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Makhosi Khoza: Frustrated by democracy and unable to dig deeper

Yonela Diko is currently the Spokesperson of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape. Prior to assuming his role in the ANC, he worked in various companies in the private sector. Between 2007-2009 he worked for one of the Leading Retirement Fund Companies, NBC Holdings as an Employee Benefits Consultant. After that he joined the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development (CSID), an Economic Research Unit housed under the School of Economics at Wits University. He did his BCom degree at the University of Cape Town majoring in Economics.

How has comrade Makhosi Khoza, who holds views that are commonsense and widely shared, been unable to convince just 100 NEC members and 249 MPs to follow her noble views? I am puzzled by how seemingly content Khoza is with the righteousness of her views and the dominance of those views in the public discourse, even as she has been unable to convert them into meaningful votes that can bring the change that is widely desired. Khoza, of course, is not a member of the NEC which is the ANC’s highest decision-making body in between conferences, so her influence there is limited. The same of course can be said of President Jacob Zuma, who is not an MP and therefore not a member of the ANC Caucus. Both, therefore, have to dig deeper to get results.

The first obstacle against Makhosi Khoza getting her way is that she slices and dices comrades according to corruption – as though it’s the fountainhead of all their actions. It is in fact possible that over 90% of current ANC leaders belong in orange overalls, as Khoza claims. But the problem is that people make a thousand decisions on any given day, and 90% of those acts have nothing to do with corruption.

If Khoza is unable to acknowledge that some acts of these leaders, if not most acts – like MPs who teach music lessons to the kids in their constituencies, ANC leaders who have free fitness and running clubs in the communities, ANC leaders and members of the executive who make daily sacrifices to others – are something that binds her with them, then she loses capacity to appeal to the good in people and is thus rejecting them. In order to make an anti-corruption and/or anti-Zuma vote succeed, she needs these people to reject this evil.

When Makhosi does not acknowledge so much good she shares with her fellow comrades, including with Zuma, when she does not acknowledge that like any other fellow human being Zuma and his supporters are a combination of strengths and weaknesses, good and evil, vulnerabilities (to corruption) but also moments of standing up against it, she is throwing away the tools she needs to win the war on corruption.

At a basic level this is how all human beings live their lives. If you went to Zuma and his supporters and said, “I think your government has largely solved the HIV/AIDS problem, I also think you have completely solved the energy crisis brought by previous governments’ inability to plan for the future, but you have also led and allowed the most rampant corruption of a government since the dawn of democracy”, I think Zuma’s supporters at least, as all other human beings, will acknowledge the successes and also be ashamed (instead of being defensive) of the evils of corruption. Khoza’s demagogue approach that seems to be all emotion and sentiment, is not real and has never succeeded anywhere except behind a computer and microphone.

To acknowledge the things that people have done right gives you a personality that is more than a one-cause mission that exists in a vacuum.

Looking at it differently, many comrades in the Western Cape do not like comrade Derek Hanekom as an NEC member deployed in Western Cape. They find him biased, with a preferred leadership collective which he is willing to help win regions and the province, and others whom he gives a pass from their misdemeanours from or through a National Disciplinary Committee (NDC), which he chairs. This of course is probably not true but it sums up Hanekom in the eyes of some Western Cape leaders. So it does not matter how much Hanekom can champion the anti-Zuma corruption and how right he can be, he has long lost these Western Cape comrades’ support in anything he does because they find him dishonest and unlike a comrade on many other matters. So it’s a case of people possibly agreeing with the product you are selling but rejecting it because of who you are. People are just made that way.

Khoza has no personality outside her anti-Zuma campaign. Her whole career has been launched with a posture of holding the executive accountable, tilting towards an outright anti-executive populist stance. As much as most MPs think holding the executive accountable is the most important part of their work, research has shown that most people think the work MPs do in their constituencies is the most important, not working inside Parliament.

So Khoza neither exists in the constituency space as a force nor has she sung the praises of her comrades when those praises are due, so it’s not clear where following her on her anti-corruption crusade would lead one to.

This is where Zuma has outsmarted most anti-Zuma voices. Not many people are going to follow SaveSA in their anti-corruption march because they have no personality outside this anti-Zuma posture. In fact, they are silent on most things. All Zuma and his supporters will do is ask, who is this SaveSA and what really are their true intentions? Who is Wayne Duvenage, what is his agenda in forming OUTA. Is OUTA yet another organisation (white-funded and black-led) that seeks to preserve white privilege by using a black face to fight a black government? There is no person, no track record of any other battle in the country, except a black woman as its front line.

Suddenly we pause because doubt has been cast on an organisation and its leaders who have no personality or track record. Whether it’s racism, private sector corruption, executive pay, minimum wage, unfair labour practices, Khoza’s voice is not there? So what is she really about? The moment doubt is cast, people are reluctant to follow. You have heard the saying that people do not buy what you are selling, they buy you, the person.

Many people have tried to criticise Cyril Ramaphosa for remaining Zuma’s deputy and still claiming not to to be part of the mess. If one listens to Ramaphosa carefully, with the example being when asked if Bell Potinger did any work for the ANC, Ramaphosa made it clear that in all the meetings he is in, ANC officials meetings, Cabinets meetings, NWC or NEC, no decision is ever taken to advance corruption or to do any wrong deed. This is true because decisions on corruption are always taken in informal structures at undisclosed locations. This means it is possible to be part of government that is trying its best to lead but is undermined by decisions of informal (and none existing) structures where Ramaphosa does not sit. When you don’t acknowledge that there is a lot of good work being done in formal structures, you are not only being unreal, you are kicking those who do so much honest work in formal structures to the kerb. Yet they are the potential allies to dismantle these informal structures.

Then there was Zuma’s masterstroke, that is Radical Economic Transformation. The ability to tie up RET as a black cause and his own in one. This joining together has created a false choice that if you reject Zuma, for whatever reason, then you are also rejecting RET as this is something he is championing. It is hard for black people to turn their backs on RET, making it hard for them to turn their backs on whoever is championing it. So you can reject Zuma for corruption and even reject him for his personal lapses in judgement, but after that you will still be black and still playing second tier in every aspect of your country.

This has split the black vote, especially the black middle-class vote, which daily experiences being undermined and doubted in corporate boardrooms.

If Comrade Khoza is happy to be content with the rightness of her views and trending on Twitter and making speeches at selected venues and TV appearances while losing the contest, then she has failed the democratic project.

Ultimately though, democracy is not about how right or noble your ideas or views are, it is about whether you can convince the majority. If Zuma gives people Cabinet posts, pays them money, or threatens them in order to have that majority, and wins every other time, then he has mastered how democracy works. Democracy does not mean a dictatorship of views, however right these views may be. DM


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