YONELA DIKO: Jacob Zuma was a tragedy. Ace Magashule is a farce


It is now well understood, that whatever shortcomings former President Thabo Mbeki had, both in character and in leadership style, Jacob Zuma was not the answer.

The shock of Zuma's devastating presidency has made us appreciate just how good we had it under Mbeki, despite the avalanche of criticism on his presidency, sometimes deserved, but mostly crass and desperate (for example, that he is an aloof intellectual, as if that is a punishable offence).

Mbeki gave care to his speeches, understanding how critical words are to manage a country's mood and disposition to his vision of the country (eloquently captured in his 1994 reflections). He demonstrated an ability to build institutions from the ground up while generating and keeping our own resources, holding each other accountable and solving our own problems.

The ascendency of Zuma into the Presidency, on the back of hoodwinking the working class using the anti-Mbeki ticket, sprinkled with revolutionary sounding sloganeering, fooled most of us ANC members to gamble state power into the hands of a highly flawed man who promised to put the poor at the top of the food chain.

Now we can state without any equivocation that Zuma was not the man of the people, he was not a friend of the working class, he was not the representative of the common man in the corridors of power that most of us hoped he was. Instead, Zuma used the power given to him by the people, for the people, as a get out and stay out of jail card, ensuring all institutions of law enforcement were devastated, with remnants held by his minions, and went on to trade state power to swindlers and conmen in order to put his family and friends in positions of unspeakable wealth.

If we are to learn anything from our own history, it has to be that whatever limitations Cyril Ramaphosa has, his attempt to balance all interests, sometimes into a paralysis, Ace Magashule is not the answer.


The farce that is Magashule is already too distinct from Ramaphosa in much more pronounced ways. While Magashule is clearly a circus baker, counting on chaos in the ANC to protect his place at the top, Ramaphosa's calm style, never uttering any bad word, even against Magashule, counting on order and unity as a foundation for his plans, that already sets him apart as a stateman with class and care for both the organisation and the country.

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The structure of the Republic may not allow for radicalism in the shortest possible time, something currently used by radical economic transformation (RET) forces against Ramaphosa, because they don't know any better.

A critical quality today, however, of any leader is the ability to bring everyone under one roof and carve a plan for the future, an invaluable leadership quality that Ramaphosa possesses aplenty.


Historically, no side of the ruling class shares the aspirations of radical change as held by the masses. Each faction of that ruling class is only interested in the removal from power of their rivals. Whether it's electoral reforms or financial policies, all are formed with the aim of frustrating and pushing their rivals out of the corridors of power. Unfortunately, the same weapon they use to remove their rivals hangs over their own heads.

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The ruling class, however, knows that without the passion and street power of the masses, they will not be able to defeat their rivals. And once out of power, their main aim is to galvanise the masses using familiar slogans and tapping into the masses' pain to regroup and fight for power. The ruling class knows they can never defeat one another without the revolt of the masses.

We have seen this phenomenon playing itself out everywhere, in almost all countries, and recently, in Sudan. The masses always fill the street with passion and anger for radical change, only to lend the country to a different section of the ruling class who once again will find the demands of the masses too utopian and naïve.

The quickest way to retain the status quo, with a different group of the ruling class in power, is to claim to be restoring the ruling party to its original state and conviction, after the uprising and chaos led by the masses and such restoration is usually sold as the condition for the implementation of the new reforms. Unfortunately, this restoration is more often a manipulation and mischief to particular desired ends that have no masses in their footprint.

Leaders, more than anyone else, care more for their own largesse and power and are guided by their fears, prejudices and illusions, not by any hyped principle. One must always look beyond their slogans and hardwired lines and search for their interests and reality.


Magashule's tactics in trying to hold on to his office over and against a clear NEC resolution - creating spectacles in front of our head office, the parades in front of bussed-in crowds outside courts - reminds us how this circus has happened before to devastating consequences for all of us.

Karl Marx sketched this tragedy before when speaking of the polarising leadership of Frances's Louis Bonaparte, who faced similar challenges as Magashule against the National Assembly of the time. “Never has a pretender speculated more stupidly on the stupidity of the masses.”

Magashule, like Zuma, wants to push the ANC into a state of paralysis, pitting supporter against supporter, a mass pretense of a nonexistent ideological battle, counting on an implosion of the ANC where the separation of the good guys is more difficult, all for the protection of his economic interests and his own political survival - now drifting away with each day with no hope of a way out.

The hope is for a tipping point to be reached where the ANC branches will have no choice but to call for an early conference where he hopes for a shot at real power and like Zuma, uses his Presidency or that of his allies to spare himself the humiliation of prison and his inevitable disappearance into political oblivion.


Magashule and his gang of RET forces have managed to position themselves as the real champions of black interests. They know that more importantly than anything else, black people want economic power to finally shift in favour of marginalised groups, Africans in particular, and black people in general. Black aspirations now find themselves defended by the most corrupt, creating a conflict In the minds of many, for all need transformation urgently and boldly, and here is Magashule, dripping with all manner of sins, standing in the gap as a would-be hero.

Magashule and ilk, however, are committed to radical economic transformation only in so far as it helps them hoodwink and bamboozle the masses into believing they are being prosecuted for such ANC resolutions. They have absolutely no interest in them or their implementation. Only that they may give them cover for political survival.


We have seen this play before and we made the wrong choices as the ANC and as a country. We cannot be fooled again.

We must state it again, boldly, that if there are any shortcomings in the Ramaphosa-led government, they will certainly not be solved by a Magashule-led government. His ANC chairpersonship and provincial premiership created all the problems and left much destruction in its wake.

It is commendable that the ANC, even before the courts do so, have decided to put an end to this farce before it makes a fool out of all of us.

Yonela Diko is the former spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. You can follow him on Twitter: @yonela_diko

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