It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Well, Terror Lekota is certainly living up to his name, and good for him. It’s said he won his fearsome moniker when he was a youthful soccer player, and his recent actions show that it’s no idle boast. Since the ouster of Mbeki, he’s taken to the field with a vengeance and all I can say is, ‘Go Terror!’

Now I’m not about to throw my weight behind his campaign to ‘divorce’ the ANC and form a breakaway party. It’s still too early in the game to make a call about the viability and vision of his new team. I also don’t know whether he is motivated by ideology, principles, ambition, greed or a combination of all four. But I do admire his courage in tackling the almighty ANC and wish him well in his endeavours.

It’s not that I’m against the ANC, per se. They have certainly achieved many good things during their time in power. However, I do think that it’s high time the ruling party got taken down a peg or two. They have simply become too arrogant for their own good and need to be reminded that they are there to serve the people, not the other way around.

It’s all this ‘ruling until Christ comes again’ rhetoric that annoys me. No political party should believe that they are there by some kind of divine right. That sort of thing might have been worked for the European Kings and Queens of previous centuries, but it just doesn’t fly in a modern democracy. All in all, the ANC is currently suffering from a massive case of hubris, which can be neatly defined as the pride that comes before the fall.

And that’s why I’m happy that Terror is ignoring all the arrogant and increasingly angry denouncements coming out of the ANC. He’s just calmly going ahead with his plans; organising meetings, gathering support and playing the media. And there’s nothing that Zuma and his cronies can do to stop him.

The word is that we can expect a big announcement in a couple of weeks and then things are going to get interesting. I only hope that they are not going to call the new party something stupid like the ANC-PF or the New ANC or the ANC-Plus. That would just be confusing and pathetic. And they also shouldn’t descend into Monty Pythonesque tautology with something like the Congress of African Nationalists – although it does make a nice acronym. No, if they are serious about this then they should create a new party with a new name and a new identity. It might be hard to leave behind the legacy of the ANC, but that’s just the way it is.

Meanwhile, the ANC’s attitude to the whole affair is swinging between casual dismissiveness and stern threats of suspension. They keep saying that no breakaway party can survive without them. But it seems that the ANC has forgotten a rather important episode in its own history.

Back in 1959, a passionate and radical ANC leader decided that he didn’t like the way the party was going, so he split and started a new party. The man’s name was Robert Sobukwe and his new party was the PAC. Now, we don’t hear much about the PAC today, but the reality is that the PAC was a major political force in its day. In fact, it was considered so dangerous by the apartheid regime that Sobukwe and his followers were among the first people to be arrested and sent to Robben Island. It was only once the power of the PAC was broken that the government went after the ANC cadres.

As such, the early years of Robben Island as a political prison were dominated by the PAC. Sobukwe himself was seen as such a threat that they didn’t dare keep him with all the other prisoners. Instead, he was forced to live in solitary confinement in a small house, where he wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone for more than a decade. In the years that followed, PAC and ANC supporters on the Island engaged in a major rivalry that occasionally turned violent, and it was only thanks to the fame and charisma of people such as Nelson Mandela that the ANC came to assume the upper hand in the political arena.

True, the current PAC is a pale shadow of its former self, thanks to changing political ideologies and uninspired leadership. Nevertheless, the current king-makers in the ANC should not forget that breakaway parties can succeed and even flourish to the point that they become dangerous to an overly hegemonic authority.

Perhaps that’s why the ANC seems set on underplaying the contributions made by their rivals by renaming all the streets and district municipalities after their own comrades. They want to claim the struggle as theirs and theirs alone. I don’t agree with many of Sobukwe’s policies but I do think that the poor man deserves at least one airport.

And that’s why I applaud Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota for exercising his democratic right to stir things up. Whatever happens with his new party, Lekota’s rebellion is an important act of defiance against an organisation that is getting too big for its boots and needs a reality check. After all, the best thing about living in a democracy is that you can thumb your nose at the government without fear of losing your head. IMHO.

[Originally posted 14/09/2008]

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