All big political parties have to develop mechanisms to manage rivalries and ideological conflicts –- otherwise, they will keep splitting and never grow into big parties.
Helen Zille sprung her resignation as DA leader as a surprise in order to limit the contest between Wilmot James and Mmusi Maimane to a few weeks. She commented that she feared any longer campaign risked tearing the DA apart.
Officially, campaigns to run for ANC president only take two or three months. In practice, it is obvious they resemble a US primary year and run for at least 12 months, complete with the T-shirts and caps. Campaigners for Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma months ago even composed a variety of electioneering songs and dances!
Promotion in politics entirely depends on lobbying, wheeling and dealing and campaigning. So, rivalries, competition and conflict, both personal and ideological, are par for the course within both the ANC and DA.
Until now, break-aways from the ANC -– PAC, UDM, Cope, EFF –- have been minor...
The tragic opposite is the sad histories of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO). Each split into three rival parties before the last general election, because no losing faction would accept the legitimacy of any election that they lost. Each faction considered itself more important than the party as a whole.
The sad histories of the PAC and AZAPO stand as stark warnings to the ANC of what could happen to it if it does not successfully manage conflicts. Until now, breakaways from the ANC -– the PAC, the United Democratic Movement, the Congress of the People and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) –- have been minor, and except for the EFF, shrunk with each successive election.
That may not be true of all future breakaways.
The ANC can choose procedural reform to contain conflict. For example, it could decide that the maximum number of candidates any delegate may vote for in elections to its national, nine provincials, and dozens of regional executive committees, should be less than the number of posts up for election.
In democracies, it is convention that the losing candidate congratulates the winner, and pledges to work with him/her where possible.
This would ensure that, while the winning faction wins, the losing factions get some representation at all levels. Likewise, while the Zuma faction's proposal that the second-placed candidate for party president should automatically become deputy president is tendentious, it would be a good idea that s/he automatically becomes a member of the national executive committee.
Equally important as procedural reform is the unwritten party culture. In democracies, it is the convention that the losing candidate congratulates the winner, and pledges to work with him/her where possible.
Simultaneously, the winning candidate thanks the losing candidate and extends an offer of cooperation and consultation.
This needs to be explicitly and actively popularised within the ANC. Meanwhile, roll on, December!