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The pathetic politics of desperation and paranoia

The US presidential hopeful and senator from Arizona, John McCain, is a celebrated Vietnam war veteran and an experienced politician. His credentials under normal political and economic circumstances would favour him for occupation of the Oval Office at the White House, but the circumstances do not favour him nor is his presidential campaign doing much justice to his ambitions. The young, suave, eloquent and less experienced senator from Illinois, Barrack Obama, managed to trounce the formidable opponent, Senator Hilary Clinton, in the run-up to the Democrat nomination. The odds were against Senator Obama to clinch the presidential nomination, but with determination and smart campaigning he emerged victorious and won support of his party to stand for elections.

We have noted in recent weeks the level of desperation of the McCain campaign in their attempt to appeal to voters and dilute growing support for Obama ahead of the November elections. McCain has resorted to character assassination, falsehoods and theatrics as a campaign strategy to put Obama on the defensive and divert attention from his own weaknesses and real issues confronting the American voters. He clearly has not learnt from Clinton’s failed strategy of attacking her opponent instead of engaging him on issues that matter to the voters. Americans are already negative about the outlook of the economy and the last thing they would want to be subjected to is further negativity in an attempt to arouse their interest and attract their support.

The success of the Obama campaign rests on his message of change; and he has been most successful in appealing to young voters who otherwise would not have found anything exciting about McCain. Obama promises a new beginning to millions of Americans and represents hope to aspirant young Americans who are still chasing the American dream. McCain has attempted to play on fears of Americans as Bush successfully managed to do in 2000 and 2004, but failed miserably. The question of national security is least of the concerns of voters who are losing their jobs and having their homes foreclosed by banks; and witnessing the financial system collapse before them.

Thabo Mbeki had never endeared himself to some sections of our populations and his detractors never hesitated to thrash him at every given moment; but when he addressed the nation on his occasion of his untimely resignation, he somehow managed to capture the hearts of majority of South Africans to whom he humbled himself. For the first time in many years, many South Africans sympathised with Mbeki and were angered by the unfair and unjust treatment he received from the ANC. Many may not have liked him or agreed with his approach to issues of national interest, but after all else he was their president and had done some good. It is not surprising therefore that Lekota’s movement has managed to capture the imagination of the public and revived the vibrancy of domestic politics and transformed the prevailing despondency into exuberance.

The unexpected surge of support for the Lekota movement has terrified the ANC. Suddenly their almost perfect strategy that was beginning to unfold was interrupted and the great trek of Reverend Kangaman and his loyal communist and trade unionist disciples to the Union Buildings disrupted. The ANC and its alliance partners appear to have adopted the McCain strategy. There is nothing more suicidal in politics than a public display of desperation.

Desperation is unflattering. Women know this well. Even when times are testing, a man in full control of his faculties would strive to maintain some modicum of respect and conduct himself with a measure of integrity. Potential voters are certainly turned off by the growing personal attacks, insults and threats by the ANC, which have all assisted in sustaining the momentum of the Lekota movement. The dynamics of ANC desperation have been shifting weekly as the reality of the surge of support for Lekota’s movement begins to set in among denialists at Luthuli House. Nothing in their action or speech suggests there is a concerted effort by the ANC leadership to defuse this desperation and prevent their party from haemorrhaging.

Hardly a week ago, Gwede Mantashe stood before the Black Management Forum with a display of bravado and arrogance and said, “We must not create speed bumps for everybody who wants to break away. We must allow them to go — even those who are not yet sure … we must facilitate their movement.”

Cosatu, now in a trembling voice and broken murmurs and stammerings, says, “They know they cannot defeat the ANC in a straight fight but aim to confuse voters with false, demagogic promises in the hope of cutting its majority and preventing the implementation of the many progressive resolutions passed at Polokwane.”

Mantashe and Zuma have even embarked on a frantic endeavour to invoke the name of Thabo Mbeki in order to improve their waning fortunes; going to the shameful extent of peddling lies and deceiving those they claim to represent that Mbeki denounced the formation of the new party. It has been revealed that Mbeki actually distanced himself from Zuma and his band of hooligans and appealed that they refrain from suggesting he would campaign for the ANC.

In a pathetic show of desperation, Zuma, Nzimande and Kgalema Motlanthe of all people used the funeral of Billy Nair as a political podium to embark on the Lekota bashing adventure. The ANC politics of desperation are getting beyond comical. Psychologists are unanimous that desperation leads to anger – and common among those reeling into the pitfalls of desperation is the excuse that “they’ve left me with no choice.” The leadership of the ANC is beginning to display paranoid characteristics indicative of their inability to model appropriate ways of dealing maturely with their frustrations.

Nicollo Machiavelli in The Prince said, “The first thing one does to evaluate a ruler’s prudence is to look at the men he has around him.”

The national convention is upon us and it appears there is no turning back!


  • Sentletse Diakanyo

    Sentletse Diakanyo's blogs may contain views on any subject which may upset sensitive readers. Parental guidance is strongly advised.