20/02/2017 15:22 SAST | Updated 21/02/2017 14:50 SAST

The ANC Has Lost All Interest In Advancing A Cogent Public Argument On Policy

Mathews Phosa is correct. The final defeat of the ruling party is a question of when, not if.


Mathews Phosa's Damascene moment is rather too late, I'm afraid.

I don't mean to be unkind to a gentleman I am very fond of, but the spectacle in parliament during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) this month surely can't have been the actual moment he realised that the political party (I should say the liberation movement) he's served for so long is on an irreversible path off a very high cliff?

Surely not?

But that is beside the point, I suppose. I was drawn to one particular phrase in his now much-disseminated Sunday Independent column: "intellectual funeral".

The quote is worth repeating in full: "I realised, deeply and painfully, in watching [the conduct of ANC cadres, including the speaker of parliament], that I have come to a point where I refuse to be part of the intellectual funeral of the ANC, that I refuse to be associated with so-called leaders who trample on the people who voted them into office, who disrespect the constitution, whose only predictable response to all challenges is 'racism' and who are willing to sacrifice the future of our children before the throne of a man who knows no shame and shows no character. I refuse, as a disciplined cadre of this movement, to have my coffin buried in the same graveyard as such leaders who have made the choice to place their own corrupt interests above that of those that we swore, yes swore, to serve."

There is no need to ventilate the arguments about the ANC's decline in recent years, but its inability to meet the social and economic challenges of our times with the same intellectual vigour that it could boast of in years gone by is a particular sore point. For years now, we've been promised that the pace of radical economic transformation will be sped up through a combination of more discerning government procurement policies, more stringent transformation policies and the end of the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle. None of this has happened.

What we've not even heard is a serious debate about the reasons why the government's own targets for employment equity, black economic empowerment, land reform and jobs have failed so dismally. Just one example: the government keeps blaming the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle (and when someone is feeling particularly adventurous, they blame the property clause in the constitution) as the impediment, and yet the courts have repeatedly stated that the government isn't "bound" to a market value determination.

Instead of seriously grappling with these and other problems, of late we have been treated to a hodgepodge of economic illiteracy and downright stupidity.

Instead of seriously grappling with these and other problems, of late we have been treated to a hodgepodge of economic illiteracy and downright stupidity. On the matter of South Africa's banking industry, the party seems to have entirely lost interest in an actual interrogation of the problem at hand. The vacuum has been filled. Collen Maine's ANC Youth League have responded to both the Bankcorp loan scandal and recent price-fixing scandal by fixating on Absa – firstly occupying a branch in Durban which may or may not have inconvenienced some of that branch's clients for a bit – and then by demanding that all financial transactions in the country be handled by a state bank. If that is not already apparent, this is a stupid idea.

Khaya Sithole did a sterling job of skewering Mzwandile Masina's attempts at smearing the Reserve Bank as some kind of white monopoly capital impediment to the black society's ambitions.

South Africa does suffer from a monopolisation in the banking industry, (I purposefully shy away from the 'white monopoly capital' term, it is tainted beyond rational use) but nothing that the ruling party has put forward thus far counts as a reasoned response that can open up economic opportunities for the masses of our people.

The same counts for the general untransformed nature of various facets of the economy. But dololo any kind of rational plan to tackle this. Dololo any attempt to engage us in a debate about how we can get to the kind of country that the constitution promises us. The ruling party, 'radical economic transformation' whitepapers and all, has been the face of a country where poverty still wears a black face, and transformation is measured as the slow drip-drip of black people into the otherwise white bourgeoisie.

I think I may confidently state that there is nothing that the president decides to do at the moment that is not motivated by the desires of his clients, the robber barons. This is the very worst sort of betrayal, where a ruling class engenders this kind of cynicism in the electorate.

We're often told that the party is a broad church, encompassing nationalists, communists and capitalists under one roof. Well, the thieves are at the helm right now, and have unleashed the beasts of state brutality against anyone who dares question them. Where's everyone else in the party? Are they sitting by quietly like Mr Phosa, waiting until the spectacle is too embarrassing to bear, before shuffling off quietly into the night?

I think that an increasing number of the electorate believes that. The ANC's resounding spanking in the local government elections last year showed that. I fear the cadres are in for a humiliating shock in the national elections in 2019. They will only have themselves to blame.