Don’t cry over spilt milk

Grocott's Mail - - MAKANA VOICES -

Peren­nial wail­ing is not a so­lu­tion to South Africa's prob­lems. It is a sign of hope­less­ness and de­spon­dency and the in­abil­ity to ex­plore al­ter­na­tives. It doesn't change the hearts and minds of the pow­er­ful; in­stead, it for­ti­fies the hand of the man­darins en­joy­ing the pre­pon­der­ance of power over peo­ple­ship.

Iron­i­cally, in a demo­cratic space it’s peo­ple­ship that el­e­vate in­di­vid­u­als to po­si­tions of power and au­thor­ity. In­tro­spec­tion is needed to es­tab­lish why un­de­serv­ing in­di­vid­u­als were el­e­vated to po­si­tions of trust and of strate­gic im­por­tance.

Di­rect and in­di­rect ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a low-key klep­toc­racy may treat this ques­tion as triv­ial; how­ever, when the wheel turns and threat­ens their per­sonal in­ter­ests, the shoe could be on the other foot. This process has al­ready com­menced, though, and that’s why we see those who have de­fended the sys­tem in the past spew­ing fire now. Lead­ers who vac­il­late on mat­ters of prin­ci­ple can­not be trusted.

The el­e­va­tion of vi­sion­less in­di­vid­u­als to the top levers of power has devastating ef­fects on so­ci­ety at large. As we speak, the ef­fects are be­ing felt. This cal­i­bre of leader does not have a big­ger picture in their mind; in­stead they use their prox­im­ity to in­stru­ments of power to turn pub­lic eco­nomic plat­forms into fief­doms. Paras­tatals (known as SOEs today) and pub­lic works pro­grammes were hatched by the Na­tion­al­ist Party to ad­dress the poor so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions un­der which Afrikan­ers lived. The present dis­pen­sa­tion in­her­ited them. These and other devel­op­men­tal plat­forms are ear­marked for men­da­cious projects.

To a large de­gree, the racially pro­pelled paras­tatals and pub­lic works pro­grammes served their pur­pose. They en­abled the ben­e­fi­cia­ries, among other things, to ac­cess bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties com­pared to the so-called indige­nous peo­ple. Re­gret­tably, this devel­op­men­tal path was sit­u­ated within a racially de­signed ar­chi­tec­ture sup­ported by pa­tri­archy. The lat­ter has placed white fe­males in a far bet­ter po­si­tion in a demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion by be­ing clas­si­fied as ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Em­ploy­ment Equity Act spin-offs.

This has cre­ated a sub­tle ten­sion within the work­place. Cer­tain em­ploy­ers have used this le­gal space by el­e­vat­ing white women to se­nior and top man­age­ment po­si­tions at the ex­pense of black women to meet leg­isla­tive re­quire­ments for com­pli­ance pur­poses. The South African sit­u­a­tion is para­dox­i­cal, in­ter­est­ing and com­plex. The present oli­garchy, in­stead of us­ing paras­tatals to ad­dress so­ci­etal anom­alies, has turned them into spa­ces in which nar­row in­ter­ests are ad­vanced.

To safe­guard per­sonal in­ter­ests, mul­ti­ple power blocs have been set up to pro­tect ma­te­rial gains. Abra­sive con­tes­ta­tions at pro­vin­cial elec­tive con­fer­ences in the run-up to the De­cem­ber elec­tive con­fer­ence should be un­der­stood within this con­text. A new form of strug­gle has emerged and dis­placed the no­tion of es­tab­lish­ing an in­clu­sive and eq­ui­table so­ci­ety. The ad­vent of this project has ex­ac­er­bated the al­ready ex­ist­ing so­cio-eco­nomic gap caused by past lega­cies. Op­pos­ing power blocs are in essence fight­ing over the prox­im­ity to state re­sources, and noth­ing else. They adopt dif­fer­en­tial strate­gies, re­flect­ing the char­ac­ter and na­ture of their con­stituen­cies.

For ex­am­ple, the phys­i­cal bru­tal­i­sa­tion of another bloc re­flects the con­stituency the ag­gres­sore rep­re­sents. It's a symp­tom of a sys­temic prob­lem that has got noth­ing to do with in­ter­ests of the peo­ple (you and I). Also, this prim­i­tive be­hav­iour has got noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics or ide­o­log­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion. It can be sum­marised in one con­cise sen­tence: these are acts of crim­i­nal­ity.

Pol­i­tics is a house of power that re­quires the metic­u­lous ap­pli­ca­tion of strate­gies and tac­tics to out­smart op­po­nents. This process does not re­quire peo­ple to hurt or harm each other. Lethal in­stru­ments are un­leashed on op­po­nents with the in­ten­tion to con­trol the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment – but ab­so­lute con­trol over the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment is un­achiev­able. Any at­tempt to fos­ter vi­o­lence in a po­lit­i­cal space will have un­for­tu­nate out­comes.

Vi­o­lence begets vi­o­lence and there is no win­ner at the end of the day. A vi­o­lent ap­proach to pol­i­tics adds fire to al­ready so­cially frag­mented com­mu­ni­ties. When the bar has been low­ered so far, the po­lit­i­cal risk is huge: it is a sign of a lead­er­ship vac­uum that could be hi­jacked by the po­lit­i­cal mafia - who have al­ready in­vaded the po­lit­i­cal space. Main­stream po­lit­i­cal plat­forms are the main tar­gets for this project.

Eth­i­cal con­duct in this space is viewed as a men­ace. This ap­proach within main­stream pol­i­tics is here to stay for some time.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of Art of War strate­gies and tac­tics have al­ready com­pli­cated and po­larised the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. The po­lit­i­cal puz­zle has be­come com­plex and un­pre­dictable as we get closer to the De­cem­ber elec­tive con­fer­ence.

I’m con­vinced more than ever be­fore that the bat­tle for lead­er­ship is go­ing to be won through this method­ol­ogy. Three pos­si­bil­i­ties ex­ist:

• The pre­ferred or main con­tend­ing fe­male pres­i­den­tial hope­ful as­cends to the cov­eted po­si­tion;

• The woman pres­i­den­tial hope­ful loses the race for such a po­si­tion;

• The main con­tend­ing male pres­i­den­tial hope­ful as­cends to the cov­eted po­si­tion and this leads to the hatch­ing of a counter strat­egy to col­lapse or­gan­i­sa­tional net­works and un­der­mine his abil­ity to lead.

This could make the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment sus­cep­ti­ble to dif­fer­ent forms of un­cer­tainty. This means there is no need to wail, or think that the sit­u­a­tion could be­come bet­ter. In­stead, it's time to ex­plore op­tions that could bring light to the South African po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Pol­i­tics is about power and also about ex­plor­ing vi­able al­ter­na­tive op­tions. The fu­ture is in your hands, it de­pends how you use the power you have to se­lect your op­tions care­fully, with­out be­ing in­formed by emo­tions.

• Chris­tian Mx­oliswa Mbekela is a strate­gic work con­sul­tant spe­cial­is­ing in HR, EE and risk man­age­ment. A for­mer SAYCO NEC mem­ber, he was part of the team that re-es­tab­lished the ANC Youth League. He is cur­rently do­ing a PhD in the So­ci­ol­ogy Depart­ment at Rhodes Univer­sity.

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