Transparency seen with different lensesIn response to my article: 'Too many cooks spoil the broth,' Thapelo Ndlovu in The Telegraph of November 02,2011 makes some intriguing remarks.
Tuesday, 08 November, 2011He says he had never known me to get so upset; that I stopped short of telling critics to 'back-off'. He alleges that I was unreasonable to try to 'shush' everyone except myself and a few others; and then: "I think it is political hypocrisy for Rre Dingake and the rest of the opposition to take reasonable criticism as interference".
The allegations are untrue. I was never upset, unreasonable, or tried to shush anybody or took reasonable criticism as interference. Maybe a bit unusually assertive in stating my viewpoint. Otherwise the allegations take me out of context. It can not be me Ndlovu is describing, but a caricature .
Ndlovu apparently writes on the assumption that I am part of the inner circle of some political party, presumably the BCP. He should be disabused of that hunch. I am a nobody in the BCP structures, but an ordinary member whose name was indeed associated with the history of the party at some moment, but have since petered out in time and space. Yeah, I am a regular at annual party conferences as an observer and occasionally get invited to other party forums, like any average member or sympathiser. Whatever I write in newspapers is strictly my personal opinion and should not be mixed up with party policy, publicity or strategy. Otherwise, we may end up mixing my politics inextricably with BCP politics, swapping assets and liabilities in the books of account, bringing down deficit balances where there should be credit balances.
Ndlovu then discusses what he terms the 'gist' of my article, which incidentally paraphrases the heading of the article in question. The figure of speech, 'too many cooks spoil the broth' is problematic to him. I am taken aback to learn that a figure of speech can result in polemics. Figures of speech beautify language and are given as truisms. Mea culpa, if it, I distorted this figure of speech. The gist of my article was this one:
'Opposition talks have got to be transparent ....... Without prevarication, let me state secrecy or transparency is always relative never absolute..." Reading Ndlovu's article and ignoring the flailing punches at my iniquities, his bone of contention is the transparency factor. Unfortunately, he alludes to transparency in the abstract. He does not define the nature and form of the transparency he harps upon. At least I illustrated the relative transparency I had in mind: names of talks conveners, names of respective political party representatives at the negotiation table, agenda items, reports of what was discussed and agreed upon excluding leakages, announcements at freedom squares, party structures and press conferences; the public apprised of expert teams crafting Umbrella party policies and constitution. Ndlovu fails to state why these do not reflect transparency and what should. I would have been happy had he contrasted my relative transparency with the transparency he has in mind!
I used words like 'doomsayers' and 'fidgety observers' not as an objection to criticism or comment on the Umbrella talks; rather to appeal to commentators not to be disillusioned by the apparent discord raised by some party members speaking out of turn and creating an impression that the talks are about to collapse. It was an attempt to quash the wrong impression and to convey the fact that it was in the nature of the process to experience highs and lows, as well as plateaus which should not be construed to mean all was lost.
To underline the fact that success of the talks does not rely on transparency alone, but equally and even more so, on the situational leadership, I cited the televised CODESA talks, which one commentator had referred to as a model of transparency. My argument (probably misunderstood) was that transparency alone would not have delivered the successful results, but it was my opinion that in fact that notable transparency almost scuppered the talks, were it not for the committed and focused situational leadership of the negotiating partners, the National Party and the ANC.
We shall be hypocrites to gloss over the fact that the negotiating parties are the architects, masons and supervisors of this work-in-progress and will eventually be answerable to whether the edifice stands or falls.
Without them the talks would not have been; without them the talks cannot progress; they are the custodians of the talks willy-nilly, transparent or not.
The public, Batswana of goodwill, the sympathetic masses, unaffiliated to any of the negotiating parties, though without discernible structures are of course vital stakeholders. The talks are in the public interest and therefore they must be heard. Lack of coordinating structures to channel the public decisions will however, invariably undermine achievement. That being the case, the ultimate product of the talks will be biased towards the party structures' influence. Of course, the negotiating partners dare not ignore public sentiments: the talks are in the public interest! Nevertheless, the ultimate product of the talks lies with political party structures, specifically the leaders who will ensure the talks land safely or crash. Consider the controversial constituency allocation. Assume conveners fail to resolve the impasse, it will invariably revert to the intervention of the negotiating partners' structures, specifically the party leaders, who will be expected to persuade, arm-twist and cajole the membership.
The unaffiliated public has no structures to formulate, channel or enforce their aspirations except indirectly through unstructured media avenues.
It will also help to bear in mind, proposals and wishes of the masses can often be preposterous. Recently, names of some preferred Umbrella presidential candidates appeared in newspapers. One was the name of a ruling party member, other names were of persons of unknown affiliation or dubious political interest. Transparency, fine, with a strong dose of organisation and expertise. There are constants and variables in systems; they cry for recognition.