28 December 2007

Who Are We?

Thabo Mbeki’s world is circumscribed. Like a child testing the limits of its mother’s tolerance, he goes to the limit, and a little beyond. Then he looks back. If he has got away with it, he will crawl a little further.

In his last
ANC Today letter, in his post-Polokwane personal press conference, in his TV interview with Thabiso Makwetla and Miranda Strydom on 23 December, and especially in his defiant announcement of the SABC board which everyone who had faced him in Polokwane had already rejected, Mbeki was provocatively testing limits. It is sad to see a man regress to infantile behaviour.

There was even more of it behind the scenes. Karima Brown, in the first article linked below, quotes an un-named ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member as saying: “It’s going to be a very trying time. The president is trying to incite us by not showing any kind of respect for the new leadership. I am afraid that he is trying to push us to do things that I personally do not think we should be doing.”

Thabo Mbeki cannot exercise personal discretion now that he is no longer the President of the ANC. He must serve the new ANC President, Jacob Zuma, with as much deference and loyalty as he is supposed to have served the late O R Tambo. He must do what he is told and nothing more. If that is too difficult for him, and he chooses to resign, people will understand. The Mbekis will not starve.

“If they [government] defy us [the ANC], we will punish them, said Billy Masetlha (see below). “The ANC has done it in the past,” said Masetlha. (Picture: new ANC National Chairperson, Baleka Mbete)

Now hear this! The Mail and Guardian newspaper has started a blog section on its web site where specially-invited tame bloggers are allowed to write. Whether they get paid or not, we don’t know. What we know is that these bloggers (as of yesterday there were 97 listed) are called “Thought Leaders”. If you think this is a bit arrogant, just wait until you see the breakdown of the 97 (based on the photos and the biographies given) listed contributors yesterday:

Men: 73% Women: 27%

Whites: 70% African South Africans: 9%

This “Thought Leader” blog section has only been going for a few weeks. Nobody can say that its outrageous lack of representivity is some kind of “apartheid legacy”. So what are these M&G people (e.g. M&G editor Ferial Haffejee) trying to do? It looks very much like they don’t want the young writers of the YCL and the ANCYL, for example, to be “Thought Leaders” in South Africa today. They could have invited people from
The Bottomline or from Hlomelang, but they did not do that.

It looks like they want to select and to set up in business the kinds of role models that they think are good, and these role models are mostly white and male. One way to turn this situation round is to go to the Thought Leader pages (starting at
http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/ ) and start commenting on the blogs that you find there. Give those “Thought Leaders” something to think about!

The second last item is the
SADTU statement on the matric results. 21,500 failed in Gauteng alone, according to today’s “Star” newspaper. According to SADTU, 40% of learners do not even reach the stage of writing matric, countrywide. What happens to all these young people? What do they need?

One thing they need is political education. In the last item, published yesterday, a judge, Nigel Willis, reflects on the condition of young men these days. He sees a real problem. He worries about genetics, of which he knows little. He wonders about fatherhood, and role models. The
Communist University is in no doubt that political education is the answer. Not the white, male typical role models of the Mail and Guardian’s, “Thought Leader” arrogance, or any other such models, but instead Freirean critical pedagogy.

Click on these links:

Fired spy boss warns Mbeki and cabinet, Karima Brown, B Day (640 words)

Thought Leader bloggers on the M and G web site, 27 December 2007 (table)

SADTU on Matric Results, 2007 (1113 words)

What turns boys into misfits?, Judge Nigel Willis, Business Day (822 words)


  1. Why do you say that Thabo Mbeki's last ANC Today letter was testing the limits? Half of it was quoting from Jacob Zuma's speech... I didn't find it disrespectful.

  2. I didn't mean the part that was Jacob Zuma's speech. I meant the part that Thabo wrote, which was the second item. I took it as being all of a piece with his further moves, to which we can now add his failure to attend the NEC meeting yesterday. I still think it looks like brinkmanship.

  3. I was talking about Thabo Mbeki's section - the "letter from the outgoing president" Half of Thabo Mbeki's letter was him quoting Jacob Zuma. I remember noting it when he I read it last year. I thought it was quite respectful, to defer to the man who just upstaged him. Though maybe that was just naive of me.

    Are we reading the same document? "High calibre political cadres" and "Forward to 2012"? What further moves are there? It seemed to me to be more of a continuation of his 7 December ANC Today letter on "solving people's problems." Which I suppose could be seen as a bit of a dig at Zuma, I'm not sure.

  4. All right, I've been back to it and read it again and I am sticking to my opinion. I particularly find the section called "High calibre political cadres" to be loaded with self-serving stuff, that makes me angry. He is pointing fingers again. I think the purpose of his selection from JZ's speech is to set up a dynamic about "internal problems". Remember in his own long speech to the conference when he asked: "If something divides us, what is it?" and the comrades answered "You!" It was clear. Now the man is trying to recover his position by weaseling around with JZs's words, selectively quoted. It is typical Thabo Mbeki and it is infuriating to people who know him because the conference has just told him to stop this kind of nonsense. It is provocative of him to keep on doing this.

    As for 2012, the last section, this has been going on about this for years. It has no political content, it is simply an arbitrary date, and it amounts to an attempt once again by the man to wrap himself in the black, green and gold and call himself Mr ANC, as if he owns it. Forward to 2012, my aunt!

  5. Ok I see what you're saying that he is just using JZ's words to his own ends really. But what makes you angry about the "high calibre political cadres" section? What made it self serving? Do you think its untrue that there are opportunist-careerist in the ANC, and that its a problem? Or do you think was just an unnecessary and accusatory thing for him to have put in his final letter? What kind of nonsense are you talking about, that he should be stopping?

    And the TV interview? I watched it and didn't find it offensive... what did you object to?

  6. The ANC united around a rejection of the situation where the rich have benefited from the liberation brought by the ANC. For an illustration of what I mean, consider the Provincial Nomination Conferences, a couple of weeks before the main conference. It was apparent then what the voting was going to be. What did the Thaboites do? They (Alec Erwin especially) went around saying that these new upstarts were after everybody's jobs. These characters who have been lording it over us for so many years were now saying it was we who were the crooks. It was outrageous. Now read the second last para of Thabo's piece again. What I see is just a repeat of this same Erwin mantra. Outrageous! This is now after Conference has spoken. I would tar and feather the guy for that as soon as look at him. Joe Slovo is reputed to have said of him that he was "an evil genius". My opinion of him and Essop Pahad is that they are a couple of cheap crooks who ought to be run out of town like the King and the Duke were in Huckleberry Finn.

    Must I really now go back to the TV interview? Miranda Strydom kept prompting him to say more about the "bad behaviour" of the delegates who voted him out. What is it you can't see, Laura? If you like the guy, it's fine. But then don't nag everybody about it. There was a process, and a vote, and he lost. Don't keep telling us it was a mistake, or that it didn't happen.

  7. See, the blog is just my opinion. It's not supposed to be gospel, or closure or finality of any kind. On the contrary, it's supposed to open discussions, not close them. I try to relay texts that people can discuss. I have to give an opinion, but not for me to defend it to the death. At a certain point I have to say: That's only my opinion. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong.

  8. I do quite like Thabo Mbeki, but my opinion of him is really just based on reading his emails and knowing a bit about him and and seeing him on TV from time to time. So its not based on much really. On the whole I think it was better that Zuma was voted in anyway.

    I wasn't nagging, I promise! I really wanted to understand your position. Just as an example - I have a politically minded friend who is involved in student organisations and that sort of thing. So every now and then I chat to him about political topics. But sometimes I just can't understand his opinions AT ALL. I don't understand where he is coming from, his opinions completely shock me.

    And I think it might be because we just have such different experiences and we are getting information from such different sources...

    Anyway, the bottom line is that I think its really worthwhile to try understand why other people have the beliefs they do, especially when they are pretty different to yours. And the only way to do that is to ask alot of questions, and really engage with people... especially when the opinion gulf is really big.

    So anyway, thanks for answering my questions, I appreciate the responses and the insight!

  9. Thanks for your patience, Laura. I was getting a bit ratty at that point and I'm sorry for that. The whole point of this thing is dialogue and I really love getting comments on the blog. Tiredness, that's all.

    I've had a cup of tea now and I'm feeling better. I'm preparing a blog for tomorrow but I'll have to go to bed soon.

    No, there has been a running question in the blog for some time now as to whether the "cohabitation" can work, between JZ and TM I mean.

    History says most likely it won't work. I wanted to note what TM was doing right from the start because the anti-Zumas will want to blame Zuma if and when there is a crisis. I want to track it from the smallest beginnings. JZ has so far played the perfect gentleman, but TM is misbehaving in my view. There is a long way to go. It's important to pay attention all the way and not miss anything.

    Best wishes to you.

  10. Ah well, happy blogging.
    I've been trying to write a blog entry on the SA flag forever, I just can't get it quite right.

    I suppose cohabitation only has to work for a year. Well, I hope it does work. It'll take some humility on TBs part I suppose.

    Anyway, I just finished a cup of tea myself actually... Enjoy your and thanks for the discussion :)

  11. Oh woops, that was "enjoy your tea"

  12. Allister Sparks' words in the Star today referring to TM's post-Polokwane TV interview: "muttered self-justification".

    That was my impression. TM was slurring his words. I thought he sounded drunk, or stoned on something else if not liquor. But maybe he was being surly.


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