Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Motlanthe's slow burn
ANC Deputy President and "thinking man's ANC President" Kgalema Mothlanthe has not spent too much time in the spotlight of late, but he is preceded by a reputation respected by most on both sides of the current ANC divide. However, as Ebrahim Harvey writes in the Mail & Guardian, Motlanthe's left leanings have been emboldened by the occurrences pre-, during and post-Polokwane, and his socialist values have supposedly become more pronounced. According to Harvey:
Today, he speaks freely and openly about problems confronting the party and particularly those that preceded and produced Polokwane. He seems to be a man who has been freshly liberated from the fetters President Thabo Mbeki and his allies imposed on leaders of the ANC at Luthuli House.

My interviews last year and early this year make it very clear that Motlanthe has moved to the left. The earlier trenchant defensiveness has been replaced by a far greater openness and a willingness to confront many uncomfortable realities in the ANC.

Jacob Zuma's dismissal by Mbeki, without meaningful consultation with Luthuli House and the ANC's allies, was Motlanthe's turning point.

The new Motlanthe welcomes the radicalisation in the ANC and sees no reason why anybody should try and arrest it. He strongly criticises the Mbeki-led Cabinet's domination of the ANC. He hit out at Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa for thinking that his premiership gave him the right to do as he pleased, with scant regard for the party that placed him in that position. He says that policy must not be cast in stone and that the membership of the ANC must appropriate it for ends they wish.

We must remember of course that Harvey is a former Cosatu unionist himself, and thus may be willing Motlanthe to further this leaning, but I don't neccessarily agree with Harvey that Mothlanthe is likely to take this emboldened view into government. I think of Motlanthe as a wise head in the NEC, and one who understands the balance required between socialism and capitalism in an emerging economy such as ours.