Thabo Mbeki’s resignation

As I listened to President Mbeki deliver his final speech to the nation as president, I could not help but feel a mixture of sadness and irritation. What could forcing him to resign a few months shy of the end of his term achieve?

Tried as I did, I could not see that there was any sense at all to the decision by the ANC NEC. The fact of the matter is that what the ANC NEC has communicated is that voters’ choices and opinions do not matter, because Thabo Mbeki is the country’s president, not the ANC’s. They made their choice quite clear on the 18th of December in Polokwane when they chose to elect the former national deputy president, Jacob Zuma.

Now, I am no fan of Jacob Zuma by any stretch of the imagination and my views on this are public stemming from his rape trial. At the same time, I had also long ceased to be a fan of Thabo Mbeki’s, although not for the much touted reasons he fell from grace. I don’t particularly care that he is stubborn, elitist (intellectually), somewhat longwinded and quotes too much canonical English literature when he is making his speeches. I like stubborn, intellectually elitist and somewhat longwinded speech makers. I like poetic political speeches even when I am not in agreement with their content. Generally, political speeches are as exciting as watching paint dry. So, I liked having a poetic president. As for his penchant for pipes and English literature — well, I am a professor of postcolonial literature, so again, not a bad thing in my book. No, I did not ever think he was such a bully as to deserve the label ‘dictator’, as several people suggested in conversation over the last few months. But South Africans are nothing if not melodramatic.

I was irritated by Mbeki’s double speak on gender, more irritated by some of the economic policy shifts that occured under his administration (from RDP to GEAR), fatigued by his HIV/AIDS stance, and so on. But I did not care too much that he did not want to be bullied by his (former) comrades since “discipline”, “deployment” and “representing the organisation” seem to work increasingly as longhand for “accepting being bullied”. But then again, this is why I am not a branch member of the ANC. I have happily voted and even canvassed for the ANC in the past because until recently, I was unshaken in my belief that it is the only party worth believing in. It was also the organisation that espoused, at least on paper, all the values and principles that I wanted to see in my country. The procedures, endless discussions, protracted negotiations and showing off on who received the best political education that characterises how branches and meetings are run? Not for me.

I will not be voting ANC in the next election. I’d rather die than vote DA. So, I don’t know what I’ll be voting. But I did vote for President Thabo Mbeki, and even when I was most irritated by him, he was the president I voted for. I had no problem when he fired Zuma from parliament, and was ambivalent when he fired Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, but only because she is a feminist and I was never sure I had the full picture of what happened.

I do wish that we voted for Presidential candidates, rather than organisations, because then Mbeki would have seen his term to an end. I think that the entire saga was designed to humiliate him and has been in the works for a long time. That is why the deputy president of the ANC was rushed into parliament a little while ago. Someone mentioned that plot Steve Tshwete spoke of a few years ago. It may be a coincidence that Mathews Phosa features so prominently on Tshwete’s list and that he has been the face on television whenever Mbeki’s axing (yes, axing) has come up. Whatever, let the ANC men fight their battles in and for the party their own way. However, this latest move to compel Mbeki to resign as the country’s president was not necessary. There is nothing that a new government can achieve in the few months left until the new elections. It is clearly about humiliation because strategy-wise, it sucks.

A colleague of my sister’s commented that this is a glorified coup. Well, it certainly feels like one – sans the military in the streets and the awful music on the radio. I am sick to my stomach. I don’t know why the ANC NEC members seem confused about this country – they seem less and less able to tell the difference between where ANC NEC terrain ends, and where SA starts. There is a subtle distinction between being the majority party in government and being a political party allowed to make decisions on behalf of the entire citizenry: their approach to the NPA, the Presidency. What next?

It’s a sad day indeed when the only people making any kind of sense are the two former leaders of homelands (bantustans). A very sad day indeed. But then again, if Zuma supporters can mobilise the ethnicists that used to hide behind Zulu nationalism as part of the mix outside his court room appearances, why can’t ex-homeland leaders us all every now and then?

I fear that the repecurssions of this ill will staged at the country’s cost – a brazen performance of violent masculinities if ever there was one – will cost the citizens of this country very, very dearly. I want to be wrong, but fear I will not be.


Posted on 23 September 2008, in things that suck and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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