Gimme a C-R-I-S-I -S

Who needs a smooth tran­si­tion?

Finweek English Edition - - Something Els -

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 frike@fin­week.co.za

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