William Saunderson-Meyer
3 minute read
12 Apr 2014
8:30 am

ANC veteran Turok sticks head above parapet. Then ducks

William Saunderson-Meyer

One election scenario is that the ANC sees its majority slashed.

Waking from its walk on the dark side, the party attributes the erosion of voter trust to President Jacob Zuma’s failings and ousts him as leader.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa takes the reins and all comes good. It’s a heart-warming idea but ignores the reality that JZ has spent an entire presidential term on little other than making his position impregnable.

Outside of Parliament, party membership drives in KwaZulu-Natal ensured that they could thwart any recall. The Youth League, too, has been tamed. Within Parliament he is also unchallengeable. The critical posts are all occupied by isiZulu speakers pledging fealty to Number One. The party election list has been similarly engineered.

The ANC is now an almost moral-free zone. After the election the principled old-guard that built the ANC into the world’s oldest intact political organisation will virtually all have been sidelined. Deputy-President Kgalema Motlanthe is going, as are Trevor Manuel and Ben Turok. They join the likes of Ronnie Kasrils, Pallo Jordan and Thabo Mbeki among the spectators. So did they jump or were they pushed? There’s possibly a small clue in Turok’s memoir, With My Head Above the Parapet, which comes out next week.

It’s a forthright but characteristically even-handed insider account by Turok – who one suspects takes modest pride in his ability to get under the skin of any and every ANC faction, and who chairs the parliamentary ethics committee – of the decline of the ANC.

There is not the slightest intimation of retirement in the book. It is clear that when it went to press, Turok still fully expected to continue in Parliament. He writes of the ANC’s woes: “Can all this be fixed? I am not sure. I soldier on … I can see no viable alternative.”

Maybe the threats against his life, after Turok’s committee in late 2013 sank Communications Minister Dina Pule, changed his mind.

Turok’s lifelong commitment to the ANC and his disillusionment and revulsion at post-1994 developments shine through the memoir in equal measure. He writes he is in “no mood to put a rosy gloss” on the ANC’s loss of direction.

One of the issues is racialism. During the struggle, the ANC was generally “extremely vigilant” in insisting that it was not anti-white, but anti-apartheid. But “after 1994, these distinctions seemed to become difficult to uphold … Race discrimination now became the focus”.

Turok makes clear that the malaise took hold during the Mbeki administration and has not diminished under a Zuma presidency “notable for a degree of incoherence in government”, with policy documents “full of inconsistencies and even contradictions, and plans ill conceived and not properly thought through”.

Those pinning their hopes on a rebellion by the ANC’s good angels are likely to be disappointed.

“Having spent most of my life as a cadre, I remain loyal despite reservations.” Although, theoretically, there are limits: “Should I conclude that the ANC has strayed fundamentally … I shall leave.”

Tough love is difficult to do.

‘With My Head Above the Parapet’ is published by Jacana. Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye