ANC a true reflection of practical democracy and political stability
While it is a cliché that politicians are like diapers and must be changed at the right time, in the case of South Africa, the tenets of democracy have guaranteed the cleanliness of the diapers and all has been well to date because those who have returned to office have done so in peace and election results have not been sat upon, challenged or delayed in release. President Jacob Zuma’s re-election to ANC Presidency in the face of a stiff challenge for the seat by his right hand man Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe this week deserves recognition and an accolade.
Not only did Motlanthe challenge Zuma for the top post in ANC, a position that by default makes one the President of South Africa; he also graciously accepted defeat as he continues to serve as Deputy President of South Africa until 2014 if he so wishes.
As a political party, ANC has managed to show other liberation movements and labour movements in the region that leadership renewal is not a taboo but a natural and necessary process.
Prophets of doom had predicted chaos at the ANC’s 53rd national elective conference as Montlanthe decided to stand against Zuma for the top post in ANC. Why? It’s unusual and effectively uncomfortable for an incumbent President of a political party to be challenged even within the so called ‘democratic movements’.
ANC’s leadership renewal and open democratic electoral system is foreign even among the democratically holier than thou political parties like MDC-T not to mention fiefdoms like ZANU PF.
Nevertheless there are lessons that Zimbabwe’s political parties can learn from ANC leadership renewal from the days of John Dube (1912-1917) to the leadership of the likes of Luthuli, Mandela.
Whilst the recent election did not lead to a change at top leadership post of ANC, the fact that Kgalema Motlanthe contested against the incumbent President of the party and country for control of ANC is significant and a good precedent for democracy at party level and national politics.
Also, one major aspect worth to take note of is that Zuma’s victory does not give him diplomatic immunity to act as he pleases. Zuma can be recalled just as Thabo Mbeki was recalled from the top post as South Africa’s president according to the party Constitution. Such is the power of a people-led political organisation, a side of the political coin that is still foreign to Zimbabwe’s political parties.
In Zimbabwe we toss Heads only.
In ZANU PF an attempt to challenge Mugabe for party Presidency would definitely lead to bloodshed and purging on an unprecedented scale. Such change or leadership contests have been resisted by parties that regard themselves as stalwarts for democracy. like MDC.
It is common knowledge now that the unexpected MDC split in 2005 was due to internal disgruntlement and conflict of interests from within the party. It is also an open secret that those with ambitions to challenge Tsvangirai for MDC-T leadership fear the consequences of retribution, blackmail or possible victimization within a ‘democratic’ organization. One can easily be blacklisted as a dissident and flushed out of the party structures without consequences. Such scenes nearly manifested themselves in the last MDC-T congress in Bulawayo which was marred by violence, a generic trademark of Zimbabwe’s political parties. Also the 2009 secret amendment of MDC-T party’s constitution to extend the term of the post of President from two consecutive terms to being ‘tailor-made’ to Tsvangirai’s pleasure could have left a number disappointed.
It is that ugly monster, ‘God Father’ like self-traits that engulfs Zimbabwe’s political party leaders making them larger than life individuals that turn parties into cults that religiously follow leaders’ commands. Such traits also manifested themselves in Arthur Mutambara as he resisted a democratic ouster by Welshman Ncube an event that led to another split as he selfishly believed himself to be larger than the organisation he represented.
Such traits are endemic and entrenched through Mugabe who has been in power for 32 years and has no signs of wanting to go anywhere despite his old age. Acting through contagious activity, he has now remotely rubbed off such acts of clinging on to power to Tsvangirai and Mutambara in double-portions and they promise to go that route. Their conduct and behavior has generally demonstrated a determination to keep hanging on for a while. As can be noted in Zimbabwe, it is easier during the campaign phase to promise to be democratic and serve on limited office terms. Once in it becomes a different story. The taste of power makes a leader behave like he is a permanent fixture to the seat and will keep inventing means and ways to protect his power as he deals with any dissenting views to suppress them through witch-hunting activities.
But the golden question remains: Are Zimbabwe’s political parties learning anything from across Limpopo? If so, how do they show for it?