(Photo: file, AFP)
weekend was filled with many commemorations. On Sunday it was 21 years since
the adoption of our Constitution. It was also 33 years since Archbishop Desmond
Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize.
recording of our beloved Arch giving the acceptance speech in December 1984 brought
me close to tears. It was of course still during the height of apartheid, with
a state of emergency about to be declared.
so much younger and full of energy, told a few jokes as he always does. Yet,
his anger against the destruction of humanity caused by that system shone
through his speech.
time, there seemed little hope that apartheid was ever going to fall. I could
not help wondering what the Arch would have said if he had known that 10 years
later, we would have a new Constitution, a democratically elected Parliament
with people such as Joe Slovo, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, and that Nelson
Mandela would be our president. I am sure he would have given one of his joyous
laughs and little dances.
But I also
wondered whether he would have believed that 23 years later he would despair again.
That he would yet again be called upon to be the moral voice and that the same organisation
that once produced Madiba would vilify him for criticising the corruption,
neglect of the people of the country and abuses of human rights that they had
become part of. I doubt that he would have believed it.
In two days
the country will hold its breath as the ANC decides, not only on its next
leader, but also the future of our country. We will finally know which faction is
to win the soul of this once majestic liberation movement.
I am not
someone who scares easily. But I am scared. Very scared.
so many people (also in the ANC) say that it doesn’t matter any more who wins,
I think it does. A lot.
delegates at Nasrec will have to choose between the true values of the ANC or a
valueless zero sum game. A choice between non-racialism and an increase in
racial tensions, between economic growth and further decline, and between hope
and despair for the majority of people in the country.
Two events happening
simultaneously this past Saturday seem to symbolise these choices very clearly.
The one was the funeral of Robben Islander and struggle veteran Laloo Chiba.
The event was deeply moving.
it celebrated the courageous and principled life of an extraordinary man. But
it was also a reminder of what the true ANC was all about. Speaker after
speaker spoke about the principles, values, inclusiveness, courage and service
to the people that the ANC used to stand for.
at a Women’s League rally in KZN the speakers illustrated what was wrong with
the ANC of late. They arrived in their posh black vehicles and repeatedly attacked
the judiciary, scored cheap points against other ANC leaders and made constant
racial references. Above all, they protected a leadership and organisational
culture that is deeply corrupt and seemingly deaf to the suffering of their
these two events on TV, I could not help but fear for the ANC and, by extension,
for the country.
Many want us
to believe that Cyril Ramaphosa and thus the “good” guys in the ANC will win
for certain. They claim that the mere fact that Ramaphosa has been able to get
so many nominations and that the race is so close is a sign of a healthy ANC. I
would argue the contrary.
Dlamini-Zuma is an unlikely leader. Yes, she is a good technocrat, but she lacks
the charisma and energy that one would expect from the next leader of the ANC
and country. And then, of course, there is that pesky ex-husband connection as
should have been an absolutely sure win, given the tradition of
electing the deputy president to the highest office, his personality and
history in the movement. Instead, the race is extremely tight and two
candidates are head to head.
than a sign of a healthy democracy, the closeness of the race just provides
further proof of the deep trouble the ANC is in.
hope that over the next week the 5000 ANC delegates will be brave enough do the
right thing. To withstand the temptations of huge amounts of money, to reject
intimidation and cheap rhetoric for the sake of the ANC and also the country.
matter how excited many people are at the idea of a weak and defeated ANC, it
does not bode well for stability in this country.
We need a
strong centre and the likelihood of any opposition or new party being able to
gain enough support to provide that in the next few years, is almost zero.
But as I
was watching Laloo’s funeral I could not shake a sense of doom. Because unless
something dramatic happens, it is very likely that the 54th ANC conference
will also bury the organisation of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela just two
decades after it brought freedom and hope to this country.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.
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