take the public service imperative of “feeding at the trough” while in office very literally.)
The new ANC tells South Africans not to panic about the Cabinet resignations. Who’s really panicking? Why would anyone worry unduly about seeing the back of the Pahads or Phumzile “Private-Plane-toDubai” Mlambo-Ngcuka? I for one am more panicked about the gaps in the list of the un-resigned than those who’ve actually left. If the events of the past week can’t dislodge Manto “Have-liver-will-hang-on” Tshabalala-Msimang from her position at the helm of the Department of Death, what will?
And how did Ivy “Broadband-over-my-dead-body” Matsepe-Casaburri survive the purge? By promising the Youth League’s little jerks government’s 38% of Telkom? Land Affairs and Agriculture Minister Lulu “OneFarmer-One-Expropriation” Xingwana is also still sitting pretty. Maybe the union bosses just couldn’t say no to the prospect of living on a Land Bank financed golf estate.
Of course, Kgalema Motlanthe could still fire some of Mbeki’s other cronies. But he probably won’t. “Party unity” and a “smooth transition” – or at least the perception of unity and smoothness – seem to be more important now than actually governing.
For as long as I’ve been following politics – and it’s not as if any pre-1994 South African could ignore it – talk of a split in the ANC begins at the merest hint of discord in the alliance. We’re probably closer to that now than at any point in the organisation’s history, but struggle nostalgia or a lack of courage or convictions among dissenters seems to preclude it.
South Africans have survived and thrived after much more upheaval than the current changing of the guard in government. A real crisis, a real change and real panic could be just what SA needs. That’s what gave us a one-party democracy in the first place. Now it’s time to go one better.
FRIK ELS firstname.lastname@example.org