Mondli Makhanya: Democracy’s the real winner

During the ANC’s centenary celebrations in 2012, the party dedicated each month to honouring is past presidents.

Tribute lectures, which were broadcast live on SABC television and radio, were rotated throughout the country and delivered by the most senior leaders of the organisation.

The honour of giving the Nelson Mandela lecture fell to President Jacob Zuma, who was about to complete his first term as president of the ANC.

As Zuma droned his way through, I received this priceless SMS from a friend: “Msholozi must be the only person in the world who is capable of making Madiba’s life story boring.”

Even on an occasion when he was honouring a most remarkable life, he just could not triumph over his dreary delivery.

But if you thought Zuma’s speech-making was boring, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Wait till his ex-bae, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has to deliver the ANC’s January 8 anniversary statement, the state of the nation address and other national pronouncements.

Cars will crash on the streets as motorists nod off at the wheel; leaves on trees will turn brown in the middle of summer; and all mothers of newborns will be grateful as their babies are lulled to sleep.

Such will be the dullness of her delivery. If this newspaperman had his way, he would disqualify Dlamini-Zuma from the presidential race purely on the basis of her insipidity and dryness.

But dullness will not be a criterion next weekend, when the ANC gathers in Johannesburg to choose a leadership which will, hopefully, relieve us of the nightmare of the Zuma years.

The person who will be elected ANC president, and the people who will be chosen alongside that individual, will have a huge responsibility to not only repair the soul of their party but also rescue South Africa from ruin.

Next week’s conference will be the culmination of a political year that has been both scary and exciting.

The scary element was our discovering just how rotten and infected our body politic was with the bugs of corruption and state capture.

The exciting element was that the race for the leadership of the majority party was played out in the open.

Gone was the ANC’s pretence that it housed the only politicians on earth who mysteriously did not have ambitions.

This falsity led to Byzantine practices of lobbying in the dark, money changing hands and vicious back-stabbing happening, while everyone pretended that there was no contest.

In 2017, the race played out in the open.

A crucial and positive step for the ANC

Interestingly, the floodgates were opened by the very candidate Zuma has anointed to continue his legacy.

Even before she officially returned from her African Union posting, Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters were openly campaigning for her, in defiance of the ANC’s archaic rules.

When she came back from Addis Ababa for good, a “welcome home” party was organised for her at OR Tambo International Airport.

Leading the shindig at the airport were that 300kg youth leader, the ever-chewing minister and that supposed military veteran whose nude photograph killed many an appetite when it went viral.

What was memorable about that day was that Dlamini-Zuma managed to smile for longer than three and a half seconds.

From the airport jamboree Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters took her on a national tour, which went from churches to stadiums to convention centres to remote town halls.

The speeches were skull-numbing, but the singing and food parcels made attending worth it.

The other candidates followed suit.

They too ran around the country and gave media interviews, pronouncing on why they were the fittest to govern.

They assembled teams, unveiled manifestos and even had their own logos and slogans.

Luthuli House protested that this practice was un-ANC, but nobody listened.

The candidates would sit in meetings of the ANC’s top decision-making structures and agree with the sentiment that proper process had to be followed before campaigning started, only to forget as soon as they left the room.

Oddly, even the ANC president was all over the show, stumping for his preferred candidate, while the deputy president was pushing his campaign.

Not to be left behind, the national chairperson was also out there on the hustings, convincing party members that her huge wigs and colourful doeks would be good for economic growth and social cohesion.

This open race was a crucial and positive step for the ANC and the country.

The candidates laid themselves open for public scrutiny and enabled South Africans to debate their respective qualities and shortcomings.

In doing so, they also opened themselves up to possible scandal-mongering.

One of the leading candidates was found to be still wearing her wedding ring, despite having divorced her former spouse 20 years ago.

This prompted much speculation as to whether, perhaps, maybe...

Another candidate was said to have been busy in cyberspace, curing his insomnia by having interesting communication with flowers of Azania.

Yet another was found to have been adept at youthful SMS lingo when requesting pictures from ladies.

There were revelations and questions about the candidates, particularly with regard to who they were associating with.

They were also compelled to provide solutions for extricating South Africa from Zuma’s mess and to lay out visions for a prosperous future.

Next weekend, ANC delegates will choose the party’s future based on much more information than has ever been the case before.

Whether the delegates make use of the information or make their decisions based on emotion, loyalties, brown envelopes or other considerations is neither here nor there.

The culture of democracy can only grow from here.