At the end of the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell is perhaps one of the most sad and beautiful arias,When I am laid in Earth. In the aria Dido, Queen of Carthage, laments in despair at being abandoned by the man she loved – the Trojan hero Aeneas. Dido decides that “death is now a welcome guest” as both her life and the opera come to an end. Such was the closing drama between Dr Makhosi Khoza and the party she loved most. In the end, she chose to welcome this death of the ANC when it left her.
Commentators and analysts have not really looked deeply in order to understand the difficulty that Khoza, and many like her in the ANC, find themselves. Khoza has been associated with the ANC from her early teenage years. When many young people her age were interested in the whims of their youth, Khoza was spending her life with comrades who became her family. Many contemporaries of Khoza, who spent their formative years as activists in the ANC, consider the ANC to be their identity. Many of them became estranged even to their religious affiliations and their families. So what changed?
This devotion was long before any access to finances or state power; these were sincere relationships propelled by good intentions. For this reason, there was never a necessity to be thinking about the common good simply because the common good was the only reason for the ANC’s existence. Fast forward a couple decades and you realise how very painful it must have been for her to denounce such an important part of her life – her history and her present. It is no surprise that those who lack the bravery to leave or even to denounce the deplorable state of their party were shocked. They cannot imagine themselves seeking a new definition for themselves which does not include the ANC.
Khoza’s resignation is also an indication of how the ANC is in a state that might just be irreparable. The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, often refers to the ANC as a dead organisation. For a long time, it seemed as if he was trying to speak his dream – the death of the ANC – into reality. Careful analysis of the reasons put forward by Khoza for her resignation signal that perhaps Malema’s utterances might not be wishful thinking after all. Khoza mentions that the ANC that she grew up in, the one that she had come to know and defend, is dead. The current ANC, which is factional and corrupt, is a completely different organisation with different sets of values. For Khoza, this new evolved ANC does not have the ability to self-correct; it will be destroyed by its own malaise.
That which united the ANC, a solidarity of the oppressed and those sympathetic to the oppressed, is all but gone because some of the formerly oppressed are the new oppressors.
Through Khoza’s predicament we have been made privy to the real internal struggle of individual ANC members. It is difficult for many people to understand how these men and women who have been historically associated with the finest human virtues can be so tolerant – almost indifferent – to the brazen injustices meted out by their party in their name.
Why the change?
There are three apparent reasons for this bizarre behaviour by ANC members. Firstly, there is obviously a fear of speaking against their own party. It is a fear of isolation and losing the status of comradeship which for many of them is the only identity that they have known all their lives. This was felt by Khoza who originally chose the route of speaking out while still within the ANC. In an interview with 702’s Eusibeus McKaiser she mentioned how she received no support or encouragement from the ANC caucus in parliament with the exception of Thoko Didiza. It is also interesting that Khoza has received support from ANC stalwarts and elders like Ambassador Lindiwe Mabuza, Ambassador Barbara Masekela and former ANC Women’s League President Gertrude Shope. These elders, who consider themselves to be like mothers to Khoza, recognised that she arrived at this decision with great difficulty and therefore she is need of support. Those members of the ANC that have supported Khoza overtly tend to be those who are no longer in government and therefore are not dependant of the ANC for their livelihood.
This latter observation is the second reason for silence from most senior and active members of the ANC. Many in the ANC leadership are also in government and stand to lose their livelihoods. In a recent interview, former President Kgalema Motlanthe noted that most of the members of the ANC’s National Executive Committee are also members of parliament and the cabinet. The relationship between themselves and leaders of their own party leadership, especially the president, is one of employer and employee.
Thirdly, and most worryingly and perhaps obviously, is that some members and leaders of the ANC are corrupt, captured or have something to hide. This reality, the scale of this truth, is by far the most difficult to accept. Almost every day there is a scandal involving someone in government. The turning of blind eyes to corruption and capture equates to solidarity of the guilty. What is good for the country – honesty, transparency and accountability – is not good for them.
All this has made the ANC alien to Khoza because the people have no longer been prioritised. The inversions that are taking place in the governing party are very glaring. Solidarity no longer means standing with and being with the masses of poor, or the preference for the poor, it now means absolute fidelity to the party whether the party is right or wrong. The prophetic activism that interests itself with truth, equality, justice and peace has been replaced by a culture of silence. The brazen thuggery of state resources is now deeply entrenched and the moral compass of the leadership is in doubt. The very camaraderie which was once cherished, sometimes even beyond one’s family, is lost as soon as one raises his or her moral flag.
Some might argue that Khoza was a bit too drastic in her decision to leave the ANC. The reality of the matter is that not only did Khoza have all of the above to consider, but there were also very real threats on her life and no party protection. She was attacked from all fronts by a party she once gave everything. It is only rational that she chose to preserve herself, her life and her values by saying goodbye to the party she once loved. SA.