The resignation of Makhosi Khoza this weekend is a painful reminder that Party Politics is not the answer to the challenges facing South Africa. Khoza was a ‘golden girl’ in Parliament making all the right noises about what the role of MPs must be regardless of their political affiliation. She rose to prominence in KZN politics where her feisty nature earned her enemies. But her prominence was more pronounced when she led the charge in various Parliamentary inquiries, especially the inquiry into the mess at the SABC.
Her prominence meant that she challenged the established habit of sunshine questions to ANC ministers – a process that did not encourage accountability. Khoza changed this narrative and many more MPs were set to follow. Her brand of MP behaviour earned her new enemies who sided with rogue MPs like Faith Muthambi who would not be held accountable as the believed that the MPs were beneath them. Unfortunately the rogue elements emerged victorious and pushed her out. She was also under pressure from the party when she led the charge against former president Jacob Zuma – encouraging MPs to vote against Zuma in a motion of no confidence that saw many ANC MPs voting outside the party line.
This set a huge precedence ahead of the Nasrec conference and began to show a shift in the ANC. Her role within the political system became untenable because few joined her in being vocal against the rot in the ANC. She increasingly became a lone voice. And this is the trouble about party politics – that people need a safe space to articulate that which will not have dire consequences for them. Her resignation from the ANC was soon forgotten . We were reminded of her existence again when she hurriedly launched a party that seemed to fashion itself on ANC heritage , symbols and even policies. This made her lose huge credibility as people wondered what the pressure to launch a half baked party was all about.
The use of ANC symbols was probably the worst miscalculation on her part and this took attention away from what what the party stood for and what her real reasons for forming a part was all about. The party was quickly off the radar and few have paid attention to it. Before we knew it there were accusations and counter accusations that were akin to the collapse of both COPE and Agang SA. All these parties inherited habits from the ruling party both is substance and in form. In substance there was nothing discernible about the policies that could distinguish it from the ruling party. The membership was also remnant of people with a traditional alignment or membership of the ANC. The form , the mannerisms the symbolism the heritage was also screaming ANC lite! This was a death before the birth of anything inspiring , anything new.
Another parallel was with that of the moribund Agang SA. The nature of the embarrassing squabbles there gave a sense that Mamphela Ramphele behaved like the ANC leaders she was criticising. She did not pay salaries to her workers and moved far ahead of her own troops in toenadering with the DA without a proper mandate.
Allegations of the mismanagement of funds were already flying around. Mamphele’s reputation is now in taters because she has left a trail of destruction and has left dreams of a alternative deferred. It is said that she went on to form yet another failing NGO called Re-imagine SA where she plagiarised work done by that organization to produce her latest book claiming to be her own ideas. I am mentioning this sorry story not because I don’t love Mamphele but because I was her biggest fan when she was a voice of civil society – she made a blunder like Makhozi did by going the part political route instead of re-imagining societal impact outside a party political system, Clearly she went on to be corrupted by politics if her latest plagiarism of the work of Re-imagine SA was anything to go by. Those who worked with her at Agang SA have nothing flattering to say about her and her short cut to the Presidency through the DA leaves much more to be desired. Makhozi Khoza made the same big mistake and now she will battle to pick up her reputation to be ever taken seriously on a national platform – much like Mosiuoa Lekota and Maphele Ramphele. They are all on the periphery because of the belief that party politics are the solutions of our challenges. This is a flaw in our body politic.
The most effective interventions in the new South Africa have been through civil society actions more than political platforms. The opposition parties have largely failed to cause policy changes in the trajectory of government inertia. Who can forget the biggest policy shift of the last decade where government was forced by the TAC, a civil society body, to respond to the tragedy of HIV/Aids. On two occasions civil society bodies went to court to force the distribution of Nevarapin and ARVs.
Lately civil society bodies such as AfriForum and Freedom Under Law determined the pulse of the national agenda. I believe that their impact is way more than what opposition political parties have achieved. Politics have wasted the talents of leading lights like Mamphele and Khoza and the retirement of both from active politics may well be a boon to our country if they don’t choose to be lost to our national life. Their stories, while different, have a similar lesson that the time to put everything in the basket of party politics has expired and the future of the country lies in the hands of civil society. In other words a hunger to do things for ourselves rather than an over reliance on politicians.
Finally it will be curious, given the personality driven party politics, to see whether ADEC will go the way of Agang SA into oblivion or those that have remained behind will pick up the pieces.
- Keswa is a businesswoman and she writes in her personal capacity. You can follow her on Twitter: @lebokeswa