Tag Archives: kgalema motlanthe

“Two-thirds gevaar” was reasoned, not racist

In a recent ANC Today, President Kgalema Motlanthe rehashes an article he wrote in the run up to the 1999 elections in which he criticised the then DP’s calls to prevent a two-thirds majority as “a fear of democracy”. In that decade-old piece he said:

Lacking a coherent or realisable vision for a better South Africa, these parties have fallen back on the promotion of fear to erode the ANC’s support and to generate a mood of resistance to meaningful change.

The ‘swart gevaar’ and ‘rooi gevaar’, now devoid of their previous menace, have mutated into the two-thirds gevaar.

If fear is the opposition’s most enduring weapon, then a two-thirds ANC majority is their latest ammunition.

He adds a postscript:

In the decade since this article was first published, the ANC has in fact held a two-thirds majority in Parliament. In all this time it has not used this majority to change the Constitution in the way that these opposition parties predicted. It is has no intention to do so now. This is the Constitution for which the ANC fought, and we will continue to do everything we can to defend it.

That is a blatant lie. With cabinet’s approval of the Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment Bill, we can see why the electorate depriving the ANC of its ability to change the Constitution is imminently sensible and vital for the sustainability of our democracy.

The bill seeks to grant wide-ranging powers to central government to intervene in the operations of local government, thereby wholly undermining local government’s constitutionally-mandated autonomy. Government is claiming it will use the bill to speed up service delivery and force municipalities to accept the role of Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs) – until now, these have been reluctant to do so, as they buy electricity straight from Eskom. But the problem with the bill is that it would give power to do much more than that. As a Sapa article mentions:

Asked why the proposed amendment did not limit itself to letting central government intervene on electricity, Maseko said the State might later need greater powers in other areas and did not want to change the Constitution constantly.

“We don’t want to amend the Constitution on an almost annual basis. If we did, it would stop providing certainty. So we thought it was better to give government the powers and trust… it will not use the powers willy-nilly.”

Past behaviour is no guarantee for the future. Just because the ANC hasn’t substantively changed the Constitution in the past does not mean that it won’t do so in the future. This much is illustrated with the current amendment bill, where the resulting unwarranted accumulation of power in the hands of central government could prevent opposition-run councils from governing unimpeded by central government interference.

With the ANC having tried their utmost to topple Cape Town’s opposition-run council (including a bid by former Local Government MEC Richard Dyantyi to strip Helen Zille of her executive mayoralty), the DA has every reason to be worried. Its Stop Zuma campaign aims to turn out enough people to prevent potential abuses of power that a two-thirds majority – and hence the ability to change the Constitution – would thus enable. Unfortunately some people claim this is irrational hysteria – “swart-gevaar” tactics by any other name. To the uninformed or the blindly bigoted, it may come across that way. But it’s not.

The DA’s track record and vision proves that its vociferous campaigning against a two-thirds ANC victory is for the right reasons. Unfortunately, though, in focusing so zealously on Zuma — which doubtless is of vital importance — an insufficient emphasis on the DA’s ideals, vision and manifesto has resulted.

For people to know that the DA isn’t the reactionary, racist minority party that Motlanthe and the ANC like to depict it as, the DA needs to work harder to put across its vision to the millions who (by dint of the SABC’s propaganda and insufficient access to information) remain unaware of what the party represents.

In advocating an “Open Opportunity Society”, the DA aims to achieve sustainable transformation by encouraging innovation not by rewarding party loyalty. Its policies, especially with regards to the challenges of dismantling the legacy of apartheid (which the ANC has entrenched), is informed by “a clear acknowledgment that there is a long history of racial discrimination and oppression in South Africa, that it was wrong and that positive action is now required to make it right. That positive action must be targeted at individuals who still suffer the effects of discrimination, not at groups. It must provide opportunity to the disadvantaged without shutting off opportunity to the advantaged.”

This is why the DA is a proponent of an Income Grant of R110 per month for people earning less than R46000 a year. This is why it proposes a voucher system “aimed at giving the most academically promising 250 000 children from low income families the opportunity to receive a better school education.” This is why it suggests giving “young South Africans who meet certain conditions an opportunity voucher, which will allow them to subsidise study costs or start a business.”

And if the proof indeed is in the pudding, then its record thus far as the largest party in the City of Cape Town’s ruling coalition is very promising. The City wrote off R1.5 billion worth of debt owed to it by the poorest of the poor. It has provided free water and electricity to impoverished areas ignored by the ANC when it was in power. It has also more than doubled the rate at which council housing is being delivered.

Both its manifesto and track record of governing Cape Town prove that the DA is a viable, prinicpled alternative to the ruling party — far from being an ethnically-based minority party seeking to deny apartheid’s painful legacy and only promoting the interests of one population segment.

Campaigning to stop Zuma from potential abuses of power is important and should doubtless be a key part of the DA’s campaign messaging. But for if the DA is to ever build critical mass, it needs to focus on getting the message through to the electorate that not only does it oppose Zuma, it is a better alternative to him and the party he leads — better for poor people, better for rich people: better for all South Africans.


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Does Zimbabwe know it’s Christmas?

Across South Africa, the malls are crowded with busy shoppers buying presents and food for the festive season. And yet just across the border in neighbouring Zimbabwe, thousands of people are dying of cholera and countless more face starvation, with only a meagre assortment of wild berries, seeds and fruits from the veld to provide sustenance.

Under the brutal oppression of Zanu PF’s dictatorship and the continued post-election stalemate, Zimbabwe has steadily disintegrated. Hospitals have closed. Supermarkets are empty. Raw sewage spills into potholed roads. The politicians continue their interminable bickering. Doubtless both Tsvangirai (head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change) and Mugabe won’t be going hungry this Christmas. But most of their countrymen — the ones who haven’t fled to safer, saner shores — will.

Zimbabwe is a disaster. It is time for its powerhouse neighbour South Africa, and the rest of the world, to step in before any more innocent lives are lost. The unnecessary, intense sufferings of millions of Zimbabweans must come to an end.

Firstly, Zanu PF must no longer govern. Having systematically destroyed a country and having lost the March 29 election (despite blatant vote-rigging and intimidation), those thugs have no claims to being a part of the new Zimbabwean government.

An interim government must be installed by the United Nations, supported by South Africa and other regional players. This government, staffed by non-political technocrats, can handle humanitarian operations to ensure the rollout food supplies and healthcare countrywide.

The UN must demobilise the security and army, and provide a “peacekeeper” contingent of soldiers and police to ensure safety and security.

And then, some time next year, proper elections must be held – free and fair elections implemented and monitored by the international community.

To those who think this is an internal affair, or must be resolved “by Zimbabweans”, the time is long past for such trifling excuses. Quiet diplomacy and regional SADC involvement has been an abject failure – and has merely propped up an illegitimate and wicked regime hell-bent on remaining in power. Of course that was Thabo Mbeki’s intention all along. His inaction on Zimbabwe casts a dark, bloodstained shadow on his presidential record and role as so-called “mediator”.

South African President Motlanthe must act in the spirit of our constitution and democracy and do his utmost to resolve the situation. This is long overdue. So much suffering could have been avoided. And yet so much suffering still can be avoided.

It is the festive season and yet Zimbabwe has absolutely nothing to celebrate. This Christmas, let us not forget the ongoing crisis – the hunger and pain and misery – in that poor country.

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Zim unity government: Thabo’s toxic legacy

Part of Thabo Mbeki’s toxic legacy could well prove to be the disastrous unity deal he engineered between Zanu-PF and the MDC in Zimbabwe.

Democracy has been defeated in Zimbabwe, and this largely due to Mbeki’s willingness to legitimise Mugabe’s tyrannous regime through his chairing of the power-sharing negotiations. It was a marriage doomed from the start — and it’s not surprising that about four weeks after the deal was signed, there is still a deadlock over Cabinet positions.

On the weekend, Mugabe announced that Zanu-PF will control the state security apparatus as well as the most important ministries: defence, justice, media mines, land and home and foreign affairs.

It is clearer than ever that Zanu-PF has no intention of relinquishing power, and only acceded to the unity deal as a survival strategy. Mbeki was either too callous or delusional to realise this. However, that is beside the point; more importantly, Zimbabwe’s people are needlessly suffering thanks to our erstwhile president’s self-interested meddling.

The results of the March 29 elections have not been respected. Had they been, and had the MDC been allowed to form a government, aid and investment would be flowing into the country and reconstructing the decimated nation would begin.

Zimbabwe remains without a functioning government, its economy in freefall with inflation skyrocketing to an incomprehensible 231-million percent. Inter-account transfers have been banned by the Reserve Bank and queues for ATMs are hundreds of metres long. People are desperate, starving and unable to afford even the most basic goods needed to survive.

There are severe shortages of seed and fertiliser, so the country will be unable to feed itself. All in all, the outlook is spectacularly bleak.

President Kgalema Motlanthe has a responsibility to resolve the situation exacerbated by the machinations of his predecessor. The unity deal should be canned. He should step in to ensure that Zanu-PF surrenders its illegitimate power. He can do this by freezing bank accounts, implementing smart sanctions and slapping travel bans on the Zanu-PF elite.

On March 29, the Zimbabwean people voted for change. It is about time their decision, and democratic right, was respected.

This was first published on Alex’s Thought Leader column.

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ANC splits?

In a blow to Kgalema Motlanthe’s attempts to unify the ANC, Mbazhima Shilowa — who yesterday resigned as Gauteng’s premier — is to launch a breakaway political party in Klipfontein, Soweto.

This is according to a breaking news report from 5fm, an SABC radio station.

The SABC News wesbite is currently down so I have been unable to corroborate the report; so far no other news organisation has reported the news yet.

More soon.

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