As my regular readers will know, i’m no fan of double-speaking politicians who always promise the world but never deliver. Nevertheless, i believe in education, eradication of apathy and the claiming of control over our lives so i occasionally step outside of local politics to share news on those who control us from afar (in the case of Knysna, we are very much controlled by Cape Town and not our so called, local leaders).
Last week, i gave you the news that Hellen Zille had topped the premier’s rating poll. Today, i repost a very important speech made by one of the most astute and powerful men in South Africa.
For years, i’ve considered Kgalema Motlanthe (pronounced gaa-lé-ma mot-slan-té – yeah, that’s a bitch of a mouthful for us Whities which is one reason why i probably never hear anyone but me bringing him up, with bad pronunciation, in coffee conversation), to be the heavyweight power between the scenes.
For the 10 years he spent on Robben Island, he was as poignant as Nelson Mandela: “We were a community of people who ranged from the totally illiterate to people who could very easily have been professors at universities. We shared basically everything. The years out there were the most productive years in one’s life, we were able to read, we read all the material that came our way, took an interest in the lives of people even in the remotest corners of this world. To me those years gave meaning to life.”
He became Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest affilliate of COSATU. This was a further extension or statement of his leftist leanings, seemingly a people’s leader. In 1997, he was elected Secretary-General of the ANC. Despite all this, he was never in the media as much as you would expect. He was (and is) a clever politician, manipulating from within. He is likely the most responsible for galvanizing Jacob Zuma, against all odds (think of the Arms Deal crisis), into presidency. That was an incredible feat that ran parallel to alienated leftists, COSATU and the SACP.
Before Zuma took the reigns, the campaign had unseated the once seemingly unassailable, Thabo Mbeki. It was ironic because the man behind the scenes, the man who shunned publicity, was forced into the limelight – Kgalema Motlanthe became, albeit a caretaker, South Africa’s third president. With elections, Jacob Zuma got the throne and Kgalema dropped seamlessly into the Deputy President seat.
Kgalema Motlanthe is an enigma. We don’t know exactly where he stands on issues. What we do know is that he was clever enough not to get drawn into the Julius Malema debacle. Somehow, almost miraculously, he is respected by democrats and socialists, a cautious in betweener who seems to believe in more power to the people but without sacrificing the positives of capitalism. Personally, i admire his belief in unity whereas politics, of late, has promoted racism which in turn has instigated more fear than there was in 1994.