Opinionista Rhulani Thembi Siweya 19 September 2017

Alternative candidates are decoy vehicles but there’s time to redeem yourselves

When the classical Greek philosopher Plato uttered the words: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”, you would swear he was observing modern-day factional ruses by comrades within the ANC.

We are worryingly see leaders, many of whom we have looked up to, dreading the light. The ANC currently has a president who has served two full terms. Prior to his current deployment he was the deputy president and true to the congress traditions progressed to the next logical step by being elected president of the ANC in 2007. That is the light.

Selective vision towards the light is now creeping in. Alternatives are being sought while we have an articulate, disciplined, loyal, competent and qualified deputy president Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. They detest the light so much that they see fit to suggest a male candidate as an alternative to a presidential race – forgetting that their campaign has been modelled around the ascendency of women.

This latest manoeuvre of alternatives reminds me of a conversation I overheard among comrades in the North West province recently when they questioned what in their view appears to be an unwritten rule that our congress movement will only be led – particularly at the level of president – by comrades from coastal provinces. I dismissed their line of thought. But driving back it dawned on me that their lack of sophistication does not completely nullify their observation when the likes of comrade Zweli Mkhize would allow themselves to be touted as “alternatives” despite their full knowledge of logical progression.

The irony of this alternative candidacy posture by Mkhize is located in his recent press statement clarifying his intimate knowledge of the circumstances around comrade Zuma’s rape charges saga. Knowing what he knew then, why did he not champion a path for an alternative candidate ahead of the 2007 ANC elective conference? Was it because of his blind loyalty to the man then, or the coastal element as purported by the North West comrades cited above?

We need leaders such as comrade Mkhize to walk the talk. To debunk and distance themselves from all narrow factional agendas masquerading as patchwork unifiers while the movement bleeds profusely. Are we not able to allow ourselves to be led by a deserving candidate regardless of tribal persuasions? The conversation around having an uncontested presidential arrangement in December will not have gravitas unless it follows the prescripts of logical progression. It is time to give a woman comrade an opportunity to serve as deputy president and entrench her stature towards succeeding comrade Cyril Ramaphosa when the right time comes.

True to the spirit of breaking tradition or at the very least recent practice, comrades even want to opportunistically mushroom candidates currently not serving within the ANC presidency straight to being the president of our movement. Such has never occurred from as far back as the presidency of Nkosi Albert Luthuli.

All these were strong and valid arguments advanced in 2007 ahead of the Polokwane conference when the odds seemed stacked against comrade Zuma. Is it too difficult to employ some degree of consistency and support the rightful successor – comrade Cyril Ramaphosa – in this regard?

International educationalist Elizabeth Lesser best argued: “I know that if we allow ourselves into the gridlock of tribalism, we’re in trouble.” May this trouble not find expression nor space in our politics and we rather invest all these energies towards retracing the moral grounding of the ANC within the masses of our people.

The ANC was formed by a collective of leaders, of wide ethnic origin representing the true spread of our country. That is what we need to see reflecting as the legitimate outcome of our December 2017 elective conference.

Comrade Mkhize and the chorus of all other alternative voices, an opportunity to redeem yourselves still exists. Let history not remember you as decoy vehicles – synonymous with those used by thugs to deflect attention in a cash in-transit robbery. DM

Rhulani Thembi Siweya is an ANCYL NEC , Founder of Africa Unmasked and writes in her personal capacity

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