Speech by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP on the ANC succession delivered at the African Heritage Society (13 September 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen

The fact that I'm standing here today addressing you about the succession issue within another party is indicative of a weakness in our electoral system. By rights, when we are discussing the succession of a new President for the country, we should have leaders like myself, standing at podiums such as these, promoting our manifestoes and agendas.

Instead, we have an electoral system that does not allow the voters to directly elect their President, and all of us are sidelined while shadowy factions within the ruling party battle it out for control of State power. The situation is further exacerbated by the ANC's refusal to run open and public candidate nomination and election processes, as happens in Tanzania and many other African countries, where you have separate elections for MPs and the President.

As voters we must sit anxiously and wait for a few thousand delegates at the ANC National Conference to endorse the winning faction's choice of President. In fact, chances are that they will elect an NEC which will be dominated by one faction, who in turn will be entrusted with the decision of appointing a new President for the country. In other words, only a small group of ANC members will make it to the Conference, they will elect an even smaller cabal, who in turn will be the only ones with any say about the next President of the country.

When we look at the growing reaction in many communities against crime, floor-crossing, lack of service delivery and corruption, it is obvious that the majority of voters have become tired of being disempowered and left behind by an electoral system that gives them a Government not willing to consult properly or to be held accountable.

The desire for power by some of these factions indicates that they won't even hesitate to descend to tribalism to advance their cause. Similarly, we've seen them showing total disrespect for the judicial system and its officers, and some have even campaigned for the closure of state institutions like the Scorpions.

It is very disconcerting that it seems businessmen who became the target of official investigations, be it in the Arms Deal or relating to taxes, went searching for political horses to back within the ruling party, with the apparent hope of future protection from prosecution. It was very disturbing to see people like Brett Kebble openly claiming to be supporting specific ANC leaders and specific ANC structures, like the Youth League. These people are using their resources to claim political conspiracy to deflect investigation of their crimes.

In the past four years we have suddenly seen an explosion of conspiracies. Every time somebody is caught with their fingers in the cookie jar they cry political conspiracy. It is deeply worrying that it seems as if people with resources are in a position to attempt to dictate the pace of development and transformation in our country and that they would fund active campaigns against state institutions like the Scorpions and the judiciary.

On the other hand, the authorities who have a mandate to run the country, have either run out of ideas, or just remain silent on burning issues. No leadership is provided, and crucial decisions are not made on a number of
issues, such as the Khutsong violence. Even if the public at times complain about the lack of efficiency and delivery by Ministers and DGs, the Government and ruling party remain quiet.

It is that silence that worries many in this country, when no decisive action is taken when it is clearly necessary. For instance, the National Lottery, which was directing money to good causes, has been closed down even though it was running on credit, not debt. Yet no action is taken against the relevant Minister or his senior officials, because the ruling party has told itself it is in charge irrespective of performance, while the ever-willing state-controlled media attempt to portray a rosy picture.

This is why we are seeing people moving into the streets to the great inconvenience and cost of whole communities and the economy in general. At the same time such protests sends out the wrong message that if you want Government to listen to you it is necessary to resort to public violence, vandalism, throwing stones and burning tyres.

Precisely because of this silence of the ruling party some of this sporadic violence could actually be the result of forces who have identified an opportunity to vent their anger and frustrations under the guise of 'community concerns', when in actual fact they are engaged in settling political scores.

We seem to be witnessing the first phases of dry runs of civil disobedience in different communities and provinces. It would appear that these protests are well-timed and coordinated. If that is the case, we must be deeply concerned about the possibility that the people with revolutionary intentions behind this coordinated plan will one day trigger a simultaneous uprising in all of these communities. The worrying thing is that many of these protests are led by some Tripartite Alliance structures. It seems that the centre is not holding.

However, we must thank President Mbeki who was bold enough to say months ago that the nation should debate the succession issue, although he knows that there is no forum outside the ANC where such debate can influence the outcome. This runs contrary to the most recent pronouncements of the ANC National Executive Committee who want to "reclaim" the succession debate. It's a bit late for that! The initiative has been taken long ago by numerous factions to promote their candidates in a variety of legitimate and underhand ways.

Those of you who are here - with whom I worked during the liberation struggle period when I was still in charge of Transkei - will agree with me that this is not the same Tripartite Alliance that we knew. Today, anybody and everybody in the Alliance can call a press conference and once he/she gets in front of the media microphones they get excited and say anything, adding to the confusion and the deepening tensions within the Alliance. It is because of that new culture that they have adopted that the open defiance of the leadership has begun and on this very topic of the succession.

To make things worse, the ANC Secretary General, hardly a month after the ANC Policy Conference came out with the distorted idea of a Prime Minister. The question why did he not raise it at that Conference or include it in the discussion document?

Turning to the identification and election of an ANC President, my experience with the ANC is that they have a culture which is often not known or understood. In particular this culture is always attributed to the era of the late OR Tambo. We saw this culture in 1994 when President Mandela thought that because Cyril Ramaphosa being SG and next on the ANC parliamentary list would be the automatic person to choose as Deputy President of the country. After all Mandela himself would have thought that democratically the ANC had indicated who his Deputy President should be.

But Mandela was advised differently and the result was that Mbeki was appointed Deputy President. The advice that he was given was that Mbeki was always the heir-apparent. This culture of selecting a leader seems to have only been known among the exiles, whilst Madiba and those who were in jail or in the country seem to have been caught off-guard by this so-called culture.

Since 1994 certain sections of the ANC have sought to undermine that culture of anointing leaders and on paper it seems that they have succeeded because today there are open campaigns for and against leaders. Yes, we have seen campaigns directed at President Mbeki himself, which are clearly designed to create doubts about his ability to lead. Where I think they have succeeded in a big way is that you find the leadership which had been in exile have split into separate factions, with some fearing the possibility that Zuma might challenge Mbeki; in the "ANC of old" the matter would have been handled in a different manner and not in public.

It must be said therefore that the ANC that will deal with these issues at the Conference is not the same ANC of the 1990/1997 Conferences. The members of the ANC might have their own opinions about who they may want to lead them and they might want to debate the succession in an open way. Precisely because they realise that they are no longer in exile, and that they now have influence over government and government policy. They will expect the leaders of the ANC to take them into their confidence and be open about policy and the direction of both the party and government. The old style of the leadership prescribing and the members blindly following has been seriously undermined, at least from what we read in the newspapers.

The danger of these campaigns is that they could easily portray Mbeki as a lame-duck President, which would undermine his stature in the eyes of foreign powers. The question the country needs to ask itself is whether we can afford to be saddled for the next two years with a President that is viewed as a lame duck. These campaigns undermine the image of the country. Whoever succeeds Mbeki in 2009 will have to fix the damage that has been done to the image of both Mbeki and the country.

Already there are members of the Tripartite Alliance who are openly campaigning for another ANC President to replace Mbeki, names mentioned include Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Kgalema Motlante, Joel Netsithenze, Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale.

It looks like these internal ANC campaigns for various leaders have caught the national leadership off guard and the ANC will have to do soul-searching at their December Conference about what went wrong with their way of doing things. The damage that has been done, and the defiance we have witnessed means that they will have to ask themselves: What went wrong, why this sudden scramble for power, is it ideological or about the control of resources?

If it is the latter, then the ANC as a whole must scrutinise their so-called "deployment" strategy when they sent cadres into society, in particular to public institutions. There is a general view that the deployment of these cadres has meant that incompetent people were advanced over competent people purely because of their ANC membership status. It became a get-rich-quick scheme for some comrades. Obviously this trend filtered down to even the Local Government level. Following the examples of the luminaries above them even councillors would award themselves and their friends or family tenders, never concerned with delivery or quality and purely in pursuit of wealth.

In the same vein, the Conference delegates will have to consider how some of their leaders have brought the country into disrepute and how do they get out of that quagmire.

The other thing about this confusion created is the talk of a third term, the public immediately pressed panic buttons when they heard Mbeki would seek a third term. Because they immediately knew that there is no such thing as a third term in the ANC Constitution and the Constitution of the country explicitly prohibits it for the Presidency of the Republic. The ANC and President Mbeki have failed to clear up this confusion and vagueness.

The delegates at the ANC Conference would be well-advised to seek clarity from their leaders about exactly where the word 'third term' fits into the debate; are they by proxy endorsing the amendment of the country's Constitution to allow Mbeki a longer stay in the highest office?

Talking about President Mbeki in this saga, if he wants to continue to lead the ANC, whoever wants to challenge him, I'm sure in their campaigns right now, would be stating why they want to dislodge a sitting ANC President who has not been proven to have violated any aspect of the ANC Constitution. The vote of no-confidence in Mbeki has been started by various factions, but it is still too early to say whether any of those arguments will sway the Conference delegates.

But in the event that Mbeki and his camp retain control over the ANC leadership, you can expect they will play a major role in electing an ANC Deputy President and future President of South Africa. In fact, any camp that wins in December will definitely dominate the National Executive Committee.

The second scenario, which one can look at is where the current ANC Deputy President, will not challenge Mbeki for ANC President, and simply contest the Deputy President position. Such a scenario would defuse tensions and would be seen as a compromise to unite the factions. In the process it would help Zuma to buy time for himself against the Scorpions, and keep his options open to become President of the country. If he is acquitted before 2009 it would force the NEC to acknowledge him as the leading contender to become President of the country.

The third scenario would be where some of the aspirant candidates - like Sexwale, Ramaphosa etc - would strike a deal with President Mbeki to support his re-election as ANC President on condition his/her name is considered to lead the country in 2009. Therefore the position of ANC Deputy President will be key in the forthcoming Conference, especially if Zuma challenges Mbeki for President, because the delegates will have to ensure that they elect somebody in that position who can be groomed in the coming two years to take over a President of the country.

The fourth scenario, is where the former "internal" struggle veterans, like ex-UDF and Cosatu leaders, would say it is their turn to elect the ANC leadership, since first Mandela and then the exiles were given an opportunity.

One should expect a tough battle if there is a campaign along those lines, and we can expect a strong rebellion, similar to what we saw at the National General Council last year which successfully demanded that Zuma must continue as Deputy President of the ANC and that he must fully participate in the activities of the party.

The fifth scenario is that both Zuma and Mbeki might be taking punches for the real candidates that are hiding in their shadows. If one looks at the lists that are doing the rounds, the Zuma Camp seems to be consistent on who they want as his number two. On the Mbeki camp's side it is not consistent, especially now that Joel Netsithenze has once again said he is not interested. One suspects that some candidates would like to see both Zuma and Mbeki as their shields, because they might fear people starting to dig up dirt on them once they reveal their candidacy.

The media reports that Tokyo Sexwale or Cyril Ramaphosa might run have been noted, as well as their evasiveness when directly confronted with the question of their candidacy. There is no doubt that Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Zuma's campaign is very sophisticated and they seem to understand the procedures and culture of the ANC. However, Cyril is one individual, if he were to accept the nomination, who I think can be taken seriously, given his popularity within the ANC. The last two ANC National Conferences confirmed that. The programme of President Mbeki of emancipating women seems to be gaining momentum in ANC structures, especially for top positions. So we should expect that what Mbeki began with the appointment of a woman as Deputy President might continue after 2009.

The sixth scenario involves the old guard - like Mandela, Gertrude Shope, Mrs Sisulu etc - intervening out of concern about the direction which their movement is going. It would be an interesting period if they were to intervene, by for instance suggesting who would be a compromise candidate to take the ANC forward. Whether that old guard would even want to discuss this new thing called a 'third term' is entirely questionable.

Of course this depends entirely on whether the old guard has any real influence left over the structures of the ANC. But I guess that every aspirant Presidential candidate (whether for ANC or country) would not leave the old guard out of their consultations.

Whoever will be taking the baton from Mbeki in 2009 as President of the country, the people of South Africa who have no say in his/her election, will expect that person to bring a strong team into office. Such a team would not be strong if it did not include some of the tried and tested current Cabinet Ministers.

Obviously, the Presidency itself of a new Government in 2009 would be the centre of focus and the nation will watch closely who will be appointed as Deputy President. One thing that is sure is that the programme started by President Mbeki to rejuvenate the continent and the various peacekeeping initiatives will keep his successor very busy, especially on the Big Debate about the future of the continent.

However in my own observation we would need two Deputy Presidents to take the load off from the new President. You can have a first and second Deputy President in terms of seniority. One of those Deputy posts should be earmarked for one of the current successful Ministers and should be charged with administration, financial discipline and the economic cluster with emphasis on checking up on implementation of decisions approved by Cabinet.

The other Deputy can focus on overall social policy implementation and coordination. The President will not focus only on foreign affairs and peacekeeping but will also have the criminal justice cluster report directly to him/her to build confidence in government's seriousness about fighting crime.

Contrary to the view of ANC Secretary General Kgalema Motlante, talking about a need to have a Prime Minister's post, such a notion - in my view - will not take us anywhere. The tasks of driving the Government should be allocated among the suggested Presidency structure, because the President will still have executive powers and guide cabinet, but the monitoring and implementation of policy is key.

Finally, I wish to thank the African Heritage Society for the invitation to share my views with you on this highly-charged topic, I hope I have contributed in my small way on how we see the future of our country. If we had a strong opposition in the country that could match the ruling party toe to toe, we wouldn't be so worried about who succeeds Mbeki.

The onus is on the voters of South Africa to carefully scrutinize this succession process and perhaps reward those parties in 2009 who are calling for a better electoral system, regulated party funding, and decisive leadership on burning issues. Then we can get away from the perception that Government is successfully feeding people distorted information through the state-controlled media. Indeed, the strengthening of the opposition depends on the voters realising that they have given the ANC many chances, and their vote for the ANC should not be cast in stone, especially when they are being spoon-fed candidates and policies that run counter to the voters' precise needs and aspirations. South Africa needs a Government that will listen to its people. The country needs a ruling party in Parliament that will make laws with them, instead of simply imposing laws without consultation, where only the well-connected ever get access to the portfolio committees.

The promotion of checks and balances as enshrined in our Constitution depends on the voters themselves, by ensuring that they don't empower only one political entity.

I thank you.

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