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Juju was right, Zuma and Mbeki are two sides of same coin

I am battling to understand why the ANC top brass was “particularly offended” by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s comparison of President Jacob Zuma to his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

For months now I have been making the same comparison myself and have come to the same conclusion that Zuma is indeed not different from Mbeki.

If anything, he is perhaps less sophisticated.

I also cannot understand why Cosatu and the SACP were taken aback by the similarities between the two men.

Anyone who knows Zuma’s politics will tell you Mbeki and Zuma are two sides of the same coin.

After Zuma’s maiden State of the Nation address in February, I called a few Cosatu leaders who said they were as shocked by Zuma’s address as the rest of the nation.

I wondered; shouldn’t Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and its president, S’dumo Dlamini, have received a draft of Zuma’s speech and perhaps even had a say on its content?

These are the same people who crisscrossed the country and praised Zuma at every turn as a man who consults and who would take the labour force and other parasites like the SACP and SA National Civics Organisation into his confidence.

How could they have been in the dark about the content of Zuma’s speech?

The fact of the matter is that Zuma gave the left the exact same treatment they used to receive from Mbeki.

He disregarded the resolutions made at the alliance summit and paid little attention to the ANC lekgotla resolutions.

The labour force had expected Zuma to announce a ban of labour brokers in South Africa.

One member of the Cosatu national executive said Zuma was treating the workers like Mbeki.

The two-million strong labour force, which does most of the ANC legwork ahead of elections, was also in the dark about the contents of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget speech.

The Zuma regime was again sending Cosatu House a clear message that they are nothing more than voting cattle.

Gordhan’s announcement of a planned wage subsidy by the Zuma government baffled the unions across the country.

Despite Cosatu objections, Gordhan is forging ahead with the white paper on the wage subsidy.

Vavi and Dlamini went around the country, using every platform available to them to convince the nation that Nxamalala was different to Zizi.

Sadly, they believed their own propaganda.

Very few ANCYL members and those of the alliance could disagree with Julius Malema when he said: “I was shocked by what happened … even president (Thabo) Mbeki, having differed with the youth league and the youth league taking such firm radical positions against him, I have never seen him doing that before.”

Malema said this after his faction rigged an ANCYL election in Limpopo and after Zuma publicly rebuked him for expelling a BBC journalist from an ANCYL press conference.

In this case Malema was right, Zuma did something worse than Mbeki would have done.

The fact is that there is no fallout between Zuma and Malema, the ANCYL and the Zuma administration, and no contention over policy.

Yet Zuma felt the need to haul the youth league president to a disciplinary hearing.

On the contrary, Mbeki never took Malema’s predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, to a disciplinary hearing despite Mbalula, completely challenging Mbeki at every turn and the youth league declaring Mbeki an “autocrat” and a “dictator”.

Mbalula actively campaigned against Mbeki yet the latter never hauled the younger man to a disciplinary hearing. Zuma has yet to realise just how similar his politics are to Mbeki’s.

How can they not be the same, they both cut their teeth in ANC politics at a time when centralist politics was the order of the day.

Under OR Tambo, information was dispatched on a need-to-know basis, compelling the rest of the organisation and all its structures to rely on the leadership-making decisions that were in the greater good of the ANC and the nation.

“In exile and in the underground things were run tightly. Information was supplied on a need-to-know-basis. If information was leaked into the wrong hands it could cause problems for the movement. People had full confidence in the leadership. They believed that even if they did not have all the information, the leaders who did, had the best intentions,” said former MK guerrilla and deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi (William Gumede, Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC).

This is the ANC embraced by Zuma so you can’t blame the man for yearning for the dark ages when cadres walked the straight and narrow.

Deepening democracy in the organisation is not part of his plans — it’s as foreign as transforming the party from a revolutionary body to a ruling political party in charge of a 21st century economy.

Zuma needs to look around him because his legacy — like Mbeki’s — will be tainted by his tendency to surround himself with “yes men” and “yes women”.

So, Malema was not completely off the mark, his analysis was perhaps too blunt for the ANC top brass.

* This article was first published in the Sowetan of 06-05-2010


  • Zukile Majova

    Zukile Majova is Head of News for YFM 99.2. He is a former Mail & Guardian Investigative Reporter. He writes politics for Sowetan Newspaper. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, [email protected], 011 280 0300 and 071 681 0192