Sympathy for the Devils? or Humane Relationships vs Personality Cults

“The ANC is not a socialist party. It has never pretended to be one, it has never said it was, and it is not trying to be. It will not become one by decree for the purpose of pleasing its ‘left’ critics.” – Thabo Mbeki, 1984 ( Saul, ‘Cry for the Beloved Country’, in Jacobs and Calland, Thabo Mbeki’s World, pp.27-51)

So tomorrow is South Afrika’s Local Government Elections day. The people of this beautiful and nuanced country are going to be queuing up at all municipalities within every regional district to choose their officials and counselors,  those who would be their public servants for the next five years.The fundamental question being whether the democratic processes or institutions in this country are working for or against the people they are built to serve.

I want to talk more about that process and its merits and demerits within the Southern Afrikan context. I would like to compare what Local Government Elections are in theory and what they actually are in reality.

But for now I am struggling to deal with the insidious presence of the former head of state Mr Thabo Mbeki, his legacy in brief and also why he happens to be so important to the ruling party and also the rising opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. But I want to deal more decisively with his leaderships impact on the lives of ordinary South Afrikans. While many people view him as an intellectual heavyweight who is unparalleled in his party, some view his tenure as one of the most controversial, costly and deleterious of all. In fact Mbeki is both a devil and a demigod to many Southern Afrikans.

Since our aim is to briefly get to the core of why it is dangerous to elevate people to such inglorious status, we shall deal swiftly with the social-political-economic impact of Mbekism. The main point of this essay is to illustrate that the likes of Thabo Mbeki are not as great as we make them out to be. In the words of Nigerias Dr Chinweizu :”In the New South Africa white supremacy and imperialism live on, wearing a mask of black majority government. Just as in the rest of Black Africa, it is @White power behind a black mask.”

The black colonialists of Southern Afrika are not so unintelligent as to not know that dancing with the devils of the West ultimately turns them into ‘sell-outs’, they know exactly what they are doing. Mbeki’s project has always been to please his heroes in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. But let us start at home.

When the African National Congress requested Mbeki’s support during the 2009 Local Government Elections, he unsurprisingly declined, and now 6 years later he has once again turned down the invitation. This is what he wrote to the current President Zuma on October 31, 2009:

“You sent comrades Kgalema Montlante and Gwede Mantashe to inform me that the ANC NEC and our movement in general had lost confidence in me – I therefore could not understand how the same ANC which was so disenchanted with me could, within a forthnight, consider me such a dependable cadre as could be relied upon to promote the political fortunes of the very same movement, the ANC, which I had betrayed in so grave and grievous a manner as to require that I should be removed from the presidency of the republic a mere six to seven months before the end of our term, as mandated by the masses of our people.”

This year Mbeki has declined his party’s cordial ‘invitations’ again, sighting the same reasons as before in addition with the rate of corruption that has apparently increased since he was forced out of office in 2008.

My biggest gripe with Mbeki is that he has cost South Afrika dearly with his forked tongue. He is credited with being one of the foremost modern day Pan-Afrikanists, yet despite his many speeches extolling the greatness of Afrika and the dubious success or impact of his African Renaissance project(s), I cannot see what he has practically done for Black people lately.

In 2005, William Mervin Gumede published what I think is the best biographical testament on the former state president. There are so many insightful paragraphs and observations made by Gumede in this book, that it would take a lot of copying and pasting to simply prove that Mbeki has been more disastrous than both Mandela and Zuma during his two terms in office. While I do not think that Gumede set out to smear the former president with negativity, an unbiased reading clearly shows that even though Mbeki was an economists, his decisions were more counter-revolutionary than progressive, despite the high sounding rhetoric.

Here are some examples: “Mbeki sold GEAR () to business and international financial organizations as a radical shift in the governments economic strategy compelled by a thorough reassessment of its earlier policies. Towards the end of 1996 he told business leaders:’The policies and objectives embedded in GEAR are a pragmatic balance struck between our domestic economic demands and the realities of the international context. These policies and objectives emerged after a thorough analysis of global trends an the specific conditions in our economy…

At the public launch of GEAR, Mbeki goaded the left with his comment:’just call me a Thatcherite.‘  As an analysis, Gumede makes this important point: “In the end, GEAR was remarkably similar to the National Party’s Normative Economic Model, released in 1993. ‘The immediate aim of the GEAR strategy’ wrote Gelb, one of Mbeki’s favorite local economists, ‘ was to signal to potential investors the government’s commitment to the prevailing orthodoxy.’

It is high time we asked the question, what really makes a great leader, and what sets revolutionary leaders apart from the ones who either toe the party-line and never dare to change the world? Whether Mbeki and his version of the ANC is useful in the Afrika’s greater scheme of things, in producing thought leadership and policy that ultimately liberates both the minds and the Land of Africans, time will tell, but as the record stands, we see a leadership that has consciously betrayed its own people.

Gumede adds that, “The document, released in June 1996, was a dramatic departure from the foundations of the RDP. Mbeki and ANC centrists had to get the policy adopted quickly by the ANC, and the left had to be prevented at all costs from trying to dilute the policy. Even while defending GEAR as non-negotiable, Mandela admitted that he’d had no hand in its formulation…Joel Netshitenzhe, who had studied economics at the London University ‘s School of African and Oriental Studies, explained: ‘GEAR was a structural adjustment policy, self-imposed, to stabilise the macroeconomic situation {to deal with } the realities of an unimaginable budget deficit, high interest rates and weak local and foreign investor confidence.” – Mere excuses I say. What is the role of a leader, if he or she does not display resilience and character where it matters the most? If he/she does not use everything he or she is empowered with to send a clear message to the exploiters of the world that we are willing and able to determine our own destiny then of what use is his intelligence. Intelligence at the service of ones enemy is worse than foolishness.

With accuracy and perceptiveness, William Gumede writes, “The ANC has firmly established itself as the party of black business, the black middle class and professionals. It will instinctively place the needs of these groups before those of the slum dwellers, unemployed, rural constituents and the youth, but if the government continues to deliver at a snail’s pace, and the opposition continues to offer no credible alternative, South Africa’s politics will plunge into a morass of radical social movements as the disadvantaged seek salvation outside the formal political structures.”

This is true, but the irony is that just three days ago the leadership of one of these so called radical social movements, the one political party that is campaigning by using the Left-wing rhetoric has visiting Thabo Mbeki for who knows what. The leader of this new party called the Economic Freedom Fighters is former ANC Youth League leader, the rumbustious Julius Malema, who was also instrumental in the removal of Mbeki from highest office a mere 5 years ago.

The spokesperson of the EFF stated that they visited Mbeki in order to canvas his vote ahead of the Local Government Elections and to introduce themselves as leaders of a party which is a ‘significant player in the political space in South Africa.’ He added that the former president walked them out nicely and even gave them hugs. How cute! If such are the types of radical social movements that Gumede had in mind then we are all in deeper trouble than ever. But there is evidence in that in such movements as the Black First Land First headed by Andile Mngxitama, such an alternative is possible.

The latter movement has been very vocal and effective in shining the brilliant light of Black Consciousness for a South Afrikan population that is gullible to  such populist parties as the EFF, which is neither Pan-Afrikanist nor Black Socialist. They may have some policies that sound like they were cut and pasted from the pan-Afrikanist books but anyone who knows anything about Malema is clear that he has never been a pan-Afrikanist, he may speak about Black power, but it does not mean that neither he nor his party have a full grasp of what it takes to achieve this.

If the EFF knew anything about Black power and self determination of Afrikans, they would not go anywhere near Mbeki, but since they are all under the tutelage of London and possibly the payrole of those who seek to continue plundering the resources of this well endowed country, it is no surprise that they are sipping tea with the likes of Mbeki.

In closing it is worth noting the words of Dr Chinweizu as he paraphrases SteveBantu Biko, in his Black Colonialist journal released in 2011 by Andile Mngxitama and co: “Africa South of the Sahara is on its own …African leadership, the coming African leadership, will have to bear that in mind. You are on your own…”

Mostly importantly he adds, “An implication of Julius Nyerere’s advice is for us Black Africans to withdraw from such Afro-Arab outfits as the AU and the US of Africa. and organize our own Blacks only collective outfit to solve our peculiar problems.” ( New Frank Talk: Critical Essays On The Black Condition: Black Colonialists: the root of the trouble in Africa, by Dr Chinweizu, http://newfranktalk.book.co.za )

It is also vital that you get hold of Volume 2 of New Frank Talk, titled From Mbeki to Zuma: What is the Difference? by Andile Mngxitama.

Such publications are so rare in a country that requires even more radical and progressive thinking. But in the absence of such publications and other thinkers who are brave enough to call things as they are, we will really descend into a Banana republic and the Black person may take a longer time to recover from the re-colonization which our presidents have allowed and facilitated.

 

 

 

 

 

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