The war for the heart and soul of the African National Congress continues to be a bitter hidden series of political battles. One insider told me “The blood is knee deep in meetings.” For me, it all began with the televised firing of South African deputy president Jacob Zuma three years ago for bribery taints. Then we had the various appearances of the supposedly disgraced Zuma. Watching JZ do his “Bring me my machine gun” song & dance, was a lot better than the Mbeki stiffness.
It seemed to climax in the vengeful and fitting fall of President Thabo Mbeki at the quite amazing Polokwane conference. A most telling moment for me was when the Communist party leader Blade Nzimande came on stage to congratulate Zuma.After the obligatory comradely hug, Blade gave Jacob a pleading look to not be betrayed after throwing the Communists support behind JZ; yet Blade’s expression told of a rather pathetic knowledge of the treachery sure to come. The Communist Party have long been the junior partner and whipping dogs of the Tripartite alliance as the allegedly socialist ANC has become a champion of unbridled capitalism.
And then came the judgment in Pietemaritzburg that let JZ off the hook, for now. Judge Nicholson went so far as to speak of Zuma’s firing as immoral and unfair, that there may well have been a cabinet and presidential conspiracy against Zuma.
Then came Mbeki’s farewell speech to the nation. I was watching it an Italian restaurant in an upmarket Soweto mall. Despite the table of journos I was with turning the volume as high as MTV Base, not one of the other patrons did more than glance up. One of my companions optimistically went to a table where a middle aged man was opening a bottle of champagne – ‘Is it for Mbeki’s departure?’ ‘Yes, we are celebrating!’ then the man laughed and confessed that actually it was his birthday that they were drinking to…… The only other patrons watching the screen – a brace of young professional women next to us – confided that she sms’d a friend that she ‘just wanted to give Mbeki a hug, he looked so sad.’
A presser at ANC HQ, Luthuli House, was swiftly held to tell us how loyal and disciplined a comrade Thabo Mbeki was. And that he would soon be redeployed, but Mbeki had filed with the Constitutional Court to have the Judge’s remarks about a conspiracy set aside. And would he be a part of the whispered ANC breakaway?
As the purge of Mbeki loyalists spreads, a fightback has began. Or is it a split in Africa’s oldest party? This became incarnate when yet another press conference featured the ever-pugnacious Mosiuoa Terror Lekota. Terror was chairperson of the ANC until Polokwane, and former Minister of Defence until his boss got recalled and he resigned. He was flanked by Mluleke George, his former deputy at the ministry. To one side was Willie Madisha, a former union leader famous for the bin liners of cash donations he said he gave Blade Nzimande and which subsequently disappeared. He was sitting to one side, rather a sad figure,despite the heroic beard.
A week is certainly a long time in SA politics, so I await for the next presser eagerly