Saturday, November 1, 2008

The SA National Convention: Part I

Mbhazima Shilowa

is attending tomorrow's convention in Sandton. This is an historic moment which will more-than-likely result in a breakaway party emerging from the ANC. My friend Jared Jeffrey and I will be speaking to disaffected comrades, recording their grievances and monitoring the policy proposals. We hope to be able to weave some texture into the news events of the coming days and to provide insight into events on the ground.

Jared and I were at the nearby Parkmore Field and Study Centre for registration today where we took part in the Sam Shilowa press briefing. The former Gauteng premier began by recalling a historic UDF conference which was banned by the National Party in1988, where activists were detained and intimidated for their political activity.

The parallel was intentional as he revealed that a court interdict had been lodged by the ANC against himself - as well as former ANC Chairman Terror Lekota - in what Shilowa claimed was an attempt to prevent the convention from going ahead.

However, Stephen Grootes of Radio 702 was on his cellphone with ANC spokesperson Jesse Duarte and she claimed that this was "rubbish" and that it was only on the question of the conference using the name and insignia of the ANC that the order focused upon.

It would certainly be convenient - and Shilowa admitted as much - if Zuma's ANC could show themselves to be intolerant bullies as it would help to position the SANC (as it is now referred) as the guardians of democracy.

Despite these challenges, the people we spoke to were incredibly motivated and there was a sense that they were witnessing and participating in a significant realignment of politics. The feeling of nervous anticipation was palpable as people queued to collect their registration cards sang and chatted.

We also talked to convention-goers about their feelings going in to the conference tomorrow and they consistently expressed the following sentiments:
  • A rejection of tribalism and an emphasis on inter-ethnic unity.
  • Distaste for the way Mbeki was fired.
  • Concern with the influence of the SACP and COSATU within the Tripartite Alliance.

We will report more on this in detail tomorrow and over the next few days. These are interesting times indeed for South Africa.

I recall one delegate from the Eastern Cape saying to me. "The struggle against apartheid was about political liberation. This convention is about mental liberation." We will wait to see if his words are vindicated...

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