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Let’s have a moratorium on political squabbling until after the World Cup

Aubrey Matshiqi speaks on political squabbling. Camera: Nicholas Boyd. Editing: Shane Williams (08/06/2010)

11th June 2010

By: Aubrey Matshiqi


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This month, we are hosting guests from all over the world who are here in the hope that their national soccer teams, and not Bafana Bafana, will lift the FIFA World Cup trophy when the curtain is drawn on the soccer spectacle.

Like all good hosts and soccer players, we put our best foot forward. This demands that we hide all our dirty stuff and embarrassing relatives in the garage. But, what if the embarrassing relatives are the people who run the country? I am, of course, talking about the ruling African National Congress (ANC).


As the occasional visit to South Africa by President Jacob Zuma does not give him enough time to be with his comrades and subjects, he has forgotten some things about us. This is why, during one of his visits, he was shocked to discover that there are people in this country who live in conditions of squalor and under- development. But the most egregious of his omissions was to forget to ask his comrades to behave while our guests are still wandering from one wonderful soccer stadium to another.

This explains why there has been no ceasefire declaration in the succession battle for 2012. One would have thought that the national executive committee of the ANC would have thought it prudent to impose a moratorium on political infighting until the World Cup is over. Perhaps it is true that madness is hereditary. Perhaps it is even more true that we inherit insanity from our children. What other plausible explanation do we have for behaviour that is obviously modelled on the political infighting in ANC Zero, or the Congress of the People, for those who still care.


On the other hand, maybe the ANC has bad genes. Look at what the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania has become, and look at the manner in which the leaders of ANC Zero are emulating the strange behaviour of their PAC stepbrother.

But it is the mother body we should worry about because it seems its internal processes are being prostituted in battles for leadership and political power. As I sit to write this column, a war of words has broken out between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), on the one hand, and the ANC, on the other.

According to some reports, some members of the tripartite alliance have even consulted Mosioua Lekota with the aim of tapping into his vast experience when it comes to serving divorce papers. Yes, some affiliates of Cosatu have threatened to withdraw from the alliance. These threats were precipitated by allegations, which the ANC has not bothered to deny vehemently, that the ruling party intends charging Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for bringing ANC Ministers into disrepute by suggesting that some of them are corrupt. That he did this in his capacity as a Cosatu official and employee did not seem to wash with the factionalists who, in a national working committee meeting of the ruling party, recommended that Vavi, like Julius Malema before him, be taught a lesson before he becomes too much of a threat to the leadership ambitions of certain cliques in the ANC.

It is, therefore, not surprising that we, political commentators, once more, went for the most accessible of explanations. Firstly, attempts to lay charges against Vavi must be seen in the context of the imperative to dislodge a political enemy since members of some factions in the Zuma coalition suspect he has ambitions to occupy one of the high offices of the ANC.

Second, the attempt betrays a political recklessness that amounts to an attack against dual membership. Since there are ANC members who look at the alliance as a necessary evil and a marriage of inconvenience, at best, or an arrangement that reduces access to political resources, at worst, we cannot preclude the possibility that, to some members of the ANC, threats of an alliance split are like a Mozart divertimento to their ears. In the same way that there are those who have benefited from the existence of the alliance, there are some who stand to benefit if it collapses. For others, this is a matter of deepening the political crisis through a scorched-earth approach if this is the only means by which they can get rid of political opponents.

But we must be open to the possibility that, in part, the campaign against Vavi is part of a broader campaign to neutralise the anticorruption efforts of Cosatu and the SACP. However, we are lucky that the manner in which political obstacles are dealt with in Mpumalanga has not extended to the rest of the ANC. If they had, I would have advised Vavi and other anticorruption crusaders to commission research into life in the hereafter.


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