ANC gets majority rule -- in Morkel family

Thanks to floor-crossing, the African National Congress (ANC) has at last secured a clear two-thirds majority in the Morkel family. The decisive moment came on Wednesday when the last of the Morkel brothers, Craig, joined the party.

But the patriarch, former Western Cape premier Gerald Morkel, has no intention of following in his sons’ footsteps. “Absolutely not,” he said.
“The status quo with me remains. I am a founder member of the Democratic Alliance, and for the rest of my political career I intend staying there.”

Politics has long been a family affair in the Morkel clan, and over the years has become increasingly complex. Gerald’s entry into politics was as a worker for an independent candidate in the apartheid-era Coloured Representative Council.

When the tricameral Parliament was created in 1984, he was elected on a Labour Party ticket to the coloureds-only House of Representatives. Along with a number of his colleagues, he defected to the National Party in the run-up to the 1994 general elections.

In 1998, he was chosen as the National Party’s Western Cape leader, and took office as provincial premier.

The National Party, reinvented as the New National Party (NNP), joined the Democratic Party to form the Democratic Alliance (DA), and Gerald followed suit, staying loyal to the DA when in 2001 the NNP leadership pulled out of the arrangement and threw in its lot with the ANC instead. “It was a matter of principle that I didn’t go to the ANC,” he said.

He served a term as DA provincial leader and as Cape Town mayor—a period marked by controversy over his links to fraudster Jurgen Harksen—and is now a councillor representing the Steenberg area.

The oldest of Gerald’s sons, Garth, who works for the Western Cape department of social services, has according to his father “always” been a member of the ANC.

Kent, the middle son, followed his father’s party trail first as a member of the LP, then through election to the Cape Town city council in 1996 on an NNP ticket. He too stayed with the DA after the bust-up, rising to the rank of its Western Cape chairperson. But he announced last week that he was crossing the floor to the ANC.

The youngest son, Craig, who came to Parliament in 1999 for the NNP, also threw in his lot with the DA.

However, in the face of suspension from the party over his involvement in the parliamentary travel-voucher fraud affair, he took advantage of the 2005 floor-crossing window to form the Progressive Independent Movement.

He said then he hoped to “go back to my political home” after the leadership of the DA had changed.

Asked at an ANC media briefing on Wednesday whether he thought his father would also cross, he said: “I think you’ll have to ask him that. He is a man that follows his own mind.

“I will try and influence him, as will my other brothers as well, but ... we respect each other’s views and have always tolerated diverse views in our family and encouraged debate.”

Gerald said his sons have always had a “free rein” to decide to which party they want to belong. “Never once were they asked to join the party I was in,” he said. In fact, he added, he had advised them not to enter politics.

“But I suppose the political bug bites in a family like ours. Even my grandfather was involved in politics in the old days, in Beaufort West. I suppose it runs in the blood.”

He said the political rivalries never spill over into the family’s regular get-togethers. “At home it’s very pleasant,” he said. “We will rag each other with, ‘What did the ANC say today, what did the DA say today?’, but nothing serious, because my wife doesn’t allow it.

“The big thing we discuss is sport. Half the family are Liverpool supporters, and the other half Manchester United supporters. It’s a very big rivalry.”—Sapa