The announcement of the resignations of 14 Cabinet ministers including the deputy president and Trevor Manuel, regardless of arrogant denials of the ANC, caused a frightful tremor along the corridors of Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters. The hurried press conference called by Gwede Mantashe — when markets began tumbling on the news — was a clear indication of the party in a state of panic.
The ministers who tendered their resignation to the president have been unfairly accused of being unpatriotic and pledging their allegiance to an individual, President Thabo Mbeki. The Young Communist League claimed that these resignations were an affirmation of disloyalty to the ANC. It is their prerogative to serve under whichever president they desire. This nonsensical notion of deployment by the ANC does not supersede their individual rights. It is wrong to attempt to hold these ministers to ransom.
It is naïve to accuse these ministers of disloyalty and non-patriotism as it is common knowledge that a large number of them would have been “recalled” anyway, come 2009 or immediately after Motlanthe is sworn in as president. The ANC infighting has not been limited to the corridors of Luthuli House but has now spilled out into the corridors of the Union Buildings. To pretend that there had not been undue political pressure on ministers aligned to Mbeki since the Polokwane conference would be rather ignorant.
Mantashe went on to accuse the president of making a “dangerous mistake” by releasing the names of Cabinet ministers that resigned. Was it not the responsibility of the Presidency to announce these resignations? Mbeki is still state president until September 25, and he is duty bound to announce any resignation of a Cabinet minister. It is has also been reported that the presidency was even pressured by some ministers to make the announcement. It is mischievous to suggest that the announcement was made with malicious intent.
The South African Communist Party (SACP), of which Mantashe is the national chairperson, released a statement accusing President Mbeki of betraying disregard for the country’s stability and its international standing. The SACP alleges that the announcement of the resignation of 11 cabinet ministers and three deputy ministers was a reckless attempt to provoke a sense of crisis and to blame it on the ANC’s national executive committee. It appears the office of the President committed a cardinal sin by not consulting with the ANC (a nonsensical expectation). Mantashe and his cohorts are desperate to divert attention from their recent political blunder by continuously vilifying the President and alienating him from the sympathetic members of the ANC.
We are told that a number of the ministers who tendered their resignations, including Trevor Manuel, indicated their desire to continue serving in government if called upon to do so by the president-in-waiting, Kgalema Motlanthe. Manuel immediately held a press conference in Washington to reassure the markets that his resignation was premised on a fundamental principle; that his action was designed to respect the constitutional process, since he was not entitled to hang on to his executive office once Mbeki stepped down.
I find it reckless and irresponsible of Manuel and other minister for tendering their resignations when they had an intention to continue serving the nation in their current role. I am not certain which constitutional process that Manuel is referring to, as ministers and their deputies are only required to step down once the National Assembly passes a motion of no confidence in the president. This has not happened. The only motion of no confidence passed was by the ANC NEC. It is criminal for Manuel to attempt to elevate the Constitution of the ANC above that of the country.
Former minister in the office of the president told the nation that he felt deeply aggrieved by the manner in which President Mbeki was ousted from office. It would not be far-fetched that the same prevails among other Ministers who resigned, although they may not publicly broadcast their feelings, in order not to offend their thoughtless masters at Luthuli House. The financial pressures imposed by mortgage obligations are just too overwhelming for them to be led by principles.
Jacob Zuma — in his futile attempt to reassure the nations — tells us that the mass exodus of Cabinet ministers is “nothing extraordinary”. If chaos, disunity and instability are ordinary for the incoming government, I shudder to think what would be extraordinary for them. I look towards the future with growing scepticism and caution. The business of government is a serious undertaking. I place ardent hope in Motlanthe not to cower under pressure from the ANC alliance partners, and pander to their whims. The political retribution against Mbeki has spawned anguish of the nation in general. It requires indispensable interventions by a unifying leader to contain the disorder that threatened the stability of government and ultimately delivery on promise of a better life for all.
A breakaway political party by disgruntled senior ANC members is what this country craves. A party with the courage to shoulder the political and moral responsibility imposed upon it by the electorate. South Africa, at this hour of uncertainty, needs leaders endowed with the courage of conviction to stop the endless cycle of violent revolutionary rhetoric that threaten to take the country to the edge of precipice.