Ebrahim Harvey
Ebrahim Harvey

Why Lekota is a big hypocrite

I’m absolutely amazed at Mosiuoa Lekota’s recent condemnation of a lack of democracy in the ruling African National Congress, as one of the major reasons for his leading role in the formation of the breakaway Congress of the People (Cope), which will contest the 2009 elections against the ANC.

We needed a mass-based leftist alternative to the ANC, not an amorphous party that has thus far been unable to present any clear and coherent policy alternatives to the ANC. This breakaway has attracted to its ranks all manner of disgruntlement in the ANC, following the ousting of former president of the ANC and the country, Thabo Mbeki. Here are some of the indisputable facts upon which I make the claim that Lekota is an insufferable hypocrite and that therefore his leadership of Cope must be rejected.

One, as chaiperson of the ANC for several years he often ran roughshod over even mild opposition in the meetings of the national executive committee and domineeringly steered them in accordance with the wishes of Mbeki. Together they exercised a tight rein over such meetings, including when controversial matters, such as HIV/Aids, Zimbabwe and economic policy, were on the agenda.

Where was his commitment to internal debate and democracy then? In fact he was often Mbeki’s biggest protector in the NEC, against those who still had some courage to question things and wanted more discussion and debate before big decisions were taken.

Two, it is an incontestable fact that the ANC in several respects violated various provisions of the Freedom Charter since 1994. The ANC’s adoption of neo-liberal economic and social policies after 1994 — even if reluctantly — result in the evident emasculation of several demands of the charter, such as those pertaining to the economy, land redistribution, housing, education, jobs and income. Where was his commitment to the charter for all those years? What demonstrates this hypocrisy most is that he has apparently had more to say about the charter over the past few weeks than he had to say over the past few years, as chairperson of the ANC.

Three, recently he has also had much to say about the need for electoral reform which will lead to a national constituency-based system, rather than a continuation of the predominantly party-list system, in which MP’s are accountable to party leadership rather than to constituencies and the electorate. While I support such reform, my question is why did he not utter one word about this for all these years. Why did he not have the courage then to advocate such reform and try to win support for it in the ANC, while he was its chairperson? Instead, hypocritically, he is using this issue to campaign today for support for Cope.

Four, where was Lekota’s voice when social movements — which were strongly critical of ANC policies and leadership — often publicly complained about how they were harassed, threatened and in some instances beaten up by ANC members during earlier election campaigns? Today he complains about how the ANC is threatening and intimidating Cope members but he was complicitous for years when the ANC was doing this to oppositional social movements. There were also reports in the media of the ANC intimidating campaigners of other parties in the run-up to elections, but not once — that I am aware of — did Lekota publicly condemn members of the ANC who were involved in these acts and urge an investigation into these allegations and disciplinary action against them.

Five, so much was Lekota resented for his anti-democratic and bullying style when he was Minister of Defence, that the trade union of the National Defence Force, the South African National Defence Force Union, rejoiced when he resigned in support of Mbeki. They have also had much to say over the years about how Lekota ill-treated and undermined them. There is in fact much more that could be said to show Lekota’s hypocrisy in his current role as champion of democracy. Obviously, whether the electorate knows these facts and will therefore vote for Cope in 2009 we will have to wait and see.