The lessons from Makhosi Khoza’s political demise

African Democratic Change leaders at the launch of the new political party. Left: Feziwe Ndwayana (spokesperson), Dr Makhosi Khoza (founder and president) and fundraiser Isaac Shongwe. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ANA

African Democratic Change leaders at the launch of the new political party. Left: Feziwe Ndwayana (spokesperson), Dr Makhosi Khoza (founder and president) and fundraiser Isaac Shongwe. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ANA

Published Apr 22, 2018


Johannesburg - The resignation of Makhosi Khoza this weekend is a painful reminder that party politics is not the answer to the challenges facing South Africa. 

Khoza was a "golden girl" in Parliament, making all the right noises about what the role of MPs must be regardless of their political affiliation. 

She rose to prominence in the KZN politics where her feisty nature earned her enemies.  But her prominence was more pronounced when she led the charge in various parliamentary inquiries especially the inquiry into the mess at the SABC. 

Her prominence meant that she challenged the established habit of sunshine questions to ANC ministers – a process that did not encourage accountability. 

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Khoza changed this narrative and many more MPs were set to follow. 

Her brand of MP behaviour earned her new enemies who sided with rogue MPs like Faith Muthambi, who would not be held accountable as she believed that the MPs were beneath them. Unfortunately, the rogue elements emerged victorious and pushed her out. 

She was also under pressure from the party when she led the charge against former or president Jacob Zuma – encouraging MPs to vote against Zuma in a motion of no confidence that saw many ANC MPs voting outside the party line. This set a huge precedent ahead of the Nasrec conference and began to show a shift in the ANC.  

Her role within the political system became untenable because few joined her in being vocal against the rot in the ANC.  She increasingly became a lone voice. 

And this is the trouble about party politics – that people need a safe space to articulate that which will not have dire consequences for them. 

Her resignation from the ANC was soon forgotten. We were reminded of her existence again when she hurriedly launched a party that seemed to fashion itself on ANC heritage, symbols and even policies. This made her lose huge credibility as people wondered what the pressure to launch a half-baked party was all about. 

The use of ANC symbols was probably the worst miscalculation on her part and took attention away from what what the party stood for and what her real reasons for forming a part was all about. 

The party was quickly off the radar and few have paid attention to it. Before we knew it there were accusations and counter accusations that were akin to the collapse of both Cope and Agang. All these parties inherited habits from the ruling party both is substance and in form.

In substance there was nothing discernable about the policies that could distinguish it from the ruling party. The membership was also remnants of people with a traditional alignment or membership of the ANC.  The form, the mannerisms, the symbolism, the heritage were also screaming ANC lite!  This was a death before the birth of anything inspiring, anything new. 

Another parallel was with that of the moribund Agang. The nature of the embarrassing squabbles there gave a sense that Mamphela Ramphele behaved like the ANC leaders she was criticising. She did not pay salaries to her workers and moved far ahead of her own troops in toenadering with the DA without a proper mandate. Allegations of the mismanagement of funds were already flying around. 

Mamphela’s reputation is now in tatters because she has left a trail of destruction and has left dreams of a alternative deferred. 

It is said that she went on to form yet another failing NGO called ReimagineSA, where she plagiarised work done by that organisation to produce her latest book claiming to be her own ideas. 

I am mentioning this sorry story not because I don't love Ramphele, but because I was her biggest fan when she was a voice of civil society – she made  a blunder like Makhosi did by going the part political route instead of reimagining societal impact outside a party political system. Clearly she went on to be corrupted by politics if her latest plagiarism of the work of ReimagineSA was anything to go by. 

Those who worked with her at Agang have nothing flattering to say about her and her shortcut to the Presidency through the DA leaves much more to be desired. 

Makhosi Khoza made the same big mistake and now she will battle to pick up her reputation and to be ever taken seriously on  a national platform – much like Terror Lekota and Ramphele. They are all on the periphery because of the belief that party politics is the solution to our challenges. This is a flaw in our body politic. 

The most effective interventions in the new South Africa have been through civil society actions more than political platforms. 

The opposition parties have largely failed to cause policy changes in the trajectory of government inertia. Who can forget the biggest policy shift of the last decade where government was forced by TAC as a civil society body to respond to the tragedy of HIV/Aids. On two occasions the civil society body went to court to force the distribution of Nevarapin and ARVs. 

Lately the civil society bodies such as AfriForum and Freedom Under Law determine the pulse of national agenda. I believe that their impact is way more than what opposition parties have achieved. 

Politics have wasted the talents of leading lights like Ramphele and Khoza and the retirement of both from active politics may well be a boon to our country if they don't choose to be lost to our national life. Their stories while different have a similar lessons that the time to put everything in the basket of party politics has expired and the future of the country lies in the hands of civil society, in other words a hunger to do things for ourselves rather than an overreliance on politicians. 

Finally it will be curious – given the personality-driven party politics to see whether African Democratic Change (ADeC) will go the way of Agang into oblivion or whether those that have remained behind will pick up the pieces. 

* Keswa is a businesswoman and writes in her personal capacity. Follow her on Twitter: @lebokeswa 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media. 

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