Mosiuoa Lekota makes last great stand
The image gnaws in my mind still – Mosiuoa Lekota and Thabo Mbeki’s flushed faces immediately after the announcement of their slate’s trouncing at the December 2017 elective conference of the ANC in Polokwane.
A year later, Lekota and his fellow travellers had decided to break away from the ANC, forming the Congress of the People (COPE), the party that would the following year contest national and provincial elections and go on to win 30 seats in the National Assembly.
With the new party electing cleric Mvume Dandala as its leader ahead of Lekota, it wouldn’t take long before numerous and bruising internal battles throttle the party, with Lekota later emerging as the new president, but to only secure three seats in the last national and provincial election in 2014.
Lekota’s cantankerous outbursts, at the slightest provocation, have become legendary.
Decisions like courting the AfriForums of this world, have left many wondering whatever happened to the former black consciousness adherent.
And when “news” emerged that he had been re-elected “unopposed” to take the party that wants “to save the people of South Africa” to the May poll, many simply rolled their eyes and moved on to the next conversation.
As far as many are concerned, COPE and Lekota are gone, dead and buried. May 8 is only the date of the funeral.
But on Wednesday, straight from the dead, Lekota walked past the figurines of two people he most revered and was incarcerated with on Robben Island and in front of whom, if they were still alive, he would never have dared to even think of doing what he was determined to do on the day.
His written speech in hand, the man once known as “Terror” wobbled past the statues of Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, which are just outside the National Assembly, and went on to take his seat inside.
When his moment came to respond to Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address, Lekota took to the podium and, apparently unbeknown to even his caucus, went on to “reveal” something SA didn’t know about the president of the country.
This was that, once upon a time, Ramaphosa co-operated with apartheid security forces, and traded his comrades for his freedom.
He said: “When it was difficult, you wrote to the special branch that we put communist ideas in your head, in doing so you condemned us to the special branch.
“I say this because the special branch rewarded you and they sent you home and we headed to Robben Island.
“We should have travelled together to the island to serve years for the struggle of our people.
“I will not join you because you made your choice then,“Lekota said.
And when his allocated time was up, the EFF MPs were even prepared to give him more from their speaking time, which of course the rules of parliament do not allow.
Lekota got a standing ovation, not only from the EFF, but also from the DA and the Freedom Front Plus.
If history – which has a tendency to repeat itself – is anything to go by, it was probably Lekota’s last great act, but one which won’t help him or those who clapped for him.
He may have left the ANC, but clearly took with him some of his erstwhile comrade’s tendencies to resort to fighting dirty when desperate to get out of a fix.
I was group political editor for the South African Broadcasting Corporation when, one day, struggle stalwart Mac Maharaj called to make an appointment.
He arrived on our day of the meeting, documents and microfilms in hand, all meant to convince me to run a story about the then National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka.
Maharaj’s documents were “proof” that back in the day, the ANC’s intelligence operatives extensively investigated and “found” that Ngcuka was an apartheid era spy.
It was a retaliatory move by supporters of Jacob Zuma, after Ngcuka said the NPA had found prima facie evidence of Zuma’s corruption.
When the allegations levelled at Ngcuka were all over the place, then president Thabo Mbeki decided to appoint a commission of inquiry, led by judge Joos Hefer, to probe them.
The National Prosecuting Authority was too important for its leader to become mired in such a controversy.
But of course Mbeki himself, during his years in exile, was once a victim of similar allegations.
In the end, in spite of the performance Maharaj and his comrade-in-the-conspiracy super spy Mo Shaik put up, Judge Hefer would eventually conclude that Ngcuka could not have been the spy they said he was.
Having staked their reputations, they were later rewarded by the man on whose behalf they did it all, Jacob Zuma.
And after assuming office post the Polokwane conference, Zuma put in powerful positions all those who helped him ascend.
After “nine wasted years” Zuma is out of office – before his term comes to an end.
And by the time he left, those who were prepared to risk life and limb for him were no longer on his side. In fact, many had become his chief detractors and arch enemies.
Lekota’s was quite a performance, but alas a waste of time, and a very expensive way of delaying the inevitable when it comes to him and his party – an ignominious march to the rubbish heap of history.
The final curtain.
It was probably Lekota’s last great act, but one which won’t help him or those who clapped for him..