Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 5:25 AM
They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We’re very worried that [Zuma] had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent; and, although he is very likable, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is happening in the ANC?’”
(Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
Alas, despite Archbishop Tutu’s admonition, delegates attending a seminal leadership conference of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) – almost a year ago today – chose accused rapist (and indicted thief) Jacob Zuma over President Thabo Mbeki to be their leader.
The reason for Tutu’s plea of course was that, if he became ANC leader, Zuma’s election in 2009 as the next president of South Africa would be a foregone conclusion - with all of the national shame that would entail.
What he could not have imagined, however, was that delegates who shared his disaffection for Zuma and his disillusionment with the ANC would split from their liberation party to form one founded on more progressive and pragmatic principles to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Yet that is precisely what a prominent group of Mbeki loyalists, led by former Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, did on Tuesday by inaugurating the Congress of the People (COPE) party. In fact, Lekota sounded COPE’s clarion call by lamenting the manner in which Mbeki was ousted and declaring Zuma unfit to lead South Africa.
Specifically, Lekota said that the new party was formed because:
South Africa was suffering from a crisis of leadership and because of concerns for the moral decay in our body politic.
And in his inaugural speech as COPE’s first president, he promised that:
The history of South Africa will never be the same again… Ours shall be a truly non-racial party that will provide a true home to all South Africans irrespective of race, class or gender.
Of course, few people expect Lekota and COPE to upset Zuma and the ANC in next year’s general elections; although, an endorsement of either party from Mbeki and the ANC’s most revered and respected member, Nelson Mandela, could prove decisive.
But it is an indication of the challenge they face that Lekota decried ANC tactics that were preventing many ANC members from joining his party as follows:
[I]ntimidation and paralysing fear are now gripping sections of our society — and I mean fear identical to that of the John Vorster and PW Botha [Apartheid] era.
Still, it would not surprise me if COPE and South Africa’s main opposition party until now, the Democratic Alliance, perform well enough to form a coalition government.
For now though, it is newsworthy enough to hail this new party as a sure sign that, despite its many growing pains, South Africa is growing into a robust and resilient democracy.
South Africa hails new leader: Zuma, Zuma, Zuma