Mhambi has been redeployed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't say Mhambi did not tell you so

Prof Anton Harber confirmed today that he agrees with Mhambi. Zuma's showing in ANC nomination bodes well for the ANC, democracy and the country.

I think this is a moment to celebrate, a time to step back from the question of who is winning and recognise the victory for the processes of democracy. The test we have passed, and countries such as Zimbabwe and Angola have failed, is our capacity to challenge incumbency. We have made it clear in the past few weeks that, however dominant the ANC is as a party, no president can be secure in office if he or she neglects their base. The party leadership failed timeously to challenge Mbeki on such disasters as his AIDS policies, but the party membership rose to the occasion when their time came.

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Mike said...

mmm... I suppose it is positive that we don't look close to having a president for life - but that's not really an achievement (especially in the context of a populist becoming president of the ANC). It's more like a baseline requirement for democracy. Yes, we're about to see a third transition of power in our young democracy and that is good. But celebrate? Surely we're aiming for much more than simply avoiding a dictatorship?

However, as always, Harber's analysis is very insightful. It is indeed interesting how wrong the media was in their predictions on Zuma's future... and how most of us did not see any fault therein.

At the time I was extremely impressed with, what I perceived to be, Mbeki's principled decision and boldness in firing Zuma as Deputy President. His speech in Parliament was a tour de force. If it wasn't for all the crap that followed (not firing Dlamini-Zuma, firing her deputy, pushing out the Director of Prosecutions, etc.) I would still hold that view. Mbeki has been his own worst enemy in the way he's undone the good aspects of his Presidency.

Wessel said...

Mike, it's an exceptional achievement in an African context.

The incumbent has all the power and priviledge the state has to offer. Mbeki used this power and privilege as much as possible to get his way, stifle debate and get others to cowtow to him.

That it seems that it has not worked is amazing.

How could you have been impressed with Mbeki's "principled boldness" in firing his main political rival, while more serious misdemeanors and corruption went unpunished before and after this event?

I suggest you read Feinstein's "After the party".

Zuma might be simple, uneducated African, homophobic and keep bad company at times, (both of the latter which he apologised for) but Mbeki is a Anglocentric cold, heartless, racial ideologue who caused the deaths of thousands, valued loyalty above truth, and never can admit to his mistakes.

Mike said...

Wessel,I acknowledge that it's an exceptional achievement, historically, for an African state.

However, I'd like to believe that South Africa is not just another African state. We've produced independent thinkers and giants such as Mandela and Tutu (to name but two). We've got a free press and strong judiciary. We're a multi-cultural society, 11 main language groups, where the consequences of messing up our democracy is a strong deterrent from even thinking of going there.

Furthermore we live in an era where information flows freely across borders. We have the dubious advantage of coming to the 'democratic revolution' stage at a very late time - where we can be guided by the bad experiences of other African (East-European & South American) nations. And so one can go on. The fact is that Africa and large parts of the world 'have been there and done that'. I believe in the scenario that says that we won't get close to it.

That's not to say that sitting presidents can't do great harm. It's also a fact that all political parties in South Africa are influenced by donors with deep pockets - as is the case in most developed countries, which does not cause their citizens to fear that a president can't be removed by voters.

Yes, in hindsight it is very likely that Mbeki's firing of Zuma was substantially influenced by political infighting. However, that was not at all clear during the time - except to Zuma's loyal followers in who's eyes any action against him is always part of a larger conspiracy. It followed on a major court ruling, in which the judge in no uncertain terms painted Schabir Shaik as having been corrupt in his dealings with Zuma.

The Scorpions are still working towards (re-)charging Zuma. Yes, Mbeki has mingled in Scorpions matters recently -which should be condemned in the strongest terms- but the fact that the Zuma case, as well as that of Jackie Selebi, is still being pursued cannot be ignored. - Of course Mbeki can scuttle this argument of mine by blocking the NPA from prosecuting Selebi :-).

Yes, the whole arms-deal saga is unresolved and all the available evidence points at major corruption having been part of the dealings (perhaps similar to that of the arms deal between a UK arms company and Saudi Arabia, which the UK government recently decided to officially sweep under the carpet for 'national security' reasons...).

The excerpts I've read from Feinstein's book, in the Sunday Times, does indeed clearly indicate that there was political interference -directly from Mbeki's office. And yes many voices have alleged this well before the very recent publication of Feinstein's book - Patricia de Lille comes to mind. The difference with Zuma's dismissal is that it followed on an actual court case which clearly implicated him, not on allegations from opposition parties / politicians (at at time when Feinstein have not given the inside story yet).

I would also argue that at the time the ferocious succession battle that we're seeing at present was at best on the far edges of the political radar. I stand to be corrected, but I don't think many political commentators, at the time, saw the firing of Zuma as Mbeki taking the axe to a political rival. Yes it may have been seen as an unpopular thing to do, which may cause tension in the left of the ANC - but not Mbeki getting rid of a rival. The ANC was seen as much more unified at the time and Mbeki standing for a third ANC presidential term wasn't yet a topic of discussion.

Furthermore, the question begs, should the president of a democratic country not fire a deputy that has been implicated in a court case, within an independent judiciary, of serious corruption?

"...but Mbeki is a Anglocentric cold, heartless, racial ideologue who caused the deaths of thousands, valued loyalty above truth, and never can admit to his mistakes...". I would not put it quite so harshly, but yes Mbeki's intellectual style does make him 'cold'. Anglocentric? Heartless - more so than your average politician? Yes, he is definitely a racially polarizing figure. Yes, his denialism on the causes of HIV-Aids has directly contributed to the death of thousands (but not in the sense of intentionally and actively seeking the death of thousands). Yes, his emphasis on loyalty rather than welcoming criticism / alternative viewpoints is a major flaw of almost Bush-like proportions. See my comment on 'all the crap that followed' above...

Not admitting mistakes is once again an all to common flaw amongst politicians, but a serious one all the same.

"Zuma might be simple, uneducated African, homophobic and keep bad company at times, (both of the latter which he apologised for)...". Putting it like that almost makes me feel sorry for the guy :-). His Gucci-suit-with-sun-glasses dress sense, convoy of black SUV's when he travels, etc. does not quite fit the 'simple' description in my mind. I can live with 'uneducated' if the person in question is (A) intelligent -which Zuma is- and (B) surrounds himself with a qualified reliable team. His judgement on the latter has not been great in the past (we've already addressed Mbeki's blind spot in this regard). But at least JZ can be relied upon to apologise after making derogatory remarks about women, aggressively prejudicing gays, having cosy relationships with wealthy friends / advisers of questionable repute and stating in the witness box that he showered after sex to avoid contracting Aids...

To end of this book-length comment... I would have preferred a compromise candidate (i.e. neither Mbeki or Zuma), with clear policy & goals, with more integrity and removed from the current power struggle in the ANC. I do believe a unified ANC and strong visionary ANC (future RSA) President would be to the benefit of all - at this point in our history.

If we do end up with Zuma, which is almost fate compli, he may indeed turn out to be a good president (despite all of the above). I sincerely hope so. Time will tell.