South Africa finds itself at crossroads, where the country’s destiny can be shaped by the leadership that takes over the ruling party and the direction it takes. The African National Congress as a ruling party, finds itself immersed in a protracted internal battle, that has seen even former leaders get themselves involved in these factional battles under the auspices of providing their analysis as seen my former President Thabo Mbeki’s Monday letters. Our erstwhile statesman recently penned down an opinion piece where he weighs in on the obligation of Members of Parliament, especially in light of the tabled Motion of No Confidence on President Jacob Zuma. The timing of the view, is not only suspicious but the implicitly expressed opinion by the former President, reveal to what an extent, the struggle for power in the ruling party is willing to go. To have a former Party and state President express their view on their successor is unprecedented. It is a sign that, 2007 Polokwane Conference never died with memory.
Pres Mbeki, argues in his piece, whose view, was later ‘clarified’ by his foundation’s CEO, Max Boqwana, that in essence, the MPs are not obliged to vote in accordance to the directives of the parties that deploy them. This, he does by citing the obligations and oath taken by MPs upon their entrance in parliament. He further draws an imaginary dichotomy between the members of society that vote a party into power and the will of this electorate as expressed by their votes in the leadership of the party they voted. To Mbeki, MPs of Parliament are not voted in by their parties but the electorate, who according to his logic, are not the same people that voted for the said parties. He applies a logic bereft of the knowledge of the mechanism and complexities involved in how a Proportiobal Representation-system’s national assembly is constituted.
Mbeki deliberately but tacitly implies and lifts the prerogative of MPs to defy party directives under the auspices of their deployment not being through the will of their party, instead it being through the will of the electorate, whom according to him, are not the same people that bestow the power to deploy, on the same party he arguess MPs do not represent. The erstwhile leader asks the question: ‘Is it possible that there might be particular circumstances‚ and particular issues‚ when I consider that the interests of the Party and those of the people coincide‚ and what actions should I take in this context?’ Taken at face value, the above question seems apt and harmless, however at its essence is the suggestion that the interests of the party that is voted into power through a popular vote by the people, are not mutually inclusive to the interests of the same people. Except only through coincidence.
Another interesting argument brought forth by the former President, is the assertion that the will of the electorate ought to be homogenous, which throws scorn on the beauty of diversity multiparty democracy brings. By trying to reconcile the obligations of MPs outside the will of the party that deploys them through the power bestowed on it by the electorate, President Mbeki is at pains to justify his implicit urging of potential renegade ANC’s MPs to vote in defiance to the party directive, so long their defiance is in the interests of this imaginary electorate, different from the one that bestowed power on the said party and its leadership.
President Mbeki, a product of the African National Congress, whose political education was steeped and driven by the principles of Democratic Centralism, vaciliates between amnesia and muteness. The former statesman neglects the constitutional structuring of a party that made him, abandons its principles of Democratic centralism, that stipulates that political decisions reached by the party (through its democratically elected bodies) are binding upon all members of the party. He seems to suggest a dichotomy between the party and its electorate. He strangely forgets that the ruling party has furnished itself on the people of this land and that in fact, the spirit embodied by the people and party members guides the conduct and posture taken by the party.
One last interesting aspect of Mbeki’s argument is his undefined use of the term, people. They are presented here by him as an abstract entity or phenomenon, whose reality is not steeped in the concrete reality. The people, to borrow from the great Guinea-Bissau’s revolutionary son, Amilcar Cabral, the people are seen in light of their history, are defined according to the historical moment in which the land is experiencing, and want what corresponds to the fundamental necessity of the history of our land. As it stands the ruling party through its President, has began echoing sentiments of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and Robert Sobukwe et al. To expropriate land without compensation, to radically transform the economy in the interests of the people.
All the above make Thabo Mbeki’s view both bizzare and misplaced. It is evident that his view is shrouded with hypocrisy and a greater wish to perpetuate the misery of our people at the hands of White Monopoly Capital. After all, this is a man who had a tow-thirds majority yet did nothing to represent the interests of the people and show his newly found love for them and their interests.