Last week I wrote a blog and I called it Was Mbeki Trying to Save the ANC from Itself? Later, it got me thinking.
When Mbeki ran against Zuma in Polokwane, was he trying to save an old friend? Is it possible that he was actually saving Zuma from himself? Knowing that if he saved Zuma by rescuing him from the ANC then he has effectively saved the ANC from itself? The natural response to this question is this; how could he have been trying to save him if he was trying to get him thrown in jail? I don’t have an answer to that. The ANC works in mysterious ways.
Few people in the ANC knew Zuma better than Mbeki. They go way back. Further than many of us imagine. In 1976 a decision had to be made whether Zuma should leave Swaziland for South Africa to pursue underground activities. Mbeki, who was Zuma’s senior in terms of position but not age, told him no. In the Mbeki biography, A Dream Deferred, Mark Gevisser quotes Zuma saying in 2003, Mbeki’s decision to not allow Zuma to go was “absolutely correct…you could not fault his logic. Mbeki is a leader, it’s decisions like that which shows you that leadership is not everyone’s thing.” Not everyone’s thing.
“Discussions with him were very invigorating, you felt you moved forward. He was a thinker, ready with ideas.” Surprisingly, Zuma also says that it was Mbeki who taught him to fire a gun.
If Mbeki was in fact trying to save the ANC from Zuma he did a bad job explaining it. For example, in A Dream Deferred it is said about Mbeki that he did not communicate ideas with his team members during negotiations. So it’s possible that he did a bad job explaining why Zuma might have been unfit for office. He had great ideas and when he explained them properly no one could fault him. But he never wanted to bring his ideas forward because he didn’t want them to be challenged. According to Mark Gevisser’s book, he paid for his lone ranger ways.
Saving Zuma from himself? Mbeki was always weary of embarrassing South Africa because he didn’t want us to be a caricature of everything African. Did he see that there would be undue influence on the ANC by the left wing from the likes of Communist Party and Cosatu? In fact a few months ago an unnamed Youth League member said that Mbeki was right in trying to block the party from the left wing. Unfortunately Jacob Zuma never says anything about the left because he owes everyone. It was the first I heard anyone say that Mbeki was right in a very long time.
Mbeki probably knew a lot of Zuma’s potential scandals because he knows his weaknesses.
In December last year he was on the cover of Time magazine, and was featured in a glowing article about how he was running the country. It was a spectacular piece. I was proud. Time didn’t write the drivel I’d expected. In less than six months since that article our president has managed to undo all that goodwill.
At times I just sit and marvel at what he has been able to get away with; having unprotected sex with a woman he knew was HIV positive woman, then having sex with a woman who is not his wife, has a 20th child with her, which means that he had unprotected sex with her.
It’s one scandal after another. So much so that there are whisperings in the ANC that he may be asked to step aside at the next ANC conference because he is proving to be more of an embarrassment than a president.
He seems like a ceremonial president. One never has the sense that he is actually running the country.
The knives may not be out, but they are in close proximity to those who are dying to take it out.
If he is not careful, he will be shouting, “et tu”, as the packs his bags and leaves the office. The knives are being sharpened. Many are waiting for the next mistake and they will say: “Mene mene tekele.”
Article by Khaya Dlanga (first published on News24)