Being the director of a leadership centre, I watch leaders very closely. It is certainly rare to find one who is consistently above reproach.

My sense of fair play has made it hard for me to swallow the way the Mayor of Cape Town has been sidelined of late.  My generally positive views of the DA were shaken by my habitual inclination to side with the underdog.  (No offence meant by that term to the Mayor.)  The only good thing one can see in it, is that the DA has the courage to tackle an incumbent leader, not just to sweep the smallanyana skeletons under the carpet or into the closet.

I was so disgusted by Zuma’s last Cabinet shuffle a year ago that I wrote a short article called “March 31st will go down in history as Banana Republic Day”.  The way that Finance Minister Gordhan and others were treated was very, very shabby.  It was the last straw for many citizens (read: voters), triggering what can only be called a “citizen revolt”.

Now a year later the president has been replaced and Nene, Gordhan, and Hanekom are back.  There is something delicious about this irony. 

The deadwood that was cleared away by Ramaphosa in his first Cabinet shuffle – like Mahlobo, van Rooyen, and Brown – was no surprise.  If anything, we were surprised that Gigaba, Dlamini and Mokonyane were not dispatched as well, for their respective bungling and/or linkages to State Capture.

No tears will be shed over Shaun the sheep Abraham’s departure either, if and when the High Court’s decision is validated by the Constitutional Court. All of these follow a consistent logic; they are rational steps all going in the right direction.

But I personally have a bone to pick with the EFF over its decision to abandon the coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay, sacking Mayor Trollip.  This seems vindictive.

In their book The Fall of the ANC, Mashele and Qobo call the breed of leaders that came to the fore after Polokwane “vindictive triumphalists”.  The prevailing ANC leadership style has been brazen and unprincipled.  The other camp within the ANC was dubbed by these authors the “soul-battered mourners”.  We saw some of these emerge like Makhosi Khoza, the Stalwarts, Ahmed Kathrada, and so forth.

I have admired the EFF’s intolerance of corruption and ANC vindictiveness.  Less than a year after Malema was turfed out of the ANC (a soul-battered mourner if there ever was one), he formed a new party and won 25 seats in a parliament of 400 seats.  That was amazing.

The scuffles on the floor of Parliament and the #PayBackTheMoney campaign actually stole the DA’s thunder and made the EFF look at times like the official Opposition party.

The EFF’s response to the shock results of the Municipal elections in 2016 was to support the Coalitions in the Metros, but to keep at arm’s length.  This has allowed the DA time and space to really clean house and to expose the extent of the looting and plundering that had been going on.  Triumphalism had reigned and the need for a massive clean-up was verified.

So it is alarming to me to suddenly see Malema throw the toys out of his crib and turn “vindictive triumphalist” himself – on Mayor Trollip. Worse yet is the fact that there are three such Coalitions – with two black Mayors and one white.  One can only wonder why the EFF singled out the white Mayor, one who exceptionally is fluent in isiXhosa.  He is symbolic.  This makes it look anti-white.

If the DA’s strong suite has been non-racialism, then the EFF’s strong suite has been land re-distribution.  I was even pleased to see the motion to set up a committee to study how to change the Constitution in parliament.  That will not be an easy prospect, and the EFF should not assume that because a committee has been set up that the ANC will be all in favour of it.  Sometimes setting up a committee is a good way to put something off!  One must remember that the ANC’s terminology of “unity” is code-language for “gridlock”.  There are at least two ANCs at this stage, if not more.  Already bold voices from inside the ANC are speaking out against expropriation without compensation.  EFF should not count its chickens before they hatch.

I am disturbed by the racial overtones of the lunge at Mayor Trollip.  Did the EFF really ever think that the DA might support expropriation without compensation?  Get serious!  You cannot change the leopard’s spots.

What does it say about the EFF and the very real prospect of NO PARTY winning a majority in the 2019 elections?  Who will want to form a coalition with turn-coats?

And seriously in this first 100 days of “Ramaphoria”, still early days in the clean-up operation, do you think that voters are going to forgive and forget?  I have my doubts.  I think that the EFF could have just handed a huge bonus to the DA for the 2019 elections.  Bold black voices are already rising from Nelson Mandela Bay asking why the EFF will sell out the DA? only to bring back those looters and plunderers again before the State Capture investigation really gets going?

Malema must face the real prospect that the Guptas will still be on the loose during the 2019 election campaign.  There is no extradition treaty with Dubai and the Guptas are on home turf in India with lots of loot plundered in South Africa to pay their legal fees and their bribes.

I think that the EFF turning on its partner in Nelson Mandela Bay was either a serious miscalculation, or a glimpse of that recessive ANC gene that dwells in the DNA of the EFF.  It is Malema who once said that he would kill for Zuma.  At the time, few dared to speak out against the vindictive triumphalists. But Desmond Tutu rebuked Malema, and also Zuma for not having corrected the young man right at the time, as an African elder should have.  That night, the head of a statue of Desmond Tutu in Port Elizabeth was cut off.  In the morning, it was laying on the lawn at the foot of the statue.  This was in 2008, a full seven years before the #RhodesMustFall campaign.

First it was #TutuMustFall. Now it is #TrollipMustFall. Shame on you, EFF, for being so vindictive.

Chuck Stephens is the Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership writing in his own capacity

comments