The tag aloofness was not free of ideological and political considerations.
In my view the debate should not be about the Presidents aloofness or not, in fact it never was The real debate should actually be why was it that highly placed and respectable publications in serious capitals of the world-London and Washington were actually obsessing about the aloofness of a President of a small country at the foot of the African continent.
We need to ask the question, because the answer thereto will illuminate the real answers.
The creation of the tag aloof was more ideological than anything, the tag aloof had nothing to do with leadership style, it is my considered view that the tag had everything to do with the content of Mbeki’s politics.
As you would have seen, the word aloof has got a lot of adjectives and therefore any attempt to use the word in its literary English dictionary sense, is not helpful at all. The word in relation to Mbeki was used as a basis to attack politically and ideologically the programmes of his Government, which were largely in discord with those of the powerful vested interest and it therefore became imperative to attack, so as to sow discord in our home soil.
The ANC is an important transmitter of ideas and an influential role player in South Africa, on the Continent, the diaspora and the world.
Therefore, as a start it is important for Mbeki to in his own words dispel the myth of aloofness, firstly, as it relates to the functioning of the organization and also in relation to how the organization discharges its political obligations. Which I must mention has not changed in any significant way since he departed. He has been able to prove, particularly in the last two letters that in fact the ANC was the epicenter of decision making and all programmes have got origin in one or other structure of the movement, particularly the NEC.
These are not irrelevant questions as some want to suggest, it is extremely important that an organization as big and powerful as the ANC is seen to be transparent and open in its operations, any indication of a self serving leader who usurps power and alienates the structures, have to be challenged. And it is in the foregoing context that Mbeki deems it fit to set the record straight and in a practical manner shows that in fact not him but the ANC was at the centre of decision making.
The Consistent and incessant attacks where not without cause, they were aimed at not only undermining the President but also the ability of the organization to effectively discharge its responsibilities towards our people on home soil, on the Continent, the World and the diaspora.
A quick desktop analyses of the stance Mbeki took on international relations will bring to the surface why the tag aloof had to be created, and actively fed into the public domain, to think that the tag aloof had to do with leadership style is to completely miss the point. The incessant attack were in the main aimed to discredit the man, his political party and the Government he led.
Powerful vested interests who control these publications had an axe to grind. With an ambassadorial office and or a mission in every capital of the world and refusing to be subjected to the whims of patronage of the West in this regard, surely something had to be done. Never before, since the time of Kwame Nkrumah, had a vision about the necessity of African unity been so clearly articulated, his visionary leadership and that of other African leaders like Obasonjo of Nigeria and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal signified a new political will of African leaders. It was not only a political statement, but it envisaged a new global partnership with clear programmatic and implementation targets for Africa’s development.
This plan touches on every aspect of Africa’s development, no more will the resources of our continent be used to divide her people but will be used to built sustainable economies on the home front.
Clearly, the myriad of vested commercial interests felt the pinch, some like the French even went as far as to suggest that Mbeki should not meddle into the internal affairs of Africa purely on the basis that they are French speaking and he as a non-French would would understand their dynamics, they actually went as far as saying that those Franco-phone African countries be left out of their unworkable scheme NEPAD.
Isn’t it interesting that it was on exactly this front that the seeming aloofness attacks gained currency. His so called “quiet diplomacy” on Zimbabwe was also a case in point. Elsewhere on the continent he was not expected to play an active role while in Zimbabwe, the expectation was that he should order our soldiers with boots, rifles and all sorts of armaments to march triumphantly into Harare and depose a democratically elected Government.
The tag aloofness was also used to prove extreme exceptionalism, a powerful figurehead who had effectively usurped the entire organization and its decision making powers,self centered, obsessed with himself and regarded himself as the only and true fountain of knowledge.
The eventual defeat of Mbeki was choreographed around the tag of aloofness: arrogant leader of an almost Bonarpatist type, an individual who had centered all power around himself and a few of his cronies, a dangerous cancer that had to be removed at all cost if we want to save the very soul of the movement. Hence that seminal question in Polokwane “what is the problem and what is the cause of our division” and the cynical answer provided by the delegates in attendance.
The response of the delegates in Polokwane signaled the sum total of accumulated attacks and the victory of all those who had singled out Mbeki as the cancer and had to be defeated at all cost.
By Fezile Kies