THE BLOG

ANC’s December Conference: Musical Chairs On A Sinking Ship

Only internal insurrection can save the ANC from loss of power in 2019.

27/11/2017 04:45 SAST | Updated 27/11/2017 17:41 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma dances with former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during the last day of the six-day meeting of the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa, July 5, 2017.

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South Africans are prisoners of hope that the ANC will awake from its slumber and be restored to its former glory. This is evidenced by the hype surrounding who will become the leader of the ANC in December. The policy articulations of the different candidates have captured the news space like only a national election does.

It is clear that there is a glimmer of hope amid the daily despair that the ANC will do the right thing in December and uproot the looting lot and replace them with those whose agenda is to rebuild the ANC and South Africa.

I know I speak for many South Africans when I say that what the ANC has become is not a source of joy but of great irritation and utter shame. Yet it seems that many are not about to give up on it as a supposed leader of society. Is it perhaps an undeniable South African reality that the ANC has become too important and too big to fail in our politics?

The reality on the ground seems to suggest a different paradigm. The 2016 local government elections outcome that installed a new government in the major metros is not a fluke, as some analysts would have us believe. It is a reality of the balance of forces in our politics.

The red flags are all there warning the once great movement of the people to do a serious internal reflection.

It would be unscientific if this trend does not continue at a national level –– though many assume that the voters are so fickle as to have already changed their minds so soon after they booted the ANC out of power at local government level.

It is abundantly clear that many voters are beginning to realise that the ANC won't listen until it is punished at the polls.

This is a painful realisation that has dawned on people like former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki, whose credentials cannot be questioned on the political and leadership front.

Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
Former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki (L) and Kgalema Motlanthe

It was even more interesting –– and yet painful –– to see ANC veterans, who have given up most of their lives for the struggle, gathering in defiance of current ANC leadership to go over the same ground –– lamenting the parlous state of the organisation.

The red flags are all there, warning the once-great movement of the people to do a serious internal reflection.

Only through a deep cleansing and total interval revolt can the ANC become anything other than a party in total decline. None of the candidates who have put up their hands to be leaders of the ANC will significantly remove the ANC from the brink of collapse.

Rajesh Jantilal/ AFP/ via Getty Images
Candidate for South Africa's ruling party leadership Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Focusing on the two front-runners for December, my considered view is that an Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) victory will totally obliterate the ANC from power and hand the opposition an easy march to the Union Buildings.

There is simply no way the South African public will stomach a proxy of the current scandal-prone Zuma governance to take over the reins of power, a view which is rightly or wrongly held strongly by most South Africans and a considerable section of ANC members.

This is why this development may spur another split in the party –– this time, one that would see the demise of the 106-year-old organisation. The truth is that this party has never been so divided in recent history, and the situation has now deteriorated into one of enmity, murder and conspiracy theories among comrades.

A new party will not have enough time to contest the main remaining ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters on one side, and DA on the other, so it will only accelerate the ANC's demise. Those on both sides know this, and hence they may end up in a marriage of convenience that will see NDZ deputising for Ramaphosa in a totally uneasy marriage.

Are there people who can go through the eye of the needle and are brave enough to take on the challenge to lead a new revolt within the ANC?

This temporary band-aid type solution will still leave the ANC vulnerable. At the veterans meeting, former president Mbeki was at pains to call on the party delegates to identify what the problem is, in order to come up with the appropriate solutions.

He characterised the Zuma faction as "not ANC". This is the clearest call for insurrection ever made. But any insurrection that can be sustained has to be characterised by the following:

  • It must be made by the younger generations, with a call for a new set of leaders who can match the likes of Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane toe-to-toe in rhetoric, popularity and gravitas.
  • It cannot be led by people like Mbeki and Motlanthe, who have themselves been part of how we got here –– in other words, hankering for a past is not the way to go, but building a new future freshly imagined stands a better chance of a desirable outcome.
  • It must happen swiftly and dip into the untapped electoral support of the ANC. In other words, the current crop of membership is not enough to carry a wave of revolution needed. You literally need the launch of new, credible branches, made up of people who had resigned themselves to be out of politics, but have enough clout in society to create a sense of renewal upon returning to active politics.

Mike Hutchings/ Reuters
Supporters of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress.

These proposed pillars of insurrection must happen soon, in order to save the ANC going into the opposition benches.

The big question is: Are there people who can go through the eye of the needle and are brave enough to take on the challenge to lead a new revolt within the ANC, or are we going to be faced with pretenders to such a throne, such as the SACP and Cosatu, who speak radical, but only have plans that suggest they merely want to be the new looters?

Surely if the SACP wanted to be taken seriously, they should have quit Zuma's cabinet before their leader was dishonourably discharged by Zuma without any credibility left. Now any action emerging as a result will be a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of power.​​​​​

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