The African National Congress (ANC) has been in government since 1994, enjoying overwhelming support, goodwill and large majorities at the ballot box. That golden glint of moral superiority is now however starting to fade. The party is in the midst of its biggest crisis since the Mogorogoro Conference in 1969, when the organisation had to redefine its role and reposition itself in the struggle for freedom. Back then the enemy was clearly defined, this time the enemy is within – and much harder to eviscerate. The municipal elections earlier this year was nothing short of a disaster for the party. It lost control of the country's administrative and economic capitals, Pretoria and Johannesburg, and shed Port Elizabeth (who's metro carries the name of Nelson Mandela) while millions of voters opted to stay at home rather than vote for the party. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse are galloping full-tilt towards Luthuli House . . .
Government is wracked by corruption, dishonesty and dubious dealings – all under the auspices and watch of the ANC. The Office of the Public Protector under Advocate Thuli Madonsela waged a valiant battle, most notably when she forced President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the money used to build his sprawling compound at Nkandla, and by trying to unravel the vast network of patronage and impropriety with her investigation into state capture – both major issues the ANC declined to prosecute. The party talks tough on corruption, but in practice shies away from actively rooting it out. This undermines its credibility.
The party talks tough on corruption, but in practice shies away from actively rooting it out. It undermines credibility.
President Jacob Zuma
When Zuma was elected ANC leader in 2007 and rose to the presidency in 2009, the country decided to give our own Donald Trump a chance. A deeply flawed man, beholden to special interests, open to outside persuasion and a penchant for women, Zuma did not disappoint those that had reservations about his leadership, most notably his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki. Zuma's leadership has left both party and country much diminished – the ANC has steadily lost support and coherence while South Africa is struggling with social unrest, a sluggish economy and the abuse of state institutions.
The ANC has grown complacent, dismissive of voters' views and cocksure if itself. The last 12 months has seen numerous political development which has reshaped people's views of how the party of Luthuli, Tambo, Mandela and Sisulu is changing – and it ain't a pretty picture. Even though it professes to put the poor and downtrodden first, its actions in government speak of an organisation that truly believes it is now its time to eat. On the ground people have been saying they are tired of corruption at THE local level, poor services and low wages. The ANC didn't listen. The results? Support of just over 53% in the most recent polls.
On the ground people have been saying they are tired of corruption at local level, poor services and low wages. The ANC didn't listen. The results? Support of just over 53% in the most recent polls.
During the struggle for democracy the ANC prided itself on being a "broad church", a home for everyone that opposed the apartheid regime, regardless of colour or creed, or social and political conviction. Post-1994 it has become increasingly difficult to keep all the congregants in the church –- how do you reconcile hardcore socialists with new style capitalists? How can a militant labour grouping coexist with rapacious politico-businessmen? The answer is: it can't. The governing alliance has been decimated since 2007. The SACP is a shadow of the "vanguard party" it once was, while internal wars has seen Cosatu lose its biggest affiliate, Numsa. Government needs to grow the economy and create jobs – but it wants to take the lead itself. Eastern Europe, anyone?
Government needs to grow the economy and create jobs – but it wants to take the lead. Eastern Europe, anyone?
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