The ANC and the "phuma singene" mentality

Musa Xulu on the damage factionalism is doing to the ruling party

Are those opposed to nationalisation motivated by personal interest and business investments?

The debate on nationalisation and/or what was worded, "government must intervene in strategic industries and sectors..." is an economic transformation resolution of the ANC at the 52nd National Conference in 2007. I previously prophesied in one of my previous articles entitled, "Nationalisation is going to happen in our lifetime" that it is likely to be resolved at the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung and I continue to hold that view. In the aftermath of the watershed moment of the Polokwane conference, we had hoped that the warring factions would find each other ideologically and move in unison going to the Mangaung conference and beyond for the sake of the ANC's unity.

Sadly, rather than healing the rifts after the 52nd conference, somehow, what emerged instead is the continuation of a new culture of discussing ANC policies and disagreements through the media. I deliberately use the term FACTIONS because over the years I have realised that there wasn't after all any ideological differences.

What in my view created factions leading to the Polokwane conference was the mentality of "phuma singene" (which means give way so that we can take power). I say this because the comrades who felt sidelined by the Mbeki administration were agitating for state power and the economic spoils thereof - this without absolving the administration of wrongdoing.

And now that they have achieved their objectives, they are dispensing each other as evidenced by the fact that those who once fought side by side to remove the so called "common enemy" subsequently turned on and have torn each other apart in recent years. We've since seen ugly scenes of them berating each other on television, radio, newspapers and social networks. In my view both factions are at fault here without exception, perhaps one more so than the other but either way, this ugly situation could have been averted if there weren't big egos.

Let me perhaps hasten to make it clear that I have no interest in the leadership debate that is currently raging on in the ANC and neither do I have any interest in becoming a delegate nor playing any part to determine the leadership collective that will emerge at the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung. I am not claiming to be holier than thou nor do I seek to cast aspersions on anyone of these warring factions but I merely seek to bring sanity to their heated but divisive utterances. I am for unity and thus sitting on the fence - which I have been sitting on for a while now - is the best option.

Those with good memories will say but this flies against my own advice which was given to Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma 5 years ago, (6 days before the start of the 52nd conference), when I wrote that one must choose a side and not only do that but must also swim with the tide rather than against it. It was at the time based on her indecisiveness to choose between those two warring factions after which she stuck her colours to the mast and chose the faction that eventually lost. In that regard, I quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes whose quote went thus,

"greatness is not in where we stand but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor".

I was essentially saying to her that one shouldn't stand for a cause because of loyalty to an individual but must be loyal to the organisation because individuals will come and go whereas the organisation will always be there. I still hold the latter view but in terms of choosing a side, I have since learnt that there is after all greatness in being neutral. Of course I must confess the fact that I have once been guilty of these unbecoming and factional tendencies in the past albeit in a mature manner.

I am now older and wiser (certainly way past the cut off age in terms of the ANC Youth League eligibility). I have thus learnt that one must not make enemies on account of any politician because they behave and change positions like chameleons changing its colours.

Besides that, I am of the firm belief and conviction that factionalism is not good for any political party, least of all a governing party like the ANC. Factionalism as I have warned in some of my recent articles, leads to a state of paralysis and a winner takes all mentality to the detriment of the party.

The party is robbed of and/or it leads to the party losing good leaders who are tried and tested in the traditions of the party. These are potential leaders who may be more capable of implementing its policies and better service delivery than those who are eventually deployed in government were they not on the losing slate. On the flipside, it's paralysis because service delivery gets stalled or comes to a grinding halt as all energies expended or are put towards ensuring that a certain faction fails to shine and vice versa. These fatal divisions and deep rooted hatred are scary when lives are lost as a result of divergent viewpoints. It's even more ironical when one considers that these are people who refer to each other as comrades and yet they are prepared to put a bullet in each other.

The mentality of, "phuma singene" is commonplace and continues unabated in current politics with an added twist of tribalism which is rearing its ugly head by one faction this time around and thus must be nipped in the bud ASAP. There are two ways of looking at the "Phuma Singene" philosophy though and it usually depends on which side of the divide the factionalist is standing. It goes thus: -

·         Those who want to cling to power advance it as emotional blackmail to defend themselves when genuine calls or otherwise are made for them to give way. They attempt to trivialise the concerns and suggestion for leadership change by insinuating that others are power hungry thus absolving themselves - hypocrisy at its worst.

·         On the other hand, those who want leaders to give way use it as a ploy to get into leadership positions or push for their friends which facilitates their access to the levers of state power and the economic spoils thereof without any underlying principle - political expediency

It should not just be a case of it's either Black or White in this scenario though since when there is also a Grey colour to choose. What is usually evident in both these extreme scenarios is that both are devoid of the party's interest and instead it is about SELF. So therefore, no matter how capable; skilled; educated and competent a potential leader may be, but due to the fact that such a leader is not billed on a certain winning slate, he/she gets overlooked. Or no matter how many of the above mentioned qualities an incumbent leader has, but due to the fact that he/she doesn't belong to the faction that feels side-lined, he/she must be removed.

Granted, the argument that is normally advanced is that such a leader, "is not like minded" and therefore it will be difficult to coexist with them and/or they won't cooperate. The principle of debating has been replaced by intimidation and rented views. When various factions meet to caucus and choose their preferred leaders in what they term a "CORE meeting", it's usually informed more by emotions rather than logic and no proper evaluation is made at times in terms of the affected leaders' performance in leadership and/or government when purging takes place. The sentiment that gets bandied about in those respective COREs is that theirs is composed of progressive forces.

One has to ask (and of course using the benefit of hindsight here) as to where is this progressiveness when you side-line another comrade? And these factions get so heated and blinded by hatred sometimes to the extent that a comrade would rather be warm and shake hands with a stranger or member of the opposition party than with their own comrade. It's a pity really that, too often, the followers do not even understand as to why certain leaders are fighting. They are just happy to tag along or take a side in a fight whose igniting source they do not understand - blind loyalty.

Let me now go back to the purpose of my article which was to analyse the two diametrically opposed views on nationalisation. There is one section which calls for nationalisation of key industries with emphasis on mines. Then there's another group which mischievously narrows this call for nationalisation to only mines and it argues that it is not sustainable and/or it will lead to capital flight (disinvestment if you wish). Others advance the argument that, "government can hardly manage the parastatals properly, and therefore how on earth are they expected to or going to muster the art of managing mines which is a specialised field?"

The answer to the above is that it's sometimes the deployment of wrong cadres in government departments and MOEs at times which is the main cause. So if, political leaders can learn to deploy capable and competent cadres not as an attempt to dispense patronage, the underperformance in parastatals or government would be resolved. On the flipside, the answer to the other doubting Thomases is that government has not been asked to nationalise mines en masse but there's a call for strategic sectors to be nationalised e.g. through the state mining company in the case of mines.

Others advance an opportunistic view that, "nationalisation of mines is meant to rescue some oligarchs who are struggling to pay off their loans because the share prices have plummeted and with metal prices depressed, this shrinks revenue and consequently dividends haven't been declared to service loans". In all these arguments, the truth of the matter is that these questions are self-serving and it has nothing to do with the best interest of the country. It's instead selfish interests of capitalists who are trying to protect their ill-gotten gains and/or the aspiring BEE moguls who endeavour to protect their investments and/or chances of accessing these deals in future.

I reiterate that the latter section is advancing these arguments because of Sunset clauses on the one hand and at worst for selfish reasons as alluded above but certainly it's not because of economic imperatives. That said, let me continue to ask if some of those who are vehemently opposed to the nationalisation of mines are possibly not doing so because it will deny them of the resultant BEE opportunities presented by the Mining Charter and/or deny those who already own mines an economic stream to loot and plunder our country's rich mineral resources which are sourced with cheap labour and produce huge profits for these masters?

It is common knowledge that White owned companies use BEE to buy political favour and protection from politically connected leaders and appease them with a stake in their companies. For the benefit of those who don't know, BEE is not an original idea of the ANC but it was suggested to it. Now, in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, it has since emerged that, one Cyril Ramaphosa is a 9% shareholder of Lonmin and he incidentally happens to be vehemently opposed to both nationalisation and the abolishing of labour brokerage. It is this revelation that invoked the question of whether are we not being hoodwinked by some of these leaders?

That is, are they not motivated by personal interests and a desire to protect their income streams more so than there being a principled stance on these policy positions? Whatever it is, you, as the reader, must be the judge but I was not convinced by Ramaphosa's interview on SA fm which was a Carl Niehaus type blunder in my view. The lesson which can be drawn from these gentlemen's failed PR exercise is that you should never dare to do your own spin because you are too emotionally involved and thus you are bound to falter when the kitchen gets hot.

By the way, given the current succession saga which is playing out, arithmetic dictates and thus one can foretell that the faction that wants continuity is likely to win at the Mangaung conference.

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