Voices from South Africa

South Africans reflect on the ANC leadership battle and the party’s performance.

With the ANC about to decide whether Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, will continue to lead the party or be succeeded by Jacob Zuma, the current deputy leader, Al Jazeera asked South Africans what they think about the bitter leadership battle and how they feel the ANC has performed, particularly on poverty, crime and the Aids crisis.

Dawn Goodman, 65, semi-retired, Table Mountain National Park

I believe that the impact of the leadership race has thrown the ANC into disarray like never before in its long history. I just wonder why successors were not groomed in past years by our president. 

I would have loved to see Cyril Ramaphosa lead the ANC but that seems to be not possible this time round. We also have some great women in the top echelons of the party.  

The health minister has promoted beetroot and
garlic as a treatment for HIV/Aids

I think the ANC itself has handled the Aids situation well, that includes many wonderful hard working cadres within the party. However, the same cannot be said for our president and his health minister [Manto Tshabalala-Msimang].
Generally, when I look back, I believe we have seen a miracle occur. As a white person I expected and believed that only a bloody revolution would get rid of the apartheid government. Well, we had wise and wonderful leaders who were conciliatory and for the good of all the peoples here, saw to it that peace prevailed. We should never forget that.
We have seen development and growth like never before, the country is strong economically and hopefully will continue on this path.

Yasser Cassim, 21, student, Durban

In the beginning, the ANC was viewed as the hero that would bring peace and reconciliation and they did to a certain extent. I still remember I was young at the time my parents and entire family went to vote at the local polling stations for the ANC. Now neither of my parents will cast a vote.

Nevertheless under the ANC, the country boomed. However, affirmative action – which to me has been taken straight out of the ‘apartheid book’ – which only caters for the black population, has hampered the Asian population of the country.

Crime has always been an issue in this country. I won’t say it is getting worse but it is still at a level which makes us feel very unsafe. Nearly all of us have experienced some sort of crime. Zuma is trying to use that to his advantage by saying that he might consider the death penalty but everyone knows it was against ANC policy to impose it and the ANC will always be against it. 
My support is no longer with the ANC – for too long have they abused their power in government. The ANC are not for all the races in this country – they cater for the black community more. It is not to say we don’t want the black community to improve. They too have been at a disadvantage for too long, but affirmative action is just driving thousands of talented people away from a country that needs them now more than ever.

The ANC have had their fair chances and have failed.

Hanif Manjoo, 64, printer, Johannesburg

The current leadership race is very negative and painful to the people, especially those who have come through the struggle.

I would, without doubt, like to see Comrade Jacob Zuma win the race.


Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma

The way the leadership has handled the Aids crisis is a crisis in itself. Such arrogance and insensitivity is unknown in the history of the ANC – decisions were always collective with the people in mind. Garlic and beetroot is a vulgar response to an extremely serious issue like HIV/Aids.

Ironically, when the Nationalist Party came into power, they nationalised the state’s services, such as roads and transportation, electricity and water supply, thereby creating jobs for their people and building decent houses for them.

Our ANC disposed of all state assets with privatisation. Today, we have a few enriched blacks – many with government ‘contacts’ – who are the guard-dogs of the white capitalists. This has resulted in the perpetuation of the enslavement of our people as insignificant players in their own country. For instance, if we look at the horse racing industry, with the exception of the lowly grooms, you will note that over 90 per cent of the owners, trainers, breeders and officials of the industry are white, a deplorable reflection of the demographics of our country’s majority. Yet, almost 80 per cent of punters are black.

In the same breath, the ANC has unleashed an array of gambling attractions with casinos, horse racing and a lottery twice a week. It is an indictment to see the number of poor blacks in casinos and in the Lotto queues with their hard-earned cash.

Ted Bull, 65, engineer, Eastern Cape

The leadership race is very damaging to the ANC. It would not surprise me if part of the party splinters and forms a new opposition. This may not be a bad thing as the party seems to have lost its way.

I would like to see anyone except Zuma become the party leader. I think he will damage our position on the moral high ground.

I support the ANC because there is no viable opposition. However, I am becoming more and more disillusioned.

When they came to power under Nelson Mandela we expected great things. Reasonable people expected problems but not the kind of clique mentality that allows incompetent ministers to remain in office. The ANC must return to its founding principles and put the welfare of the nation first.

Roshan Pillay, 42, company director, Nelson Mandela Bay

The leadership struggle between Mbeki and Zuma will not affect the ANC at all. It is a very old organisation and has gone through many leadership crises in the past and survived with its policies in place. 

South Africa has one of the highest rates
of murder and rape in the world

It must be remembered that the ANC has instilled a democratic approach to politics since 1912 in South Africa. If there was no battle between Mbeki and Zuma it would be a great disappointment because the ANC would not be the truly democratic organisation it is. 

The ANC has always comprised members with different views. It has allowed issues to be debated openly because it is committed to democracy. 

Contrary to popular belief, the crime rate is declining rapidly. There are more arrests made now than ever before and it must also be noted that the apartheid government suppressed the true crime statistics.

I am disillusioned with the ANC’s foreign policy. It does not address the problems in Iraq, Palestine, Fiji and Sri Lanka well enough. South Africa and Sri Lanka are the only two countries in the world that practice Roman Dutch Law and Sri Lanka still practices apartheid like it was applied in South Africa before freedom. The National Party gave the Sri Lankan government military tanks, vehicles, rifles, etc, which are still being used by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil Tigers. The ANC has failed to assist its old ally the Tamil Tigers. 

Sarah Robinson, 26, African coffee importer, Johannesburg

The next president of the ANC will undoubtedly be the next president of South Africa and that is a frightening thought for many South Africans.

I currently see a divided, confused and somewhat desperate ANC.

The party knows that changes are necessary but the members are caught between party-patriotism and bold actions. Too proud to acknowledge its mistakes, it would rather throw its weight behind two candidates both accused of ignoring the rule of law and the country’s constitution.

I feel that the ANC’s most damaging downfall in the areas of Aids, crime and poverty is their lack of acknowledgement that these problems even exist. They consistently downplay the severity and consequences of these crises.

I do believe that the ANC is the best party to lead South Africa, but without the accountability that an opposition provides, I fear the extent to which corruption will filter through the ranks.

The ANC continues to hold the morality card and they play it every chance they can. By this I mean that the ANC still behaves like a liberation movement fighting against the evils of the white man instead of behaving like the democratically elected government that they are. It continues to stand on the moral high ground cursing the past abusers despite its own abuses committed in the name of freedom.

The people of South Africa have put their hope in the ANC and although they have been disappointed, they continue to offer their support. I admire this commitment but there must come a time when people can vote the way they want to and not the way they think they should because of the role the ANC played in ending apartheid.

Bruce MacMillan, 60, company owner, Eastern Cape

The ANC is a very strong organisation run on a strict hierarchical structure where the real power is with people in the background. So, I feel the leadership race will have no effect on the party.

Jacob Zuma is thought to have broader
grass-roots support

Mbeki has had his day, done very little for the people, the country or Africa. Zuma is strong and popular and the clear favourite but unfortunately a totally inappropriate candidate.

The ANC has so many other excellent members who would be far better leaders such as Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa and Trevor Manuel.

The succession race offers a welcome distraction from the real problems facing South Africa; unemployment, corruption, crime and Aids.

In the South African electoral system seats in parliament are won by political parties and not by individual candidates. The ANC party hierarchy appoints positions in parliament and the organs of state. Appointees are not accountable to the public, only to the party – so they must tow the party line and show no dissent otherwise they are replaced.

The only party I ever voted for was the ANC – as at that time I felt they were the only party representing all the people. In the beginning this was so. Unfortunately, the great Mandela’s shoes were and are too big to be filled, so his dream of a Rainbow Nation has been replaced by nepotism, corruption and incompetent people.

Yunus Desai, 55, political analyst, Johannesburg

I was a member of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid and there was a great feeling of optimism for South Africa when Nelson Mandela was president. Unfortunately, it was a short lived illusion because the Mbeki camp convinced Nelson Mandela to back them for the presidency.

Right now, it is too late and a situation ‘beyond repair’ because every government department is riddled with corruption, and the 2010 World Cup is just going to make matters worse – debt.

John Robinson, 44, photojournalist, Pietermaritzburg

Mbeki has got rid of much leadership material in his quest for the presidency of the country and neglected much of the constituency of the ANC.

I think that HIV/Aids has caused some people to accept the fact that they could be dead by 25 and just live for today, while others live in denial, saying that it is not their problem. I see graveyards filling up over the weekends. I wonder who will be left.

I supported the ANC but have become disillusioned. The economy is doing okay but the poor are neglected. I would like to see the gravy train grind to a halt.

I think the ANC’s birds are coming home to roost.

Source: Al Jazeera


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