South Africa: a leader-in-waiting - Moeletsi Mbeki

One man who could transform the Rainbow Nation.

Perhaps it's contentious to propose the brother of a former president. Yet the 66-year old younger brother of Thabo has many of the qualities required to resurrect the dream of a thriving modern-era South Africa.

Moeletsi is another son of Govan Mbeki, the Isitwalandwe Medal-winning activist and Robben-island imprisoned ANC leader. Equally importantly, Moeletsi is a Harvard Nieman Fellowship award-winning journalist, political economist and deputy chairman of the South African Institute of Economic Affairs. He is also Chairman of Endemol South Africa, a television production company.

He was a vehement critic of Thabo's presidency, has consistently raised questions about the poor track record of Jacob Zuma's leadership and accurately pinpointed areas for policy improvement. His libertarian-leaning articles have got him into trouble, though. The South African Broadcasting Corporation blacklisted him in 2003, along with other critics of the ANC government. But what proponent of reason and truth in any one-party state has not landed in the mire?

Unfortunately, like many political mavericks he's said a few things in the past which have had adverse repercussions. But his reasoning appears to have been relatively sound:  "South Africa’s two main nationalist movements had one thing in common, they were both movements of elites that sought to be included in the social, economic, cultural and political systems created by British colonialism" he said in conversation with Professor Peter Vale, holder of the Mandela Chair of Political Science at Rhodes University. 

Moeletsi has an understanding of historical, cultural, economic and political dynamics sorely lacking in either the current ANC leadership or in the firebrand youth wing populism of Julius Malema.

The challenge for Moeletsi would be the coalescing of a viable nation-wide constituency. In "Only a matter of time before the bomb explodes" Moeletsi details an agenda. What is clear would be his need to either form a new political grouping or garner enough support from within the ANC. The latter, despite his father's credentials, would seem impossible. The former was attempted by supporters of his ousted brother Thabo, when creating COPE, the Congress of the People, which failed to make any impact at the 2009 election.

The next general election in South Africa is scheduled for 2014. There is enough time for a new political force to take shape by then. In 2009 the ANC won 69.69% of the popular vote, with the opposition Democratic Party raising its game yet trailing on 12.37%. The Democratic Party, despite re-invigorated leadership under Helen Zille, hasn't the broad appeal necessary to lever the ANC from power. Yet while the ANC remains unchallenged the country will continue to slide.  Life expectancy will still fall, food production subside, violence and crime blight society, migrants always pour over the borders and yet fail to find work, the tax-base further dwindle, and fat-cats in authority become even richer. 

Moeletsi Mbeki has answers, but are South Africans prepared to propel him to power? And does he want the job?

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1 comment:

  1. Lots of food or thought here. There's another point to ponder on this though. There have been answers aplenty for South Africa. Why is no one listening? Or rather, why is no one who matters, interested in listening? South Africa's leadership (over 4 centuries) has displayed a fabulous propensity to ignore sound judgement.

    Joe Public will certainly not propel any thinker into leadership. The voting public tends to use American Idols as a reference for decision making. Escaping from the anesthesia of liberation politics/populist politics and replacing it with issue-driven politics will take a miracle of epic proportions.