By Tessa Trafford
Cartoon: Kate Bryan
Students appear dominantly apathetic when it comes to what is happening politically in our country. This type of statement makes many understandably angry. Surely, as a student body, we are not all sitting back, ordering another beer and dismissing the current political situation. Most of us do care, but we aren’t always given enough information. The following, then, is a brief background and explanation of what is actually going on with our ruling party, the ANC.There have been calls from several members of the ANC to split the party and eventually create two parties, this since the recent forced resignation of former President Thabo Mbeki. South Africa’s former defence minister and current ANC member, Mosiuoa Lekota, recently announced that “There were many who felt piqued by what they perceive to be the ANC abandoning its core principles.” Although Lekota did not say that a new party was to be established, the general feeling is that this is inevitable.
Since Mbeki’s resignation, the subsequent fall-out has become more widely felt. The division in the ANC seems to be widening daily and, in following the news at the moment, it seems more like we are watching a ‘soapie’ unfold rather than a valid political effort. So if the ANC does split into two parties, what does this mean for our political landscape?
Can a new party really challenge the ANC and will they have enough supporters? According to Dr Thabisi Hoeane, a lecturer from Rhodes University’s Department of Politics and International Studies, there are really two ways in which this split could play out. Firstly, it could mean that there will finally be “a highly competitive political environment” in South Africa.
Secondly, and perhaps even more concerning, there may well be a renewal of intolerance “between liberation forces in this country”. This leaves us with two options – we are either hurtling forward in a positive direction or, once again, being sucked backwards into bitter and aggressive fighting between major political factions in South Africa.
The ANC’s reaction to the talk of the split is hardly surprising. Lekota was officially suspended from the ANC on Monday 13 October and was swiftly followed by others, for “undermining party unity,” which is the official line. Lekota, who is reputed to be the new leader for this break-away party has been called “a sore loser” by Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan. Also, the ever-controversial ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, has called on ANCYL structures to “be on the alert” because he believes there are “counter-revolutionary forces” at play.
Whatever your personal view of this current issue, we do need to question the potential impact of a breakaway party. Who will be a strong enough politician to challenge the populist tactics of Jacob Zuma and will there be enough supporters? Most importantly, how will this change the South African political landscape?
So in true Rhodes style, where a day rarely goes by without some sort of political action, it is only understandable that students have already been asking these questions and are forcing people in the know to answer them.
On Thursday 16 October there was a Vice Chancellor’s public forum entitled, ‘Is South Africa in a Constitutional Crisis?’ This addressed many of the issues that we are likely to face in the future.