It is unfortunate that we have recently had a spate of panic remarks and unsolicited belated advices from assorted quarters of what to do, what not to do, what should have been and what should not have been. False allegations are being made that the talks are too secretive, they ought to be benchmarked on the CODESA negotiating model, open to comments from all passersby. How passï¿½ and utopian! Then we have arguments about the need for an identifiable first among equals to head the umbrella thing. All that can be confusing, if not demoralising.
This article attempts to debunk some of the false premises. Without any prevarication let me state secrecy or transparency is always relative, never absolute. Objectively the talks have been relatively transparent: The two conveners of the talks are well known, accessible Batswana whose names were publicly announced; names of representatives of the parties at the talks are public property; results of the completed phases were announced at public rallies and press conferences as well as party structures; negotiating partners have agreed on the electoral umbrella name in the process of registration; we know umbrella has been adopted as a symbol for electoral purposes; the public has been requested to submit campaign slogans and have been informed about teams of experts crafting the constitution and the policy framework of the umbrella; the constituency allocation phase is now on and we know, in spite of controversy it has evoked, it was never a cloak and dagger phase.
Controversy around it merely underlines, the sensitivity of negotiations and why the delicate process is beyond the scope of mass palaver which notoriously mutates into the animal instinct of self-preservation. The masses survive on herd instinct. Leaders on the other hand weigh all the pros and cons and are able to hack a way forward through the jungle of doubt and uncertainty.
In the past opposition leaders were invariably excoriated for being the brakes towards progressive unity. For a change the current crop of leaders has unanimously (at least I thought) launched this ambitious unity project. Where are the leaders now when the project, totters and stutters. It needs their robust intervention through this foggy pell-mell.
Negotiation is a tough and delicate process, transparent or non-transparent. Absolutely open and transparent negotiation is unknown in human history, except perhaps during Greek democracy, when the population of Athens could assemble at one public square to decide on community issues. Modern democracy works on the basis of elected/appointed representatives who can be trusted to convey the aspirations of the community at the forums they were appointed to. This is the practicable norm!
Let us for a moment agree to benchmark the four-party negotiations on the translucent CODESA model. We shall remember (boy) Nelson Mandela of the ANC dressing down (baas) FW de Klerk in full view of the world TV audience. Why did Afrikaner baaskap, though humiliated not pull out of CODESA? Yes, it was due to sober leadership! The talks could have come to an abrupt end. FW de Klerk and his party colleagues prevailed over the hotheads. When a deadlock ensued during which the ANC withdrew from CODESA, why didn’t the talks collapse at that stage? Solid leadership from both camps.
The breakdown of the talks was too ghastly to contemplate! Only savvy leaders could read the implications. Think about the spree of wanton killing instituted by Inkatha maniacs, in the trains, Soweto streets and hostels. Why didn't the talks stall? Leadership of the main negotiating partners, the ANC and the National Party! When the talks were almost at the end, the popular and charismatic Chris Hani was assassinated by a Polish immigrant.
Why didn't the talks collapse? Mandela and the ANC prevailed over the MK militants who were still armed to the teeth and the masses who bayed for Boer blood. A leadership that was bold, visionary, trustworthy, not abstract transparency! That is the CODESA lesson.
If the four-parties are all negotiating in good faith, if they think the plight of Batswana under the BDP arrogantracy is a concern and must be redressed, then they will begin to negotiate hard, un-intimidated and without being circumscribed by vague transparency. I hope the umbrella leadership will no longer be sidetracked or distracted by slight interjections on the periphery by self-appointed adjudicators. It is not a question of whether the umbrella is the right tool but whether the users of the umbrella tool are dexterous and skilful.
In conclusion I wish to refer to the unique ANC-led Tripartite Alliance, often misinterpreted. Batswana should not benchmark on that alliance model. Rather be innovative in line with our peculiar culture and history.
The ANC-led tripartite alliance is a strategic alliance, a product of historic circumstances. Under apartheid black trade unions were outlawed and the communist party was banned. Before the ban of the ANC in 1960 black trade unionists found a political home in the ANC and so did the members of the banned SACP. Members of COSATU and SACP are ANC members, constituting an elastic interlocking membership chain of strategic partners inspired by basic overarching political values of the ANC.