PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s biggest error was wanting to turn a national government into a regional government and creating clusters, “many of them from a certain area”.
This was the view of United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa speaking at a Dispatch Dialogue, co-hosted by the University of Fort Hare, this week on the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
Creating powerful clusters, like the security cluster, or economic cluster, dominated by individuals from a “certain area” could be a pathway to ethnic wars, he warned.
He said Zuma had erred fundamentally when he started to “ferret out out people with experience”, thus losing institutional memory.
Holomisa was on the stage with authoranalyst William Gumede, who has written the introduction of Nelson Mandela’s rereleased No Easy Walk to Freedom.
Both Gumede and Holomisa said the current ANC leadership was “unprincipled” and fell far short of the calibre of leaders of the Mandela generation.
Gumede said the Mandela generation of leaders were more honest than the current crop, more open to contesting ideas, wiser, and their ideas had longevity since they were still relevant today.
They were principled at a time when holding the moral high ground was difficult, especially for individuals who were being tortured and brutalised. Nevertheless, they did so. The same could not be said for the current crop of leaders, he said.
“Missing today is principled leadership … and the history of liberation movements in governments has shown us that if you are not honest and [don’t] hold fast to your own principles it is very difficult to govern and it is a backslide.”
Holomisa pointed out that while Mandela had great charisma he also had the ability to make the right decision at the right time, even when it may be an unpopular decision.
“He was the first amongst his peers to pursue armed struggle and he was the first to pursue peaceful negotiations,” Holomisa said.
He added that Madiba was also able to grasp the fears and the dreams of people and to champion the oppressed without descending into populism.
Gumede stressed that Mandela’s view on empowerment was linked to education.
He criticised the focus on land and wealth redistribution as a core focus of strategies to empower black South Africans, saying that mass education was much more valuable.
“If education had remained as the main focus of empowerment, we would’ve been on a very different trajectory,” he said.
He said those post-liberation nations that had, thus far, been successful, had developed empowerment strategies based on “mass education”.
“Those that are not successful,” Gumede said, “focus on empowerment through the redistribution of assets into the hands of the elite.”
Holomisa said Mandela had been deeply disappointed by the corrupt elements who had been present even during his administration.
He said Mandela had told him: “Little did I know that even my own comrades were corrupt”.
Holomisa railed against the “comrades that wanted to be instant millionaires at all costs”.
“These are the comrades who hide behind struggle credentials, yet they are the worst crooks this country has ever come across,” Holomisa said to loud cheers from the audience.
Gumede stressed the importance of power and wielding it for the benefit of all.
“The leaders [of successful post-liberation countries] have looked at power as a question: ‘ How do they transform the countries that we govern, to become highly industrialised’?
“They did not look at power as personal power, but rather as a success in transforming societies, and therein lay the empowerment,” Gumede said. — DDR