The rise of the coali­tion of the wounded - again

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

IN 2005, then Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Zwelinz­ima Vavi likened the over­whelm­ing sup­port for Ja­cob Zuma at the Polok­wane con­fer­ence to a tsunami no one would be able to con­tain.

Vavi later ap­par­ently de­scribed the Zuma sup­port base as a coali­tion of the “walk­ing wounded” – peo­ple with axes to grind be­cause they felt they were vic­tims of for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s machi­na­tions, or per­haps be­cause they felt they had been de­nied ac­cess to the pa­tron­age that in­evitably trick­les down from high of­fice. (Ge­visser 2009)

Five years later, on Septem­ber 3, 2010, the Mail & Guardian ran a story, “Coali­tion of the wounded turns on Zuma”, ahead of the ANC Na­tional Gen­eral Coun­cil on Septem­ber 20 that year.

Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle: “Sev­eral ANC sources linked to the youth league, the SACP, Cosatu and the gov­ern­ment, and many party lead­ers who had their eye on gov­ern­ment de­ploy­ment or wanted to pun­ish Zuma for not re­ward­ing them suf­fi­ciently for their sup­port in the run-up to the ANC’s 2007 Polok­wane con­fer­ence, had come to­gether in what could only be called a coali­tion of the wounded.” Those cited, in­clud­ing Vavi him­self, were now turn­ing their over­whelm­ing sup­port against Zuma.

Ac­cord­ing to the pa­per, there was also a sec­ond group of lead­ers calling them­selves the “new fron­tier”, that ques­tioned Zuma’s lead­er­ship. They were talk­ing to one an­other and their con­stituen­cies about what they saw as the ero­sion of tra­di­tional ANC val­ues.

An ANC in­sider close to them said that they were dis­cussing a re­turn to such val­ues as a re­jec­tion of cor­rup­tion and a clear divi­sion be­tween party and state. It had taken slightly more than two years for Zuma to alien­ate some of his staunch­est sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing the ANC Youth League, the ar­ti­cle said.

Fast-for­ward seven years to April this year and the com­plaint of Zuma aban­don­ing ANC val­ues is a daily oc­cur­rence. Most vo­cal of late have been Makhosi Khoza, Derek Hanekom and for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, with the “ANC 101 vet­er­ans”, Umkhonto we Sizwe mil­i­tary vet­er­ans’ coun­cil steer­ing com­mit­tee, SACP, and Cosatu, all lament­ing Zuma’s aban­don­ment of ANC value.

For­mer ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ch­eryl Caro­lus slammed Zuma for be­hav­ing in an “anti-ANC way”. Adding his voice to this group re­cently was Popo Molefe, who found him­self fight­ing cor­rup­tion at the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa and daily los­ing ground on the agency’s board.

The ques­tion is whether th­ese are gen­uine voices of ANC com­rades con­cerned about the ero­sion of the party’s val­ues or are they peo­ple who are once again blam­ing Zuma for not re­ward­ing them with pro­tec­tion and po­si­tions or that he has re­moved them from lu­cra­tive po­si­tions.

Gord­han, buoyed by what has widely been deemed as un­fair and ir­ra­tional dis­missal, joined this grow­ing anti-Zuma cho­rus and has since moved ag­gres­sively to call on Zuma to step aside.

In her lat­est re­ply to the KwaZu­luNatal ANC, Khoza laments: “There was a time where ANC mem­bers were required to truly live the val­ues and prin­ci­ples of our or­gan­i­sa­tion… our current lead­er­ship is not putting the peo­ple first. Our current lead­er­ship does not live the val­ues of our or­gan­i­sa­tion yet they choose to se­lec­tively ap­ply sec­tions of our con­sti­tu­tion to quell voices of dis­con­tent.’’ Khoza says she will vote against Zuma in the loom­ing no con­fi­dence mo­tion. There have been seven pre­vi­ous votes and Khoza has not been this vo­cal. On Fe­bru­ary 21, the Daily Mav­er­ick re­ported Khoza, an ANC MP on the fi­nance com­mit­tee, was moved to the com­mit­tee on pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter chair­ing the ad hoc com­mit­tee that in­ter­viewed the pub­lic pro­tec­tor. It was said she had her eye on a min­istry post and the shift sig­nalled she would be snubbed.

Her new cru­sade seemed to co­in­cide with this, al­though she would have been keen to serve in the same ex­ec­u­tive she now heav­ily crit­i­cises.

Then there is the SACP, whose gen­eral sec­re­tary Blade Nz­i­mande says the blame for the al­leged state cap­ture should be placed squarely at the door of Zuma and his son Duduzane. Awk­wardly for Nz­i­mande, it seems he’s play­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal game, one which says: “To con­tinue to keep quiet will make peo­ple think I am un­der pa­tron­age.” This make his call one of po­lit­i­cal games­man­ship.

Then there is Cosatu, which has also added its voice to grow­ing calls for the pres­i­dent to step down, say­ing it no longer be­lieves in his lead­er­ship abil­i­ties as head of state.

Cosatu’s anti-Zuma cam­paign started with Vavi and his co­horts who were also ru­moured to be bit­ter about not be­ing de­ployed to the gov­ern­ment. The re­la­tion­ship has never been the same. To­day, as they did then, they jus­tify their calls for Zuma to step aside by say­ing he has aban­doned demo­cratic con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity and trans­parency.

ANC struc­tures so far have not shown an en­thu­si­asm for the nar­ra­tive that Zuma or the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) has lost its way. The NEC has warned many of its mem­bers to back off and gone fur­ther to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, look­ing back at the Nel­son Man­dela years, you will find groups ac­cus­ing him of aban­don­ing ANC val­ues. One an­a­lyst said there were many ways in which he was won­der­ful and a uni­fier, but had the same weak­nesses of other ANC lead­ers, “and that weak­ness has deep­ened. It is party first”.

Mbeki aban­doned ANC val­ues, as has Zuma, and even Man­dela. This begs the most im­por­tant ques­tion: Why is the ANC al­ways aban­don­ing its val­ues to those who find them­selves out­side the gov­ern­ment, out­side SOEs, or sim­ply out­side the ANC?

Even Man­dela was ac­cused of aban­don­ing party val­ues

Yonela Diko is a me­dia con­sul­tant and strate­gist

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