It must be the worst kind of feeling. Imagine you occupy a seat of substantial power. You decide to issue a directive in line with the rules of your organisation.
No one listens. In fact your boss publicly gives you the middle finger and goes on to cheer as those you lead undermine you in the most humiliating way. Such was Gwede Mantashe’s week.
The ANC secretary-general told the party in no uncertain terms last week that no member already serving in a provincial leadership committee could be elected to a regional structure.
The instruction meant that Andile Lungisa could not contest the Mandela Bay regional chairmanship for which he had spent months campaigning.
Regardless of Mantashe’s factional motives – real or perceived – his instruction was ultimately based on his interpretation of a rule in the party’s constitution.
Only it was an interpretation Lungisa disagreed with.
More importantly, it is a constitution President Jacob Zuma could not give a toss about. And so here we are. Lungisa is the regional chairman of the ANC, endorsed with much glee by Zuma in person.
This election was significant for several reasons, not least of them Lungisa himself. Let’s be real. The man is a contentious figure in our political landscape.
Those in his inner circle see a promising young leader in whom their beliefs and aspirations find expression.
Others see a scoundrel who deeply lacks integrity, one whose political career has bounced from one shameful scandal to another.
Perhaps the most enduring criticism of Lungisa to date was penned in 2011 by columnist Sipho Hlongwane, who suggested that the kind of greed that afflicted the then ANC Youth League deputy president was simply unfixable.
“(Julius) Malema has good grace to set up companies with which to win public tenders,” Hlongwane wrote.
“Lungisa dispenses with these pretences and helps himself straight from the government’s coffers.
“He is the most dangerous type of politician – he cannot be shamed into at least pretending he’s in power for the public’s benefit,” he wrote.
At the time, Lungisa had been chairing the National Youth Development Agency which, under his leadership, had an insatiable appetite for public funds while doing little to improve the lives of young people.
To think that this was even before that bizarre incident last year when a glass jug full of water miraculously found its way into his hand and smashed itself on the head of his political opponent in the metro council.
That incident remains a criminal matter before court.
Lungisa’s election therefore undermines the ANC’s own conference resolution which compels leaders facing serious allegations to step down voluntarily until they are cleared.
Nonetheless, Lungisa aside, most remarkable for me is that this election came on the same weekend the party released its policy discussion documents.
Quite fundamental among those in my view is one on the party’s proposed organisation renewal.
In its frank assessment of its own challenges, the party paints an ugly picture of an organisation that has grown distant from its people.
One trapped in a vicious cycle of insidious internal strife and power battles.
The document bemoans a new type of leader in its ranks who sees ill-discipline and divisive factionalism as normal, even necessary forms of survival.
The document compels the party to change.
On Sunday Jeff Radebe put out this document and asked South Africans to believe that it encapsulated an ANC determined to cleanse itself and to lead this nation into a better future.
Just minutes later in Port Elizabeth, Zuma stood shamelessly and with one speech nullified it.
With a smile on his face, he desecrated everything it stands for.
Nwabisa Makunga is deputy editor of The Herald and Weekend Post.