IS SHIKOTA A REBEL MILITIA GROUP?
Nyiko Floyd Shivambu
The emergence of what is presented as an alternate political movement in South Africa should be looked into in the context of historical political developments in most post colonial states, particularly in Africa. The rhetoric, actions and potential character of the ANC dissident group, which misnamed itself Congress of the People, are not dissimilar to rebel militia groups that ignited and began wars and caused conflicts in most post independence African Nation-States. In many African nation states such as Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Angola, Congo, Sudan, etc., the rebel militia groups emerged out of disgruntlement on internal political dynamics and often defined themselves as the true representatives of the people, custodians of morality defined along narrow religious lines and beliefs.
The leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony in Uganda appointed himself the Spokesperson of God, claiming to be the true representative of the biblical Ten Commandments. Since its formation in 1987, the LRA is known for its brutality against the people of northern Uganda, has abducted an estimated 20,000 children. The recurrent rhetoric of South Africa's rebel group misnamed COPE is often underpinned by feeble attempts to climb the moral high ground, and this is done through empty and unsubstantiated moralist and populist rhetoric against the President of the ANC, Jacob Zuma.
In Sierra Leone, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council was formed on the basis, amongst other things, of perceived ethnic favouritism and exclusion. It is an open secret that ethnicity and perceived or genuine tribalism are the greatest tools of mobilisation in virtually all violent political conflicts in Africa. Mluleki George was quoted by the Eastern Cape's Daily Dispatch as having made a very apocalyptic, dangerous and irresponsible allegation in a Rally in the Eastern Cape that the ANC YL President does not like Xhosa speaking people, and no one from that his political party countenanced such ventilations. The audience, most of whom never listened to President of the ANC YL could easily take George seriously and develop ethnic stereotypes and hatred of anyone associated with dislike of any ethnic group in South Africa. Whilst the progressive National Liberation Movement has conveniently understated the extent at which ethnic realities influence politics in South Africa, it appears that the Lekota and Shilowa led rebel group does at times revive ethnicity as a basis of political support and influence.
In the same Rally, Mluleki George claimed that the ANC 52nd National Conference electoral outcomes were rigged, as some 45 branches were disqualified. The inability to accept free and fair electoral outcomes is the most dangerous practice, which no one in their right mind should ever wish to be associated with. The outcomes of Polokwane were conducted in a free and fair electoral process and accepted by all official structures and representatives of the African National Congress, and casting aspersions to those outcomes is sadly disingenuous.
The Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force was founded on the principle of patronage and control of local government territories, particularly in the resource endowed city of Warri. This led to conflicts, which continue to destabilise the Niger Delta today. The only public policy issue raised by the Shikota group is on directly elected Mayors, Premiers and President, with the hope of winning, through populist candidates, Amethole Municipality where Mluleki George thinks he is a demi-god of politics and influence; or certain provincial governments in order to continue dispensing patronage.
After fighting side by side and gaining independence with the revolutionary Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) broke ranks and instead began a civil war against its former ally in the struggle for independence. Like in South Africa, the United States backed UNITA breakaway happened exactly 14 years post independence of Angola. The UNITA breakaway was influenced amongst other things by the ideological schisms that eventuated between the leaders of UNITA and the MPLA, with the former being unapologetically rightwing, supported by apartheid South Africa. Perhaps the attraction of former apartheid leaders to Lekota explains certain possible realities, which most of us are unaware of. The measured observation by the South African Communist Party that the dissident splinter group represents an ideological anti-Communist current could as well be true. The MPLA controls more 70% of electoral support in Angola today, whilst UNITA only got 16 out of the 220 parliamentary seats. The people of Angola surely know who are the real representatives of their aspirations, and such will define the people of South Africa in the 2009 General Elections.
The rebel group in Chad characterises itself as the true custodian of unity and democracy, thus calling itself Platform for Change, Unity and Democracy. This is not so dissimilar from the rhetoric we are subjected to everyday from the group that has misnamed itself Congress of the People. They do not have a proven electoral track record, yet have courage to claim to be speaking on behalf of the people of South Africa, against a political party that enjoys 70% of South Africa’s electoral support. Various other examples exist of the features that coincide with the Lekota and Shilowa group. They, for instance, are not principally opposed to referring to themselves as Shikota (combination of its leaders’ second names, Lekota and Shilowa). This already builds a cult around those who founded the dissident group.
Overall, what appears to be the common feature of all the rebel militia groups, particularly in Africa are the following: they are unable to accept electoral outcomes that do not favour their interests; they project themselves as the true custodians of democracy; they are led by people who were associated or linked to the official military and Defence of their countries; they are populist; they have support of certain sections of the media; they have foreign linkages and resource bases, and they are centred around certain political figures.
Despite their claim of working within South Africa's Constitutional provisions, it appears that the dissident rebel group, misnamed Congress of the People, has many common features of typical rebel militia groups in Africa. This is not to suggest that the dissident group is currently a violent rebel militia group, but South Africa should only hope that their populist politics do not degenerate into violence. We can only hope that Mluleki George, who was quoted as saying Polokwane (ANC 52nd National Conference) outcomes were rigged, will accept the 2009 General Elections outcomes. We should also hope that the arms, which the Military and Police Unions claim disappeared, are not in the possession of Patrick Lekota and Mluleki George, who former Minister and Deputy Minister of Defence respectively. We should also hope that ethnicity is not the basis of mobilisation in some of the Provinces where the dissident group claims bigger support. We also hope that this group is not receiving any form of foreign aid to try to unseat a legitimately elected ANC government through patronage.
We should express this hope because South Africa cannot afford to have any conflict similar to the ones that happened in most post independence territories in Africa. The pain and suffering which our people suffered for so many years cannot be revisited in the new generation. Our generation should be a generation of reconstruction and development of our communities to build better lives for our people. The people of South Africa deserve more than populist and moralist rhetoric touted by the group led by Shilowa and Lekota.
Nyiko Floyd ShivambuANC YL National Spokesperson and head of political education, policy development and research