Battle to Control ANC Was about Ideology, Not Personalities

Article excerpt

That South Africa is a constitutional democracy is a concept that has not been fully grasped by the ANC's leadership.

It is not so much what they say in public, but what they do. The events of the past 12 months or so bring this into sharp focus.

It is conventional wisdom in a constitutional democracy that the separation of powers is sacrosanct. This separation is not for show, but functions as a deterrent against especially the legislature and executive trampling on the rights of ordinary citizens.

This goes to the very essence of ensuring that society is protected from those trying to undermine the constitution.

Granted, there are divergent views on what constitutes democracy and for whom. The traditionally held views differ between communism (including the various versions of socialist practice) and capitalism, in its various applications.

My take is that at the heart of the constitutional crisis we have been facing is a competition for hegemony between various factions within the ruling party. These differences are not personality-based, as they have been widely portrayed in the media. It is not a question of choosing between Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, but what they are perceived to represent.

Not so long ago, Mbeki addressed a gathering of Cosatu, where SACP members were also represented.

He contended that if Cosatu and the SACP wanted to have a say and a role to play in the national body politic, they should do so by acquiring a mandate directly from the electorate and not by attempting to influence the programmes of the ANC outside the mandate given to the ANC by the electorate. This prompted Cosatu's Zwelinzima Vavi and the SACP's Blade Nzimande to conclude that the best way to achieve the objectives of their constituency was to wrest the ANC from Mbeki's grasp and install a person whom they were confident would not only implement their programmes, but would also appoint some SACP and Cosatu leaders into government.

On the other hand, there are people within the ANC and in society who hold the view that with the advent of constitutional democracy we have truly arrived as a country at our final destination. …