The leadership battle (from http://www.scross.co.za/2012/09/the-leadership-battle/
The next few weeks will be of long-term importance for the future of South Africa as local branches and regions of the African National Congress deliberate and then vote on the future leadership of their party at its elective conference in Mangaung in December.
It is a process that concerns every South African, regardless of political affiliation. Because of the ANC’s electoral strength, its president is virtually guaranteed to lead South Africa after the next general election, scheduled for 2014.
Five years ago a bitter contest between the factions aligned to Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki respectively tore the ANC apart. Many of Mr Mbeki’s supporters, after the president’s unceremonious dismissal, went on to found the Congress of the People.
The supporters of Mr Zuma in 2008 are now deeply divided, with the tone of the contest threatening to again destabilise the party — and thereby the country.
The method of electing the organisation’s top office-bearers on a pre-nominated slate contributes to a sense of virtual parties within the ANC campaigning for state power, to the exclusion of non-members.
Lately some ANC leaders have argued against the slate process, evidently aware that this method exacerbates divisions and limits the flexibility that is necessary in assembling a talented team.
Moreover, the slate system also invites the abuse of power that rewards factional loyalty and political favour over competence and personal ethics.
It is in the interests of their party and the nation that ANC branches and regions reject the slate system and demand to elect their leaders on merit. And in choosing these leaders, the grassroots must insist on weeding out the mediocre and the corrupt.
Unlike US voters, Catholics in these structures will not face a contest between policies of life issues and social justice as they elect their political leadership; there is no likelihood that the ANC will relax the abortion law. On policy questions, however, such members should state their opposition to euthanasia and demand that government make available funding for organisations that offer alternatives to abortion.
The primary policy focus, however, will be on the question of social justice. The key area of debate will be the extent to which the Zuma government has succeeded in aiding the poor and delivering the infrastructural and social services which formed a core of the Zuma slate’s platform in 2008.
At the same time, it is necessary to establish whether there has been a relationship between the party’s leadership contest and the recent surge in service delivery protests.
Should it be the case that a faction of the ANC has incited or exploited public discontent as a campaign strategy, then the party’s membership should consider whether such a grouping can be trusted with providing sound and selfless leadership.
In many ways the ANC has lost its sense of public service and instead has become a party of self-aggrandisement and entitlement, a sense that has permeated both the eras of Mbeki and Zuma.
Whether or not Mr Zuma is re-elected, the ANC membership must sound a clear warning that the present levels of corruption, incompetence and dishonesty in government will no longer be tolerated.
The grassroots must know that their power resides not only in public protests but also at the polls. When a party fails to serve the people, then that party does not merit the people’s votes. Few things speak as eloquently to politicians as the prospect of losing elections.
In the coming weeks a great responsibility will rest on the ANC, from the branches that meet in rudimentary structures to the air-conditioned offices in Luthuli House.
The way the party’s members vote, and the manner in which the contest for these votes is conducted, will have an impact on the whole country.
May the ANC membership arrive at an informed decision for the benefit of the greater good.