There was something hilarious – or so I thought – about our tumescent defence minister being chased by a rabble of Zuma supporters today. But then the incident’s more sinister implications dawned on me. Mosiuoa Lekota is the chairman of the ANC. He was democratically elected to that position by party delegates 5 years ago in Stellenbosch. It goes without saying that he deserves respect from the grassroots of the party that he serves.
I wonder whether this – as well as all the other examples of petulant misbehaviour at the conference – is a sign of things to come? I am all in favour of robust dissent and the airing of contrary views to those expressed by the powers that be. It is indeed heartening to see the differences so brazenly displayed. But this variant of ‘peasantpolitik’ is downright scary if it is setting a precedent for the way opposition (in whatever shape or form) is treated.
What is also discouraging is that this behaviour is being driven by personality populism and not the contestation of policy – or for that matter, ideology (something which only dangles in the background).
Structure, demarcation, respect and tolerance are fundamental to democracy’s survival. Anarchy, personality cults and powerplays can only erode it. The sooner that the ANC’s rank and file – irrespective of who they support – learn to respect the party’s processes and channels, the better. Otherwise the Zanu-esque melodramatics we see now at Polokwane could play itself out in the multiparty political arena with disastrous consequences.