Bathabile Dlamini’s presidential loss to Sisisi Tolashe arguably severed the last hydra head of the Radical Economic Transformation faction.
An obituary might have escaped your attention during this past weekend’s ANC Women’s League electoral conference. Bathabile Dlamini’s presidential loss to Sisisi Tolashe arguably severed the last hydra head of the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction. One of South Africa’s most powerful political groupings no longer has anyone in a leadership position of consequence.
At this point it’s little more than a ceremonial demise. Former president Jacob Zuma is facing jail time, Ace Magashule has been ostracised, Carl Niehaus has sunk into irrelevance and most of their allies have either dissipated or become turncoats. Still, as a marker in our history, it is significant. And, more importantly, it is a reminder of the devastation that arises when democracy goes dark.
Baleka Mbete urged delegates ahead of the conference to eradicate the “disease” of factionalism so as to better serve society. On that call we are fully with her — even if we recognise that it is easier for the winners of those factional battles to write their own history.
Politics by its very nature must feature competition. But there is a difference between healthy debate and the rotten, pernicious wrangling we have witnessed over the past decade or so.
The RET was at its forefront.
The name itself is a misnomer. There is nothing radical or transformative about the clique’s ideology. To the contrary, those who espoused it very specifically sought to preserve the status quo; to protect those in power irrespective of the piling evidence of corruption against them.
Economic transformation was simply a framing device to invoke emotion and present their opponents as the “other”. Hence “White Monopoly Capital” agents became the ultimate boogeymen, and to be labelled as such left one open to derision, protest and threats of violence.
This simplification of catchy phrases is an unfortunate habit in South African politics. Consider also the Economic Freedom Fighters’ baseless labelling of their media critics as “StratCom” journalists.
Words are robbed of their meaning when they are frivolously kicked around in asinine power games. This is the danger of weaponising important concepts such as the redistribution of wealth.
We must resist degrading our politics and the discourse about it in this fashion again.
The ANC is in trouble. Next year may well relieve the ruling party of its majority — a notion hitherto inconceivable. But at the very least it has been able to diagnose the “disease” that has ailed it for so long.