Gareth Setati
Gareth Setati

Obama and Mangaung

Truth never damages a cause that is just — Mohandas Gandhi

And so Barack Obama takes the presidency. A congratulatory note to the American people for choosing leadership continuity. We must take this moment to recognise the smooth and painless electoral process that sees Obama with another opportunity to effect change domestically and internationally. Presumably he finds himself in his last term with the expectation he has now less of a need to please everybody and more scope for boldness in policy direction. As Mitt Romney remarked in his concession of defeat, let us pray that it will be so in a progressive direction, especially with regards to meeting his still somewhat unfulfilled promises of hope and change.

Obama is one of only two Democrats to gain a second term since World War II. We must nevertheless draw important lessons about the importance of leadership continuity. You see, in any organisation, there is some profit in allowing leaders and administrations to see out more than one term. How else would we get to measure their performance fairly and adequately? Not only that, it is common cause that visions and programmes at senior levels require time for their initiators to see them through.

In my view, perhaps a naive one, to replace an administration that still has another term requires that administration to satisfy at least two conditions:

1. It must have adequately demonstrated to have presided over royal mess-ups
2. Furthermore it must be easily demonstrable that whoever gains political power, if it is so determined by voters, can be shown to be an agent of tangible change.

Let us then turn our attention to our situation. In South Africa these two conditions ought also to be applied in settling our leadership struggles. As things stand, swapping President Jacob Zuma for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will be exactly that, a mere swap! It will be an exercise in farce.

First off, Motlanthe is second in charge and therefore in our posturing and politicking towards the leadership elections in Mangaung, let us not forget this fact: the deputy president is party to the existing policies, he is just as accountable for the efficacy or lack thereof in implementing policies.

Secondly we must demystify the matter further by asking how much better, from a policy direction and policy implementation perspective, a Motlanthe-led administration is expected to fare in contrast to a Zuma-led one. We should strongly doubt that after this sort of reflection we will continue to make emotional calls for a painful leadership change that leaves the unity of the people and the movement wounded. Let us be reminded that unnecessary leadership change, especially for dubious and frivolous short-term motivations, has the effect of setting such precedents and embedding in the movement a pernicious culture of political expediency.

In the context of our country and its realpolitik it would be healthier and make better sense to chop and change leadership so quickly if only we expected the new nominees to usher in sweeping reforms to current policies. Or better yet if we expected their capacity to implement those policies to surpass those of the incumbents’. But alas this appears not to be the case! As a matter of fact, and herein is the farce, the large proportion of the nominees can more or less be said to be the very incumbents. This is the very reason why we should expose our vehement calls for leadership change in the ruling party as political red herrings!

The point made here must not be taken to mean the Zuma administration is not without its challenges. We all know the pitfalls this administration has suffered. We all appreciate there are plenty areas of improvement but we must recognise, with no trace of humour, that these pitfalls have been suffered and the potential improvements thereof, by default, apply equally to the so-called “new” leadership being punted.

In saying and asking these things, we must of course concede that any administration has its challenges. On this, then, political maturity and political honesty will come into its own when we concede that this will be the case with Motlanthe at the helm or Fikile Mbalula as the ruling party’s secretary — for they are already members of Cabinet.

Let us take lessons from history. Let us take lessons from what we see to be working around us. A case in example is the Chinese. Of late their system is seen to be beginning to reap some success. The Chinese embrace leadership continuity so much so that their system has fixed leadership transitions that occur every decade. And on another note also deploy very capable technocrats where necessary.

It’s important to note the American democratic system does not provide a perfect example for comparison purposes with our democracy but this should not make it impossible for us to draw lessons. It should suffice to say there is obviously a lot to be said on the subject of democratic transitions, good leadership, the strength of opposition parties and frank politics. Though such a debate must be had, and this is not my undertaking here, we must keep vigilant in questioning our decisions and actions rather than accepting to be swept by rhetorical flights of political fancy. There are lessons everywhere. Let us be decisive in our quest to take emotion and expediency out of our politics.

“Forward” indeed.

Tags: , ,

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    • bonga zulu

      first of all i will like to say that i love that Mohandas Gandhi quote
      now lets examine Obama policies last year December when most of the candidates where on Xmas holidays he passed the NDAA bill meaning that the American government can detain any one with out informing your family /you don’t have a right to have a lawyer / they can imprison you anywhere in the world and don’t let you know where you at / and many other inhuman things can be done to the detainee
      now i quoting from RT news
      The plaintiffs that are suing US President Barack Obama over his insistence on keeping the National Defense Authorization Act on the books said Thursday that they fear Americans are already being held indefinitely and without trial under the NDAA.

      US President Barack Obama refrained from even once commenting on his efforts to keep his power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge when he appeared on Reddit.com recently and urged users to “Ask Me Anything.” His opponents in the matter aren’t shying away from speaking up online, though.
      now tell me where is truth in that ?
      here is a link for further reading http://rt.com/usa/news/ndaa-reddit-plaintiffs-hedges-143/

    • Ntombi

      Gareth, this article contains the “inconvenient truth” which leave most south africans asking; why such a let down by the ruling party???
      We had our eggs in one basket and the situation at hand has let many of us to switch off even though that in itself will never yield any results.
      We have become numb and turned into onlookers waiting to see what tomorrow has in store for us.
      Matters of voting all over the world, is a sophisticated system with lots of known activities meant for voters and not to be known activities meant for administrations. It is such intertwined that we feel obliged to make peace with whatever comes our way.

      If voting was a genuine exercise; we would definitely have a say in electing a leader of our choice. But for whatever it has become……hip hip , hooray!!!!!!!!!!

    • Analyst

      Interesting article, but a very painful comparison between Obama and the Mangaung contenders. On the one had you have Obama – an honest, wise man of integrity, who represents the best of his people, and commands respect outside his party – he stands for the USA, not just the democrats. On the other, you have the painfully compromised leaders of Mangaung, who are the polar opposite of Obama in every possible way. The argument about continuity – that it may as well be Zuma as Mothlanthe is no better – is true but beside the point, and reflects that in SA, so-called leaders put themselves and their party above the nation. The only real analogy with the USA would be if Al Capone were currently the US president, and people were saying well, it’s not too bad, as the alternative is Charles Manso, so we may as well have continuity. SA is truly a damaged and bereft state, with damaged and bereft leaders.

    • Analyst

      Interesting article, but a very painful comparison between Obama and the Mangaung contenders. On the one had you have Obama – an honest, wise man of integrity, who represents the best of his people, and commands respect outside his party – he stands for the USA, not just the democrats. On the other, you have the painfully compromised leaders of Mangaung, who are the polar opposite of Obama in every possible way. The argument about continuity – that it may as well be Zuma as Mothlanthe is no better – is true but beside the point, and reflects that in SA, so-called leaders put themselves and their party above the nation. The only real analogy with the USA would be if Al Capone were currently the US president, and people were saying well, it’s not too bad, as the alternative is Charles Manson, so we may as well have continuity. SA is truly a damaged and bereft state, with damaged and bereft leaders.

    • http://ThoughtLeader Lily

      I must say, this is a well thought out piece of writing. I share your sentiment, that of just swapping leaders, albeit in the same organisation, does not make a sense. We need to grow democratically, allow more contesting views by allowing opposition. The attitude of the ANC towards the formation of COPE was disappointing, for instance.

      I am not so very sure whether our current president that, when he speaks, he holds the mandate of the party. I sometimes find what comes out of his mouth shocking. He does not seem to think that he is there because he was voted into that position. He seems to think that he has a right to being there.

      Continuity is not a bad idea but what continuity in the case of our president?

    • Ineeleng

      Freedom of speech, truth be told that you have highlighted key points about the electoral process of USA and that WE South Africa as a nation are we adobting things that would benefit the country as a whole or a few individuals. South africa needs to change, but are we going to change for the best or for the worst??

    • Sterling ferguson

      @Gareth, SA needs direct elections for the president, members of parliament and mayors so, the people can hold them accountable. The political parties in SA don’t let an unknown in the party take their show on the road to the people like Obama did and win. The political parties in SA are run by kingmakers and the people in the parties have no input in the policies of the parties.

    • Sterling ferguson

      @Gareth, the Chinese system is not democratic and shouldn’t be included in this discussion.

    • The Creator

      A more appropriate comparison would be between Mangaung and the American Presidential primaries.

      Of course, the Democrats didn’t permit one — just anointed Obama the way the North Koreans anoint the latest survivor of the Kim family.

      And as for the Republicans, their nomination circus actually made the choice at Mangaung look attractive!

    • Gareth Setati

      @Sterling, the point on the chinese was not about democracy but about drawing lessons on leadership continuity. Also, it must be noted that the Chinese system cant be deemed to be totally and utterly devoid of democracy. The chinese electoral system is an interesting topic for which it was not the primary concern of the points I wished to cast light on.

      On the issue of direct elections for president, these matters appear to be a function of the political history of the respective nations and perhaps Africa is a great testament of this fact. There is also the question of the cultural applicability of such an electoral system in the african context. We cannot, by default, suggest that all nations ought to follow the electoral systems of the west – the difficulties of trying to ram down the throats of de-colonised nations particular political systems have been the subject of much study in the field of neo-colonialism. These difficulties have proven formidable in several nations and have informed the need for afro-centric forms of governance.

      Given the human development index within the african populace, perhaps the political status quo is the viable option in the meantime – when this “meantime” will end is subject to the pace at which our policies will give birth to a viable middle-class that is capable of entertaining western-type democratic systems. Fanon asked “so my brothers, how is that we dont understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same…

    • Gareth Setati

      …that Frantz Fanon quote should read: ““so my brothers, how is that we dont understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe”

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I resent Mbeki giving away the Fruits of the labour of MY ancestors, and the ancestors of many other South African pioneers to his Pan Africanist friends, and insane projects like Timbuktu!

      Especially his comment “South Africa can not be an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty”

      Pioneers died, slaved, went bankrupt to create that island of prosperity for SOUTH AFRICANS!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      These were the classifications for the Brown and Yellow Tribes in the Old SA Identity Books which did NOT describe them as Mixed Race Coloureds like Americans:

      1.CAPE Coloured
      2 Malay
      3 Griqua
      4 Chinese
      5 Indian
      6 Other Asian
      7 Other Coloured

      If the ANC insists on re-introducing racial classifications at least make them ACCURATE!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The ANC has been trying to re-write history for 18 years and longer, but that can’t be done:

      The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
       Moves on: not all thy Piety nor Wit,
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
       Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

      (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam)

    • Sterling ferguson

      @Gareth, the ANC has been telling telling the people that the people are too ignorant to make rational decisions about the government so,.this is why there is no direct elections. In the mean times, the elite squaid in the ANC are looting the treasurer of SA. You did a very good job pointing out the flaws in the government but, you didn’t say anything about the cause of the problems.

      Speaking of China, this country has some serious problems with all of those people and extreme rich and poor people.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The Black Only ANC of the North understood nothing about the Cape Coloured
      Not after Chief Luthuli was ousted in a coup by the Youth League of Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu.

      Before that Luthuli and Z K Matthews represented the ANC and the Blacks of the North, and the Liberal Party of Alan Paton the Whites and Coloureds of the South, and they worked together.

      When the Liberal Party disbanned – the Cape Coloureds joined the PAC.

    • Frank Talk

      @Analyst. lol, Im sorry but your analysis is a poor one. Did you just say “On the one hand you have Obama – an honest, wise man of integrity, who represents the best of his people, and commands respect outside his party – he stands for the USA, not just the democrats”? Dont you know that all political animals are cut from the same cloth? According to psychologists they even fit the same personality profile. So I think you need to re-analyze the situation once more.

      @Lily. The ANC’s reaction to the formation of COPE could hardly have been met with jubilation – seriously now. T.I.A, This Is Arica! I admire your innocence if you expected big hugs between Terror Lekota and Jacob Zuma during that time.

      @bonga. yo comment betrays your eagerness to share your homework on Obama’s dirty laundry. It’d be good information if it wasn’t so irrelevant for this discussion. All leaders or kings or emperors or presidents of all superpowers since day 1 have dirty laundry, dont hate the player hate the game…

      Methinks the discussion is timely and provokes us to ask tough questions about where this country is headed. Look, one reason Msholozi could be asked to leave is that the man just has a thing with always being in deep trouble; and his type of troubles are not good for someone in a top position such as his – sleeping with friend’s daughters, palaces, etc…But if this the issue, they must just say it and stop being wuss bags. They not saying it because maybe they want…

    • Frank Talk

      …TENDERS

    • george orwell

      I am fascinated by people like “analyst” who have drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to that PR dream, Obama.

      Under Obama:

      – The NDAA act has been signed – Indefinite Detention without Trial. Remember that anti-democratic, evil law during the apartheid era? Now the US President signs it – and South Africans swoon?

      – SIx whistle-blowers have been detained (compared to only one under Bush). If the US has nothing to hide why is Obama so intent on shutting people up?

      – Ethical military crime whistle-blower Bradley Manning has spent more than a year in solitary and military detention, for exposing the type of murders white South African apartheid soldiers were guilty of in the townships as well as Namibia and Angola – ie. gunning down civilians.

      – The US, under Obama, has declared transparency advocate Julian Assange an “Enemy of the State” on a par with Al Qaeda. If they have nothing to hide why do they fear Wikileaks so much? Assange has been awarded the presitigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism because he’s reported more truth than the corporate media. Does Obama believe in free speech or not?

      – Obama has signed in Extra-Judicial Assassination. The New York Times ran an article on Obama’s “Kill Lists” .

      – Obomber has expanded the deadly drone wars in ways that people won’t fully understand until a US drone targets someone local.

      B.O. is an establishment man, serving the elite interests of the 1% arms, security, oil and banking…

    • http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      Thanks for a sensible article, making excellent points.

    • george orwell

      Barack “Nobel Peace Prize” Obama will continue with his illegal drone wars and Kill Lists:

      “Obama’s Kill Lists Will Continue”

      http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2012/11/07/kill-lists-will-continue/

    • SUKA

      But Zuma is corrupt, unlike the others. So he must GO

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, all of these groups in SA have to come together to move this country forward and not dwell on the past. The R -party in the US is finding out that the T-party views are hurting their party and not helping them. Only in SA the people of multi-racial backgrounds are called colored like in the old southern party of the US.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Gareth, Fanon also said that the African leaders were more repressive then their colonial masters were toward the African masses. You should read “Postcolony” by Achielles Mbembe and you will get another view of the problems in Africa.

    • meshack*

      We thought article in fact informative and articulate and objective ANC is comprised of policies not individuals, let’s not confuse policy with individuals jz and kgalema believes in same philosophy that is anc

    • meshack*

      Well thought article in fact informative and articulate and objective ANC is comprised of policies not individuals, let’s not confuse policy with individuals jz and kgalema believes in same philosophy that is anc

    • Gareth Setati

      @Sterling. Who was more repressive between the colonists or their puppet African administrations that took over them is perhaps a moot point. The issue also cannot be a blanket statement; each country has its truths; besides two wrongs can’t make a right!

      One must also consider the aggregate human development index of a country and relate that to how it affects and facilitates conditions for despotism and stifles modern democratic prescriptions. Western-type systems of governance were rammed down the throats of new African nations; this must surely have added to the issues of governance that followed. I’ve read Achebe and one must agree with his perspectives to a large extent. His novel, “The Anthills of the Savannah” is also an excellent read on this subject.

      Pre-colonization, it is common cause that African polities and principalities had emerged organically and hardly faced the challenges of post-colonialism and neo-colonialism. The are extenuating circumstances to the africa that emerged after independence.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Sterling

      Coloured is a different genetic Race (descended from Malay, Bushmen and Hottentots) to Black (descended from Bantu) in South Africa – not a mixed race of Black Slave and White Master like in the USA and Diaspora.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Sterling

      I don’t think Mbeki knew what a Coloured was. He grew up in the Transkei and then went into exile and worked for decades for the ANC which was a Blacks Only party until 1985. He only seems to have read upon American Black History, not African History, so probably also thought the Coloureds a Black/White mix like Americans.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Sterling

      Both Mandela and Mbeki tried to create Mythical South Africas

      Mandela’s myth was based on a mis-interpretation of Ubuntu which does not mean “People First” but “Tribe First”. ALL tribes of the world called themselves “The People”, including, for example, the Native American tribe living in New York when the Dutch arrived.

      Mbeki’s Pan Africanist One Tribe and Culture Africa is based on Black American Mythology.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Gareth, I don’t know if you are aware of it, but, you are trying to defend the Santo, Mugabe and all of the on party rulers in Africa. All of these presidents for life have all setup these corrupted governments in Africa and are now saying without them the country would fall apart. Once again you should read “PostColony” by Achilles Mbembe, he is one of the world leading historian on Africa. He teaches in SA and has studied at some of best universities in the world.

      You did a good job in pointing out the problems in SA however, you have to identify the causes and answer to those problems.