Mbeki was never a straw man
The use of false analogies undermines the unity of democratic forces, writes
THE DELIBERATE manufacture of false analogies that take the form of the creation of the “straw man fallacy” is an antithesis of the consolidation of the democratic principles that constitute the cornerstone of our democratic dispensation.
The use of the straw man fallacy in political discourse calls into question the ethics, morality and the sincerity of those who engage in these divisive tactics.
In his address to the central committee of Cosatu, the general secretary of the SACP, comrade Blade Nzimande, sought to draw analogies between the exposure of shocking revelations and the misuse of state resources for the benefit of certain individuals and the Gupta family on the one hand, and the Mbeki administration on the other hand.
Needless to say, any attempt to draw an analogy between these exposés and the Mbeki administration is mischievous and serves to undermine and weaken the unity and cohesion of the democratic forces.
In reference to the Zuma presidency, comrade Nzimande asserts that the Zuma administration has displayed “ambitions for an imperial presidential system”.
He proceeds to draw a parallel with the Mbeki administration, saying “this was one of the reasons why we said uMbeki akahambe (Mbeki must go) because he wanted to create an imperial presidency”.
He continued further to say that “zonke izinto (all the things) which happened during the time of Mbeki are happening again… we are back there… history repeats itself ”.
Such blanket and unsubstantiated generalisations are amazing and very strange coming from the general secretary of the SACP.
This is even more bizarre and inexplicable in the light of the statement of the SACP issued on June 4, 2017 under the heading “Defend, Advance, Deepen the National Democratic Revolution”.
The statement makes the observations that “the ANC is in deep crisis” with a leadership that is “paralysed by deep divisions”.
It goes further to express alarm that the leaked emails and the whistle-blowers who have come forward to the South African Council of Church’s Unburdening Panel is evidence of “the sheer scale of corporate capture and parasitic plundering of public resources by the Gupta network”.
What is of even more concern according to the statement is “the central role of President Zuma and his son Duduzane in this auctioning off of our national sovereignty”.
The statement goes further to identify “accelerated rent-seeking based on state capture, the emergence of a parallel shadow state, what some have described as a ‘silent coup’, and the growing authori- tarianism and inclinations to presidential diktat, with nostalgia for military-style, top-down command and control openly expressed” as characteristic features of Zuma’s administration.
Even without getting into the detail of the Mbeki administration, there is absolutely nothing to suggest that there was anything even closely resembling what the SACP has identified in its own June 4 statement, which happened during the Mbeki administration.
The reasons for Mbeki’s failed election bid at the 2007 ANC national conference and his “recall” in 2008 had absolutely nothing to do with the “president and his son auctioning off our national sovereignty”.
As we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Oliver Tambo, it is only fitting that we observe the memory of this revered leader of the South African people by scrupulously adhering to the truth at all times.
Why is it necessary to keep dragging the name of the former president into an arena of corruption, gluttony and greed that has absolutely nothing to do with him?
The answer is to be found in the events of Polokwane in 2007 and the subsequent recall of president Mbeki.
At the time, to provide justification for Mbeki’s removal, a binary narrative was created. In this narrative, Mbeki was demonised and fabrications were created in which he became the devil incarnate.
On the other hand, Zuma was portrayed as a paragon of perfect leadership and the personification of all that Mbeki was not. Zuma was paraded as a down-to-earth people’s leader, where Mbeki was supposed to be aloof, distant and arrogant.
The exposés in the media suggest that something has gone horribly wrong with this narrative.
The statement of the SACP is itself living testimony that the ANC has been plunged into a “deep crisis” with a national leadership that is “paralysed by deep divisions”.
There is no denying that this has happened under Zuma’s watch.
Those who propelled Zuma to power and painted an angelic picture of him are on the horns of a dilemma. How could they be so wrong about the messiah who was supposed to deliver them from the clutches of a president who had “imperial” presi- dential ambitions?
Now that Zuma is exhibiting tendencies of “authoritarianism and inclinations to presidential diktat”, as the SACP says, it is easy to resuscitate and revive a tired and worn narrative suggesting that Zuma is no different from his predecessor.
The resurrection of the Mbeki straw man fallacy serves only to divert attention from the real issues and the moral decay that is so pervasive in the organisation and has become the subject of media reports.
The only logical reason for dragging Mbeki’s name into this false narrative is both avoidance and justification. It is about time that those who propelled Zuma to power take full responsibility for the crisis of leadership, the decay of the moral fibre of the ANC, and above all the betrayal of the values and principles of this glorious movement.
It is only by taking full responsibility and not by obfuscation that they can redeem themselves in the eyes of the people of South Africa. Thami Ntenteni is the head of communications at the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. He writes in his personal capacity.