by Hussein Solomon
As we approach Mangaung, I am being inundated by journalists enquiring about the current state of the leadership tussle within the ANC between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe. Would the sudden inflation of delegates from KwaZulu-Natal ensure a Zuma victory? Would Marikana and its aftermath harm the President’s standing? Would Ebrahim Harvey’s book on Motlanthe assist his campaign?
Frankly, I could not care less since whatever the outcome at Mangaung, it would not make any difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans. I do agree with most commentators that a President Motlanthe would lend the Union Buildings more gravitas. For instance, I do not see an artist like Brett Murray painting Motlanthe’s penis nor do I see cartoonist Zapiro drawing Motlanthe with a shower on his head. At the same time, I do not see, whatever the outcome of the leadership tussle, any substantive change emanating from Mangaung.
As I watch Obama and Romney slug it out in the final week of the US elections engaging each other on issues as disparate as their respective visions on US foreign policy and their plans to fix the stagnant US economy, I notice that this is what is lacking in the run-up to Mangaung. Zuma’s praise singers demand that he should be given a second term. Motlanthe’s supporters, meanwhile, believe that he will make a better president. What their respective policy platforms are to fix our moribund economy and reassure foreign investors (the South African economy lost 44 percent of foreign direct investment in the first half of 2012) we do not know. What their respective policy platforms are to restore public trust in the police services, in the midst of persistently high crime levels, we do not know. What their respective policy platforms are to deal with endemic corruption, we do not know. Indeed, ANC delegates are supposed to vote merely for or against a personality not a policy position. This is ridiculous. If anything describes the intellectual poverty of the ANC, this is it. It is also the most glaring reason why the ANC cannot govern South Africa.
Whilst President Zuma was always uniquely unsuited for the tasks of leading this nation, the issue which perturbs me most about Motlanthe is that he does not seem to be a strong enough personality given the challenges confronting the country. At no point has he decided to openly state that he wished to run for the highest office of the land. He prefers, it seems, to want to lead from behind – which is no leadership at all. As Secretary-General of the ANC he would bemoan the disarray of the branches but did nothing to crack the whip and fix the problem. South Africans need strong leadership. We need a President who would tackle the problems confronting the mining industry much more forcefully. We need a President who would call the Minister of Basic Education and say, “Angie, I am tired of your excuses. The state of our schools is a disgrace. I do not want someone who cannot get textbooks into schools on time in my cabinet. Our children deserve better. You are fired!” This, of course, would never happen in the ANC under a Zuma or Motlanthe presidency.
Sadly the choice for ANC delegates at Mangaung is between the fatally flawed incumbent and the rather weak and mediocre Motlanthe – both of which have no solutions to the multiple crises confronting South Africa. This is the real tragedy for a country which has so much potential.