Is the ANC now legitimizing, para structures of ‘premier and chairpersons leagues’?
They say history repeats itself the first in a farce the second in tragedy. I thought of this observation as I hear some in this ANC 2017 elective season, pontificate a doctrine of working for a non-contested election, and others advocate for an alternate candidate to the leading contenders, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. The logic for this groping must perhaps first in fairness be afforded the occasion to stand as an expression before one concludes it as a gross misreading of history and necessarily a virgin project.
Those who argue for a third option candidate draw their premise in similar vein from a claim of unity as the predominant aim. They argue in a heavily contested electoral space where leading rivalry candidates shows the great organisational polarized divide of conviction and sentiment, it is best to have a non contest and an alternate or third option for a candidacy. This idea on the surface proffers a form of sensibility if not pragmatism yet it’s not cognisant in its practical application.
In order to appreciate the impracticality of this oft clutched third option advanced by those of the doctrine of the best way out option, we must ask in a more recent history where this was attempted and worked There are those who often talk of the ANC under Tambo in exile as the ANC that defines for them the essence and true identity of the ANC. They keep telling us we must return to that ANC, as romantic as this may sound it is simply not possible for the material conditions back then and what we have now.
One equally wrestles with the idea of attempting these narrow comparisons because the ANC in exile and the ANC in political power of democracy with its leaders, circles of families and friends sharing close proximity to capital however defined renders the ANC since Mandela to Zuma as markedly a different organisation. The ANC in democracy confirms ascendancy to political power as measurable in the proximity of material benefit. The ANC in democracy means access to opportunity and wealth for those who make it on to a list. Therefore drawing ease of comfort parallels simply confirms ill-regard and utter misunderstanding for the clear distinctions and the role capital plays in democracy.
To make the case for a third option where there is a real contest it becomes important to ask where in democracy when confronted with similar situations did the ANC’s third option work as advanced. Where did it prove the affable means for a way forward? Before we answer this we must perhaps engage another aspect of ANC presidential elections. There are those who in this season accord provincial premiers and chairpersons of province a right to insert a non-contest as the frame and answer for ANC elections.
The logic advanced here again adopts the objective of unity as the cardinal aspect, while I heard a chorus of congratulatory remarks for the recent Mpumalanga DD Mabuza led initiative to advance the idea of a non contest as the solution for December 2017. This idea may be appreciated as that which shows leadership yet it equally attempts to tamper with the fundamental choice and power of the branches as the true power base for deciding on ANC leadership.
One holds the view that an adoption of this practice fuels the power of para – ANC structure colloquially referred to as the ‘premier league’ or ‘chairpersons league’. One also has a challenge that we are led in scripted sense to believe Mpumalanga and in particular its Chairperson DD Mabuza holds the key for the success of elections in 2017. Perhaps the ANC must ask itself why it has this confidence if not resigned trust in this claim? Can we afford to give credence to the notion of a ‘premier league or chairpersons league’ when we detest it as a para- structure?
Will the role of premiers become entrenched as a structure that determines in a usurped fashion the constitutional and rightful roles of branches and what will be the present and future ramifications for this plausible knee jerk response to things the ANC warrants carefully engaging?
Back to the subject of the third option born from a claim of unity and thus the best option. An analysis of the last three ANC presidential elections, in particular 2007, and 2012 shows the idea advanced by some but utterly defeated. In addition we may add the 2016 Tshwane ANC candidacy of Thoko Didiza the third option example if municipal elections.
In the up-run to Polokwane the battle was as contested as now, we had a contest between Mbeki who was running for a third term on a legitimate nomination of a sizeable ANC constituency. On the other hand you had very significant Zuma support defined in varied structures of the ANC immanent in women, youth leagues and tripartite alliance support. At the height of this, Pallo Jordan began to pontificate the doctrine for the alternate candidate in a very divided context.
If memory serves correctly Motlanthe was made this third option regardless to the fact that Motlanthe had no significant support in comparison to Mbeki and Zuma in their own rights. Motlanthe in personal base was therefore compromised for many reasons and simply never held the hope to be a meaningful option in a contest of Mbeki and Zuma. Needless to say regardless to the energy expanded by those who prognosticated this doctrine Motlanthe never actually was in the contest, the results of Polokwane speak for itself. A slate won like before.
En route to Mangaung 2012 there was again a strong division. Public intellectuals like Xolela Mangcu as later discovered for his own economic reasons repeated this doctrine of third option candidacy this time he made Tokyo Sexwale the alternate candidate.
Gauteng Province also swayed by the doctrine of none contest differed from Mangcu and rather opted to lead initiatives to engage KZN for a Motlanthe candidacy to be a natural deputy president should his contest fail. There were again those who delivered homilies on the need to have no contest and to have a third candidate. In that instance as before there was a contest between the incumbent and his deputy Motlanthe. The Mangaung 2012 election results delivered a slate and the deputy President was not the one that contested but one from the winning slate. That’s how Deputy President Ramaphosa became deputy President of the ANC. It was a slate that delivered him and the entire top six.
The 2017 ANC election has a few different dimensions to it. The first new reality is the non-negotiable reality of a woman candidate. This by itself alters the historical realities that for many have become practice and even claimed policy. The reality of a woman candidacy that currently is not part of the top six or a deputy President adds another dimension to this contest.
The second aspect of difference in this contest is the first time in ANC in democracy after Mandela when a sitting president upfront made it clear he will not run for a third term.
Let us pause and reflect, when Mandela handed over to Mbeki the leading of Government business in his second year of leading SA a situation evolved that saw Mbeki leading the Government for the better part of Mandela’s term and his own two terms. At the end of his two terms of being ANC president as afforded by the ANC constitution Mbeki was not ready to retire.
In an earlier opinion I have raised my challenges with Mantashe’s conclusion of ‘ if Ramaphosa He will also struggle not to be read as saying the deputy President position is the male ANC offering to a loud female cry to lead. In the one time when the SG advanced a position immanent in candidates he ventures to assume 2017 must only deliver a man still in charge with a woman as his deputy.
This thinking confuses and misdirects the undeniable reality of an undeniable rival contest between NDZ and Ramaphosa. This contest is so real that if we accept as before the pronouncements on candidacy by the women and youth and veteran, NDZ is the contender to loose. Mantashe therefore invokes the order of a deputy President as sacrosanct and is perhaps conveniently oblivious to the choices of the recognised leagues, which already have pronounced on their choice for number one candidacy. Are we to assume Mantashe does not respect the ANC structures and their respective choices?
The 2017 elections is therefore no ordinary contest given the reality of the candidates in leading and the ANC structures known choices. There has never been an ANC president that was not chosen or supported by the ANC structures. Are we to assume 2017 will be different and that the SACP and COSATU preference will outweigh the ANC structures? From where this comfort of conviction?
Those who advocate for a non-contest refuse to see the two rivals in full bloom in contest and with due significant support. Can we learn anything from the 2016 Tshwane Municipal Elections and its ANC candidacy for mayor contest?
This contest also had a third option candidate, when there was a clear contest. The Gauteng provincial structure felt it would make sense to give heed to the doctrine or heresy of the third option. Violence erupted and Tshwane burnt as local supporters registered their displeasure with the imposed third candidate Thoko Didiza. Since the ANC didn’t want to listen to the local branches in letting their democratic franchise right stand but was attuned to listen to the illogic of provincial leadership, the ANC lost and Didiza is not the mayor of Tshwane. This one act resulted in the DA leading the municipality.
Can we continue to preach a unity anchored in guaranteeing individuals none contested positions in handover fashion when the ANC unity warrants being about its programme of transforming SA from its colonial and apartheid pasts?
Clyde N.S Ramalaine