Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New dawn or false dawn?
Lekota's moves over the past week have been very interesting to follow, but his future remains very much a murky mist. While it would be fantastic for our longer term democratic foundation, there are two key issues that dampen my optimism about Lekota's new party.

The first is that this is a party very much formed out of anger. Whilst many people are championing Lekota's cause publicly, South African elections are not won in October, and there is a long way to go before Lekota can claim a true electoral following. Initially there will be much interest, but Lekota and his leadership will need to prove that they can present policies that reflect the needs and wants of his new voting constituency. There is not much time for him to present his case, and he will have to work incredibly hard with his leadership to form this policy platform.

The second carries a more ominous short-term warning. What many people don't extrapolate in their hope for Lekota's party being a true opposition, is that if successful, it will remove a largely moderating force from within the ANC's leadership in the labour-business battle for the party's soul. If this split is as pronounced as the media is purporting it to be, then many of those on the right of the ANC, including many of the pro-business NEC members, will make moves across. Whilst one would imagine that you will still have Ramaphosa and Sexwale in that upper echelon, the loss of many of these pro-business leaders may well leave a vacuum within the NEC that can very easily be exploited by the left.

It will take much longer for Lekota to build his constituency within the wider electorate than it will for him to gain disgruntled or pro-Mbeki leaders from the ANC. In this interim period, while much of the electorate will remain faithful to the ANC whilst it assesses Lekota's party, we may see a gap exploited by the left. Whilst Lekota's party may well take away the two thirds majority for the ANC,the ruling party will remain in power in April, and policy shifts may occur.

As I've said, any moves to reduce the single-party dominance of our democracy and to negate the current hubris of the party is a great thing for our democracy. It just seems to me that some people are getting ahead of themselves about the prospects. Time will tell, but anger alone doesn't win elections. Just ask Thabo Mbeki...