Steadying the ship of democracyComment on this story
This is the beginning of a pragmatic journey steered through potentially destructive currents as the new government ensures delivery, writes Mzwanele Mayekiso.
The swearing of the presidential oath by incumbent Jacob Zuma and his subsequent appointment of his new cabinet executive team were sure signs of the conclusion of
the five-yearly ritual of democratic activity in which the constitution allows the citizen to assess the performance of government as well as the party in charge – and
provide a fresh mandate through the electoral process.
It marked the beginning of a hard slog of pragmatism as the electoral platform upon which the ANC was re-elected requires implementation.
The selection of the cabinet signalled Zuma’s plans for his second and last term in office, a period upon which his legacy and memory might hinge, although his 1st term
created a foundation for it.
His choice of cabinet is a mixed bag of experience, continuity and a balancing act to satisfy the various political strands in the movement.
The period is geared for serious service delivery and the strengthening of institutions of governance, as communities appear to be restive, although they did give the ANC a
political mandate to continue with the process of transformation and economic development.
The appointment of premiers is an interesting development given the limited appearance of females at this level. It is more like exclusion by gender as there is only one woman premier, Silvia Lucas of the Northern Cape, contradicting the cabinet appointments as the female-to-male ratio is almost equal for ministers and deputy ministers, perhaps making up for the gender
bias in the selection of provincial premiers.
The de-escalation from the previous record of female to male equity balance creates a serious discourse about whether the ANC is going back on its commitment to
The reason given is that of balancing the debilitating power tension between the premiers and the ANC chairpersons when the premier is not the chairperson of the
ANC provincial structure because it would create two centres of power.
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize was quoted in Business Day positing that the “two centres of power had been a key weakness” in governance and in the ANC.
While this assessment is critical and correct, it is not addressing the essential crisis that confronts our movement, which is that of rampant
factionalism – not on the basis of ideological differences but on the basis of one group accessing power to dispense patronage and for selfaggrandisement,
which encumbers the ability of the ANC to advance in governance and transformation.
Similarly, the idea that we can address the problem of corruption by centralising the tendering process may not necessarily solve the inherent predicament created by
the new culture of accumulation at the expense of social transformation and development.
The main challenge that confronts us post-election is the adherence to the principle of good governance and commitment to social transformation which requires a new mindset or rather going back to
the basics of why we are in power.
The big elephant in the room is the culture of self-enrichment that has supplanted that of political collectivism and commitment to duty and service for the greater good of social transformation.
In essence, it shouldn’t matter that while “Sibanyoni” is the chair or president of the movement because of inherent qualities identified at the point of election; and
that “Nokuzola” is appointed to be a premier or president of the republic, because ideally the two posts aren’t and shouldn’t be connected as the qualities required are
different and individually critical to our democracy.
One is the ability to appeal to the core base of the ANC to build and strengthen the organisation at this level, while the second one is the appeal to the broader public of the
country so that a different set of leadership qualities and abilities may be required.
And contestation within the organisation could allow for the emergence of a candidate befitting the post but that Sibanyoni and Nokuzola and so forth could put
their hats in the ring competing to represent the ANC at this higher level as both are products of the ANC political culture.
The two centres of power puzzle becomes moot in this case as the political science of sifting quality from chaff is addressed as opposed to one faction capturing an organisational
power base and from there automatically advancing to local, provincial and national government power without proving the veracity of their leadership quality at this level, and while excluding other
experienced actors because they belong to a different faction.
The appointment of David Makhura as Gauteng premier is critical on one score, that he indeed is a very disciplined cadre of the movement.
He also qualifies for the post because of his erudite political and educational qualities – but most of all he is a humble activist, which is the kind of leader the ANC requires who can develop a broad appeal to the public as well as the various factions of the party.
It is also instructive that Makhura is not chairman of the ANC in Gauteng, as the position is held by Paul Mashatile, who has been dropped from the cabinet.
If both Makhura and Mashatile lack the traditional collective leadership qualities of the movement – trouble is assured as both are individuals and independent thinkers
who may not necessarily belong to one faction, but the ANC as a whole and might harbour different interests.
So, the two centres of power equation is still applicable in Gauteng – also because the political dynamic that has always existed between the chairperson/president
and provincial secretaries/secretaries-general is legendary and habitual in the organisation, coupled with that of individual egos become rampant as opposed to the
organisational culture and its collectivist approach.
So it cannot be assumed that Makhura and Mashatile belong to one faction, since former premier Nomvula Mokonyane was presumed to belong to the so-called
Zuma faction; the assumption of the two centres of power in Gauteng is still applicable but this doesn’t give credence to the plausibility of tensions as a logical consequence.
But central to this appointment is proof of a quality available in abundance in our movement, that of leaders who are always part of a political collective, not a faction,
cabal or cartel, and Makhura is that kind of leader and maybe, just maybe, the crisis of two centres of power will not be an issue, but organisational decisions will be
the driving force of governance in Gauteng.
The appointment of Phumullo Masualle in the Eastern Cape is important, as he is a typical ANC cultural product whose humility and political sophistication is
reminiscent of the history of the organisation and the type of cadre our movement requires as we move forward.
And, like Makhura, Masualle is an organisational man, one who is driven by the principles and ethos of the ANC.
The growth of the ANC after the destruction wrought by the 2009 Polokwane conference was more acute in the Eastern Cape than anywhere else in the country and he
steadied the ANC ship and gingerly navigated it away from heavy currents while nurturing and rebuilding the organisation from scratch.
The ANC is more coherent and speaking with one voice perhaps after deliberations because of the dynamism of collectivist political engagement, which continues to
define the robust nature of the movement in this area.
The appointment of Supra Mahumapelo in North West is perhaps what the ANC needed to do in this province because of the fractious nature of the organisation
Mahumapelo appears to have a broad appeal within the organisation, though there are factional issues that can be addressed by a leader with an agenda of rebuilding
the ANC rather than pushing differing views away from the party as this can ultimately only weaken the organisation.
Differing viewpoints without ideological distinction shouldn’t be seen as necessarily infectious to the life of the organisation as it is only when they take an organisational
form that they become a direct threat.
But in so far as people coalesce around common themes to influence the direction of the movement, that is and should be seen as healthy and progressive and within the
ambit of the cultural norms of our movement.
The appointment of female premiers should also not be utilised to carry on a factional and male hold on power as this can weaken the development of the organisation
or rather the ability of government to deliver services and transform society.
It could also retard the growth and exposition of the potential quality of female leadership if female leadership becomes an extension of patriarchal and political tendencies,
and maybe the organic growth of female leadership in our movement should be encouraged so that female leaders are not indebted to male counterparts through the 50/50 gender
split which is a genuine attempt to ensure equal gender representation in all spheres of life.
But there should also be an organic programme in which society is socialised and conscientised to the need for equality between the sexes so that it is not a political
imposition, but a structured development.
It is perhaps a political paradox that in KZN, a supposedly strictly patriarchal society, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is a leader of the National Freedom Party in her own
right and apparently elected because of her leadership qualities and not because of her gender.
Also Helen Zille of the DA and Mamphela Ramphele of Agang are other examples of women elected on the strength of political eminence and not so much on the basis of
redress and extension, hopefully, of male power.
These examples confirm that society is not as backward and patriarchal as defined in Social Studies literature, as these individuals are equal to the challenges of leadership
and any mistakes potentially made are just standard and cut across the gender divide and political organisations.
On balance, the Zuma administration could deliver appropriately on the electoral promises given the experience, maturity and integrity of those appointed.
Although the two centres of power argument has been elliptically addressed by appointing chairpersons of ANC provinces to the premier posts except for Gauteng and the Northern Cape.
It confirms the commitment to creating a political balance so that services could be delivered without the instability of factions undermining a premier who is not party
chairperson and may provide a temporary respite.
The gender balance has however been critically affected, opening up another faultline in the political process, but perhaps mitigated by the almost gender equal appointments
at national level.
So far so good and, as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!
* Mayekiso is CEO of the iKwezi Institute.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.