It was a hero’s welcome and Andile Lungisa was the star of the show. The laughable part was how Lungisa styled himself as a political prisoner when in fact he was jailed for assault.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
While Port Elizabeth is known as the windy city, it is Cape Point that holds the title as the windiest place in South Africa.
It is a fact though that December is the windiest month in the city, with gales reaching an average of 5 metres per second. But the wind coming from the seat of the Nelson Mandela Metro currently is not so much a natural gust as it is a political one.
And so it came to be that on 1 December we witnessed the release of Andile Lungisa after two months in Port Elizabeth’s North End prison. He was welcomed by an adoring crowd of fervent supporters, clad in ANC colours with matching flags waving in the air.
It was a hero’s welcome and Lungisa was the star of the show. The laughable part was how Lungisa styled himself as a political prisoner when in fact he was jailed for assault. Flanked by known ANC leaders, he addressed what was supposed to be a press conference. Instead it was a long ramble that sounded like a historical political lecture on the genesis of the ANC. But hidden in that long message were his true intentions – leadership change. After rambling about how useless the ANC’s leadership had been historically, he laid his cards on the table. Lungisa recalled how erstwhile ANC leaders, soon after its formation in 1912, had opted to send deputations to England to beg for an audience with the British king to appeal for his intervention in the Union of South Africa.
This was in reference to ANC delegations that went on months-long sojourns in Britain to petition against oppressive laws that reduced Africans to secondary citizens in the land of their birth.
In calling for a “change of leadership”, Lungisa portrayed the current ANC leadership as being of the same mind as their forebears. Nothing could be further from the truth. But in the age of disinformation, facts matter little.
Lungisa’s narrative is in line with Jacob Zuma’s insult to Ramaphosa – accusing him of being under the control of white puppet masters. In August, Zuma penned an open letter to the president in which he accused him of pleading for “white validation and approval”. These are attempts to alienate Ramaphosa from the ANC’s members and supporters, who are drawn from the poorest of South Africans.
Lungisa may seem an insignificant player in the political game, but he isn’t. He is a Trojan horse in the bigger political game to remove Cyril Ramaphosa.
At his press conference, Lungisa was flanked by former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, who was also there when Ace Magashule appeared in court in Bloemfontein on corruption charges last month, after the court appearance where the ANC secretary-general referred to Mahumapelo as the only person who can “fix” North West,
ignoring the obvious fact that it was under Mahumapelo’s leadership that North West was plunged into its worst governance crisis. Mahumapelo was also present at the secret meeting at Durban’s Maharani Hotel in 2018 where it is believed the post-Nasrec fightback was launched.
While Zuma and his grouping may have lost the national congress in December 2017 – after Ramaphosa defeated Zuma-sponsored candidate Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma – they never demobilised.
When Lungisa rails against the ANC leadership, he is not counting Magashule among those who must be removed. If anything, he was launching the unofficial Magashule campaign towards the ANC’s 2022 national congress.
This grouping will test its strength at the upcoming ANC national general council, scheduled for May 2021, where they are expected to call for Ramaphosa’s removal. If this fails, 2022 will be the final battleground.
The reality is that Ramaphosa finds himself in the crosshairs of many ANC leaders, the majority of whom are accused of corruption. But it is not a simplistic fight of good guys against bad guys. Ramaphosa’s challenge is that corruption cuts across both factions within the ANC. Even those who support Ramaphosa within the ANC are implicated in acts of wrongdoing. The deputy minister of State Security, Zizi Kodwa, is a case in point. That’s what complicates things.
That is why Ramaphosa appears weak and why the ANC’s last national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend is likely to be a triumphant parade for Magashule. The party will debate the contentious resolution that party leaders accused of corruption should step aside. Already the legal opinion sought by Luthuli House, from Adv Gcina Malindi, has dampened that resolution – suggesting it would be unconstitutional to temporarily remove those on the wrong side of the law.
Magashule has already defied the resolution, saying only ANC branches can ask him to step aside. In his defiance he has been joined by the likes of corruption accused Bongani Bongo and a band of dodgy misfits at lower levels who have joined the bandwagon.
This is the grouping that wants control in the ANC. They see Ramaphosa as a stumbling block. A stronger and independent National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sends shivers down their spines.
These are the same people who closed down the Scorpions, in June 2008, in a record six months. So Ramaphosa may survive attempts to remove him, but no matter how well meaning he may be, he will not win the fight against corruption within the ANC.
The events of the coming months will reveal whether the wind that blew in Port Elizabeth this week is a forceful gale or merely political flatulence. DM168
Sibusiso Ngalwa is the Newzroom Afrika Politics Editor and the SANEF chair.
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