An interesting analogy being made by some commentators is that Jacob Zuma’s victory over Thabo Mbeki is similar to the defeat suffered by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction at the hands of Hamas.
While this comparison may not be entirely appropriate, it is true that the ascendancy of what is referred to as the “Zuma camp” within the African National Congress [ANC] has been attributed to widespread discontentment with the status quo under Mbeki. In this regard, Palestinians too, gravely disillusioned with Abbas and his weak political programme rejected his faction within the broad-based Palestinian “family” and opted instead for Hamas’ revolutionary ideals.
Also interesting is that despite a comprehensive defeat, the victors in both cases have offered an olive branch to the vanquished. Zuma’s public utterances –” in his closing speech as well as during media interviews –” have been characterized with a remarkable earnestness to secure “family” unity. His modest approach is a far cry from the robust cheers and victory celebrations associated with his supporters at Polokwane.
It reflects an unusual humility which seems to be in short supply in America and Western Europe. There of course, victories are constantly held up in the faces of losers. The arrogance and conceit displayed by Bush, and more recently by French president Sarkozy, are but two examples of leaders who ensured that their rise in power is demonstrated through brute force.
On the other hand, in concert with African and Muslim traditions, Hamas displayed equal magnanimity by offering the losers a place in the sun by inviting Fatah to participate in a government of national unity. While such graciousness is not any different to Zuma’s, there obviously are competing dynamics at work. The Zuma victory came about due to the rebellion against Mbeki by members belonging to the same political party. Hamas also owes its victory due to the rebellion within the Palestinian electorate. The difference here is that the electorate chose Hamas over Fatah. Two separate entities with conflicting views regarding the status of Israel.
Also, the immediate consequences following Hamas’ election has been the crippling effect on Palestinian society due to America’s rejection of the people’s choice. Isolation and siege imposed by the US/Israeli axis sought to punish Palestinians for exercising their democratic rights in electing Hamas. In addition, Abbas collaborated with Israel and the Bush administration to subvert Hamas’ reign by attempting a coup which unfortunately for them, blew up in their faces. The result remains tragic though: the Gaza is under a harsh siege with people dying as a result of lack of medical aid. Diesel and electricity has been drastically cut and joblessness is at an all time high.
As the editor of PalestineChronicle.com, Ramzy Baroud eloquently explains: “One and a half million inhabitants are literally trapped in a 365-square kilometer prison without any breathing room whatsoever and little food, little energy, and are told, more or less, that they deserve their fate.”
They deserve their fate?
One wonders then whether in making these comparisons, external interference will raise its ugly head to intervene in South Africa’s domestic policies because Zuma is seen to be anathema for their corporate interests?
The lessons following Hamas’ January 2006 victory cannot be ignored by the Zuma-led ANC. More so because South Africa –” to its eternal shame –” became one of the countries alongside the US to “disown” Hamas and celebrate Abbas as a “democrat” after his illegitimate dismissal of a popularly elected government representing the majority of Palestinians.