I really enjoyed seeing president Mbeki being booted out of office last week.
No, not because I necessarily wanted him out. I quite enjoyed his time at the helm. Only a cursory glance through my posts will reveal that I quite like Mbeki — especially his brain. It’s a penchant I share with an individual of extraordinarily well-developed aural appendages who answers to the name ‘Kevin’.
But that says more about me than it does about president Mbeki. I quite like my presidents all academic, intellectual and harbouring a fair level of disdain for ordinary people. If ordinary people were important, they’d be presidents then, wouldn’t they? Ordinary people are supposed to toast in the sun at obscure stadiums like Curries Fountain for hours shouting ‘Viva!’ at the slightest provocation, fainting in ridiculously long queues to vote for presidents (or parties with short acronyms as the case may be) and beating up Mozambicans in Alexandra.
But I digress. Mbeki’s ousting was the most exciting thing I have witnessed in politics in a long, long time. Forget the day Mosiua ‘Terrified’ Lekota pretended to be deaf and mute inside a Polokwane tent with no air-conditioning back in December. I’m talking about something much more significant. I’m talking about the day Thabo Mbeki launched Winnie Mandela’s carefully assembled headgear into space with a roundhouse backslap that would have made Chuck Norris proud. Pity about Inkosi Buthelezi’s incredible hand-eye coordination. That mother-fornicator would have landed on the body in space formerly known as Pluto. But that moment gave me much more pleasure than the hijack scenes in Jerusalema. And I’m a darkie. We ‘people’ like watching that kind of thing.
I have complained about the lack of entertainment in our politics on these very pages. It seems that politicians are Silwane Files’ ardent readers because they sure have responded. Since Polokwane I have sat here pulling out my nasal hair by the roots to get some entertainment while these suckers sat there and did nothing. They sure have responded now.
My ignorance on the sophisticated intricacies of politics is well documented, but here are my random, uninformed thoughts.
Underrated president. Exactly what we needed when he came along. A technocrat who was not shy to ‘steal with pride’ and get the ‘fundamentals’ in order so as to set the scene. I’ve often done this myself, before tough exams. I spent hours setting up everything I needed to get stuck into the books — without getting stuck into the books themselves. Considering that at the time we weren’t even in agreement about where we were going insofar as fiscal policy was concerned for instance, this unilateralism was invaluable. It gave even his most ardent detractors a springboard from which to launch their vociferous disapproval. All of a sudden, everybody had a standard to either attack or endorse. One was either pro-GEAR or anti-GEAR. Cosatu will never admit it, but they were still struggling to find the vocabulary to clearly define their vision when Mbeki defined ‘his’ GEAR and all of a sudden there it was, in black and white. But that is the luxury of the critic; the gift of hindsight.
Whether they admit it or not, I think he dragged the ANC kicking and screaming into the 21st century from the 1960s style Lusaka-based, liberation movement. But I think that the ANC was always going to be his Achilles’ heel. Liberation movements are not, by design, necessarily friendly to individualistic persons. Individualism messes up the herd mentality needed to topple intransigent racist regimes. Give me an army of free thinkers and I’ll show you a vanquished army.
Where he messed up spectacularly, I think, is in his belief that his excrement smelled sweeter than most — much to the chagrin of everybody who came into contact with him. People do not particularly like it when other people believe they are superior. Sharing a whisky with Mbalula and discussing issues of glans exposure (or not) might have garnered a few mileage points, for instance. In the end, he might be remembered as another Mugabe wannabee, desperately clinging onto power. That would be a shame. And unfair to his legacy.
The coalition of the wounded
Zuma. Mantashe. Phosa. Motlanthe. Vavi. Nzimande. Ramaphosa. Sexwale. Modise. Mbete.
Because I do not know much about politics, it is extremely difficult to piece together the thread that binds all these people together. I will leave that to the informed analysts. But from my position of absolute ignorance, it seems that there is only one thing that binds them together. No prizes for guessing. Yep, Thabo Mbeki.
It brings to the fore that old philosophical question. We’ve all experienced that comical scene when a dog chases its own tail with much fervour and passion. But what happens when the dog finally catches its own tail? Bit of an anti-climax, isn’t it? Mbeki is out in the cold, with everything that is despicable that he brought into the highest office in the land. But now that he is gone, a new dilemma emerges. Dealing with the aftermath. Let’s all be clear about what I’m saying. The decision to oust him was the absolutely correct one from the point of view of the ANC, I think. If his last act is anything to go by, then they were absolutely correct. I don’t care what ‘contextualising’ you do; releasing that list of cabinet resignations was childish. And dangerous. Disgraceful exit my black, hairy behind.
But back to the future. I’m not even certain that I know who really is in charge. Is it Zuma? Motlanthe? Mantashe? Phosa? They’re all part of the human race. Unless I’m completely wrong about how human beings are wired, South Africans want to be clear about who is in charge. This is what helped Mbeki stay in power as long as he did. There was never any question that he was the one charge of his domain, even if you believe he was steering this ship towards an iceberg. Well-intentioned and noble ideals such as ‘collective leadership’ can only lead to mass confusion.
We’re African and we need to know whose name to use when we desecrate yet another Methodist hymn and turn it into a ‘movement’ song. Motlanthe is the president. Mantashe insists Zuma is the ANC president. Phosa is busy writing mystical missives that are on a judicial slant. But what simple people want to know is; who is in charge? In whose name are we going into blasphemous mode?
I saw these uninspiring palookas on TV last night, lined up to greet the new king, grinning from ear-to-ear. All I have to say about that is; bunch of star-struck, irrelevant bunch of overrated political ‘analysts’. Steven Friedman, Aubrey Matshiqi, Adam Habib, Sipho Seepe, Judith February etc have nothing to fear from each other in terms of who is the top dog.
Their real competition is from another bunch of ANC internal politics analysts. I’m talking about Zille, Holomisa, de Lille, Buthelezi, Meshoe etc. Do any of these people even have real political parties they are in charge of? Can you even remember the last time you saw anything on TV or read anything they said in the print media or their own websites where they weren’t giving you ‘insight’ into the ANC? And this is what I’m supposed to use as my basis to vote DA, UDM, ID, IFP, ACDP? Analysis into the ANC? Using parliamentary privilege to play whistleblower? I think there’s too much in the term ‘opposition’.
I’m personally not too fazed about what happens next. Human resourcefulness is underrated. Unless of course we’ve all been hoodwinked and Mantashe is not human (hey, it’s possible!), in which case we’re all stuffed then.
Regardless of what happens; I just can’t wait to see what this dog does now that it has caught its tail.