Motlanthe: Playing by the book

Deputy President Kgalema ­Motlanthe.(Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Deputy President Kgalema ­Motlanthe.(Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Kgalema Motlanthe has expressed unhappiness about how the current administration has handled the issues of service delivery to the poor, the abuse of state organs and the state of affairs in the ANC, according to a new book by author and former trade unionist Ebrahim Harvey.

Motlanthe also takes a swipe at ANC leaders for kicking former youth league president Julius Malema out of the organisation.

He makes it clear in the book that he does not try to isolate himself from the problems – he is part of the party leadership, after all – but it is evident that he is not happy about the overall performance of the ANC and it's government.

Motlanthe does not specifically blame President Jacob Zuma, although the comments could be inferred as indirect criticism of his rival for the party presidency at the Mangaung conference in December.

Harvey's Kgalema Motlanthe: A Political Biography, will be launched on October 11 in Johannesburg.

Poor majority
"Kgalema's hopes for the new Zuma term were dashed in several major respects, but he does not try to distance himself from the problems. The situation for the poor majority, relations between the ANC and its allies and the state of affairs within the ANC itself are all on the whole very much as they were under [former president Thabo] Mbeki," writes Harvey.

"For the poor, in fact, it is arguable that conditions have worsened, mainly through the growing economic crisis starting in late 2008 and the results of some of our own economic and social policies."

The political biography is launched on the eve of Mangaung, but Motlanthe's office said the publishers and the author made the decision and it had nothing to do with him.

Another extract reads: "Other concerns for Kgalema are the continued abuse of state organs for political ends; a lack of unity and trust among top party officials; a destructive preoccupation with succession issues and less with services to the people; a steady departure from the fraternal, unitary and renewal themes at Polokwane; and a corrosive factionalism and careerism that has become rampant. His hope was that with time these things would improve. Instead they have got worse since Mbeki's time in office."

In the past few weeks, some ANC Youth League and ANC leaders – particularly from Limpopo – have accused Zuma of abusing state resources to settle political scores after Malema was charged with money laundering. ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu dismissed the claim.

The launch of the book comes days after the ANC national executive committee officially opened nominations for the top leadership at the party's 53rd national congress in Mangaung.

The biography will be released a week after the public protector cleared Motlanthe and his partner, Gugu Mtshali, for improper involvement in a deal to supply Iran with helicopters.

Leadership qualities
On Wednesday the youth league nominated Motlanthe as its preferred candidate for the position of ANC president, saying he has displayed the leadership qualities necessary to rescue the ANC from total decay and take the country into the 21st century as it grapples with issues such as growing the economy to create jobs and reduce deepening inequalities.

Other league preferences include ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, deputy secretary general Thandi Modise, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile and South Africa's ambassador to Italy, Thenjiwe Mtintso.

Despite his failure to declare his intentions publicly, it looks almost certain that Motlanthe will stand for the ANC presidency if nominated.

Those close to him say Motlanthe feels he has nothing to lose, should he avail himself for the position.

"He is not sentimental. He does not fear losing. He is not afraid or worried about safety of positions – that he might lose the position of deputy president or a position in the top six. His approach is that he serves at the invitation of the membership of the ANC and he will not go to them to canvass for support. It is up to them to decide where they want him to serve," said a confidant.

The leadership race for Mangaung has gained impetus after the publication of the numbers of Mangaung voting delegates, who appear to favour Zuma.

Motlanthe's insistence on "respecting" the wishes of delegates appears to indicate that he will not buy into any leadership solution that entails delegates not being allowed to express their wishes through the ballot. It was reported recently that Zuma's lobbyists had offered Motlanthe South Africa's presidency in 2014 if he would not challenge Zuma in Mangaung.

How democracy works
A close associate of Motlanthe said he was fond of using the example of former ANC and South African Communist Party leader Harry Gwala, who had opted to challenge veteran Walter Sisulu at the ANC conference in Durban in 1990, even though Sisulu appeared to be the popular choice.

"Gwala said he had to stand to demonstrate how democracy works. The ANC constitution says any member in good standing can stand for any position of leadership. He wanted to teach people that leadership by arrangement is wrong. We must allow delegates to decide," said the deputy president's associate.

Motlanthe's associate also referred to the example of African Union commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also declined to stand as national chairperson when Zuma lobbyists approached her in 2007 before the Polokwane conference.

"They assured her that she was guaranteed the position if she stood as national chairperson, but they would not support her candidacy as deputy president. But she told them the women's league had nominated her as deputy president and she would respect its wishes. She did not see herself as being in some kind of rivalry with Motlanthe, who was the other candidate for the position. She lost against Kgalema but the sky did not fall down; she continued to stay in the ANC and work well with Kgalema in Cabinet when he became acting president after Thabo Mbeki was removed."

In Harvey's book, Motlanthe also dismisses speculation that he would not avail himself if Zuma was still available for the top post at Mangaung.

"No, it is not true at all, but nobody has approached me. My position is that nobody must try to canvass for themselves in the run-up to elections. It is up to the will of the branches.

"But if I am nominated for such a position when the electoral commission approaches me and says I have been nominated for such a position, I will either accept or decline. However, I will not be party to any manoeuvring outside the prescribed constitutional structures and processes," Motlanthe is quoted as saying.

On the question of the expulsion of the Malema, Motlanthe believes it was not necessary to expel the firebrand youth leader.

Harvey writes that Motlanthe thought, after the youth league held its conference in 2011 and submitted its report and resolutions to the mother body, the ANC should have pointed out whether there were inconsistencies between that and the ANC's constitution and resolutions.

Motlanthe also criticises the ANC for failing to monitor Malema – who did not go for anger-management therapy in 2011 despite the national disciplinary committee ordering him to do so.

"But though these were his concerns, he, as always, respected decisions taken by all ANC structures and did not seek to oppose them," writes Harvey.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal.
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    Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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