Opinion Piece

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane: Dear Professor Sipho Seepe… Let’s talk frankly

When I read your article on Sunday I wondered why you are doing this, Prof? Why would you embarrass yourself like this?

Let me firstly appreciate your consistency in putting your views in the public arena. As a public commentator, I know that this can often be a lonely task, especially if your views are not part of the herd but also if no one ever seriously responds to what you may consider very well thought-out arguments. You must have had enough time to process the outcomes of the ANC conference given your full page analysis in this week’s Sunday Independent. I agree with only one thing in your piece, put in almost as an afterthought – the fact that Cyril Ramaphosa is not a messiah for all our problems – the same way that I agree that Zuma does not constitute all of our problems. Quite frankly, both propositions you are at pains to make, are a straw man that you have created to make it easy for you to strike down. I am not aware of anyone in serious public discourse that has argued both these extremes with any seriousness.

But lets talk frankly about your extraordinary article. Your fervent argument for the retaining of Zuma, using Mbeki’s 2008 recall as a scapegoat, was riddled with half-truths, poor analysis and total fabrications. While I could find no less than 30 blatant lies and half-truths in your article, I won't seek to deal with each and every embarrassing lie you concocted in this piece save to identify them like you would, if you were marking one of your students exam script (if you are still an academic). They are on the internet for all to see.

I will deal with three basic lies: The evil motives for those calling for Zuma’s recall; the revisionist reasons you give for the ANC’s electoral decline; and the wild assertion that Zuma’s recall is based on some sort of post-Polokwane revenge. All of these assertions only demonstrate your embarrassingly factional approach to a serious matter that could be the end of the ANC as we know it, if not handled with the necessary courage and speed.

For you to argue that because the recall is a ‘call of the opposition’ is not to be considered is an insult to a multiparty democracy. You can’t possibly argue that the opposition must be ignored and their input never sought on matters of national importance? After all, Zuma is their President too.

Your argument is also weakened by the fact that almost all key elements of civil society have been making this call. You argue, poorly, that in order for these calls to be legitimate they must hold a march that has millions of people pouring into the street. Has the ANC recently pulled such crowds into the streets in support of Zuma? Are we now a majoritarian society where views of the minority don't matter?

You're lumping of all who are making this correct call as ‘ideological enemies’ of the ANC is both bankrupt and false. How is Andrew Mlangeni and late Uncle Kathy, who have made this call so loud, ‘ideological enemies’ of the ANC? This argument is flawed and embarrassing for an academic of your stature. You argue that the 101 veterans are ‘bitter’? I see many of them like Mavuso Msimang, Cheryl Carolus, Valli Moosa, Fazel Randera – being way more successful than you could ever dream – in other words, they have nothing to be bitter about but have not forgotten where they come from and are accepting their role in rebuilding of the ANC. How can you brush them with a web of lies like this, Prof? I really am baffled. I know that you work for one of the Ministers as an advisor and there may be a part of you that seeks to sing for your supper but you can't stoop so low as to denigrate the role of Veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

They deserve an apology from you, Prof.

But Prof, what takes the cake is your inability to comprehend the role of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba in our body politic. You argue, without any tinge of shame, that Makgoba and his ilk are ‘false prophets who pretend to be men of the cloth’. I would expect this reasoning from an uneducated person who was not present when Makgoba’s predecessor played an exact same role at the height of the struggle – you clearly have not heard of liberation theology. In your extensive material you had to read to achieve your academic stripes I doubt you missed what is called the Kairos Document. It is unimaginable that you can fail so dismally to appreciate the fact that men of the cloth need not have their modus operandi prescribed to by those to whom they have a responsibility to preach to.

If you were decent, for this you would apologise to the man of God. Your description of him as a false prophet is a terrible abomination. The reality is that the Arch has expressed what many people of faith yearn for – a leadership with a modicum of morality. Tutu called for much worse – a threat to pray for the downfall of the ANC government. I am sure for this you would call him a devil worshipper? Makgoba’s call is for the restoration, not destruction of the ANC and anybody who knows his history wont find that difficult to believe.

As if this mind-numbing analysis was not enough, you proceed to argue that those who are calling for Zuma’s head want to revenge post-Polokwane. This is a blue lie. The reality is that some of the loudest calls for Zuma’s immediate departure are from people who in fact won with him in Polokwane. COSATU and SACP carried him into power yet they want him gone. What are you therefore on about? The fact is the calls for Zuma’s recall cannot be reduced to a single faction – an awkward fact that you can't manoeuvre around. Even some of his biggest supporters agree that he is a liability to the movement and his recall can only be a good thing for the ANC even if all you were after is to give an impression of a listening organization that understands that society does not approve of Zuma’s leadership. You can’t possibly have your head so deep in the sand that you cant see this logic? I am yet to come cross such blatant denialism of a reality that hits all of society in the face.

Another lie you peddled with ease is that removing Zuma will delay Radical Economic Transformation, as it will divide and defocus the ANC. You can’t possibly be serious - because you argue elsewhere in the article how wonderful it was that the ANC took collective responsibility of its recent failure at the polls. How now does RET become an individual Zuma mission that requires him never to vacate office? How can you be so blatantly inconsistent and contradictory?

Let me deal some more with the issue of failure at the polls. The truth is there is no one reason that led to the dismal performance at the polls. But to excuse Zuma so brazenly is embarrassing even for you, Prof. Every analysis shows that the leader of a party, and how he is perceived, goes a long way in crating confidence amongst the voters. Surely you can’t tell me you believe this does not matter? The ANC itself in its diagnostic report decries the scandal-prone presidency of Zuma and it makes much of the criteria for leadership in the seminal document, ‘Through the eye of the needle”.

How did you miss this simple memo? To divert the loss of polls and blame it on the Gauteng leadership is so two-faced – I am lost for words. You state correctly that the imposition of leadership of Danny Jordaan led to the loss of the metro in the bay but when you refer to the imposition of Thoko Didiza in Tshwane, you suddenly blame the Gauteng leadership instead of the NEC which made that decision? How can you be so shifty in your analysis and create your own set of facts?

When I read your piece I wondered why you are doing this, Prof? Why would you embarrass yourself like this? I then remembered that one evening I heard you argue fervently on ANN7 that Zuma should not be prosecuted cause ‘some of the evidence of his 780-odd charges may have disappeared or some of the witnesses could have died in ten years’. You did not say this in jest. Quite frankly your article says to me you truly believe that Zuma should be left alone to his own devices and bugger the ANC and the country. I have a lot of respect for you, Prof, but on this one you have lost your marbles. Those who are reading you anew must go and google some of your most outrageous defence of Zuma even in the face of total immorality in his march to power. It all constitutes a piece of shame and a failure to read the writing that is on the wall.

Yours frankly, Onkgopotse JJ Tabane. DM

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