When the new leadership of the African National Congress was elected in Polokwane last year, President Thabo Mbeki and his disciples were told their time was up.
Although Mbeki holds no position within the ANC, he is still the country’s president and an ex-officio member of the National Executive Committee (NEC). This means that he, and not the leadership of the party, is still officially in charge of the government.
When the ANC members came back from Polokwane and against (arguably) the biggest opposition yet from his own party, Mbeki went ahead and appointed an SABC board under dubious circumstances.
Apparently, Tony Yengeni’s wife, Lumka, was one of the biggest critics of the proposed board during the ANC’s closed caucus meeting on the matter. One of Mbeki’s lead disciples, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, is said to have shoved the list of Mbeki’s preferred board members down ANC MPs’ throats. Notable names that were rejected by most of the caucus were Mbeki’s former spokesperson Bheki Khumalo and former board chairperson Christine Qunta — understandably so.
One has to look at the ping pong game that Mbeki’s SABC board has been playing with Dali Mpofu and his management team while there has been deafening silence from Mbeki and the ANC. Are the two entities waiting for a fist fight before intervening? Another example is the recent xenophobic attacks on African nationals by South Africans and the lack of political will Mbeki has had to deal with the matter.
For a party that is an omnibus as the ANC is, major decisions are taken at caucus level, be it at local, provincial or national levels and then the mayor, provincial premier or the president owns the caucus decision and implements it accordingly. Instead, Mbeki has pacified the new leadership, while not recognising it at all.
More shocking is the inability of the new leadership to deal with Mbeki’s blunt refusal to toe the party line. It seems that the leadership is clueless on how to deal with the man.
A lot has been said about how much damage removing Mbeki from his position before the end of his term could do to the country and the economy but what could do more damage to the country or its economy than what Mbeki has already inflicted and continues to inflict on it?
The leadership seems to be scared of him as it takes different positions from the man on issues like Zimbabwe, yet Mbeki continues as he wishes on these issues without being led by party positions. One would think Mbeki represents a different political party in Parliament and not the ANC.
Perhaps responsibility for the damage that has been done to the country should be laid at the feet of the leadership as it has continued to stand on the sidelines and watch. The new leadership is nothing short of a pitbull terrier with an intimidating bark but with no teeth.