After the recent national executive committee (NEC) meeting, few are under the impression that all is well within the ANC. While the party's official statement would have you believe that the highest decision-making body is getting things done, indications are that the governing party has stalled. A number of political bombs detonated over the last autumn weekend of 2017.
President Jacob Zuma survived one of his most difficult NEC meetings when ANC heavyweight Joel Netshitenzhe questioned his leadership. Hours later, on Sunday morning, weekly newspapers dropped the second one. They revealed damning emails exposing the Gupta family's influence over government and their proximity to Zuma and friends. But what followed the explosive weekend was both insulting and worrying.
The president's laughter on Monday last week was almost as big a middle finger to the electorate as his secretary general's inability to call the spade digging the ANC's grave, just that. The president addressed the inaugural Indigenous and Traditional Leadership Indaba in Boksburg, less than 24 hours after the NEC meeting wrapped up.
He shared a few laughs with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen, who described Zuma as the "hero of the masses". Despite praise from the man who knows a thing or two about surviving the weekend, there was no escaping the obvious. It was only 9:30 a.m. and a long day lay ahead.
By mid-afternoon, Gwede Mantashe had at least acknowledged the issue. But, true to form, he failed to address the matter with the urgency it required. To suggest opposition to the president – especially in Parliament – is aligned with opposition parties' nefarious plans to unseat the ANC government and nothing short of an insult to those who elected the governing party into power. He then goes further to remind ANC MPs that their actions should always be aligned with party sentiment, even if party interests are no longer aligned with supporters' interests and despite MPs swearing to serve the public.
The afternoon moved into its final stages, by which time only Cosatu had reiterated its call for Zuma to step down. And then, just when it seemed political will had died a painful death in Irene, along came the SACP. The party's general secretary, Blade Nzimande, who has been hiding at universities as much of the crisis unfolded, pulled a massive anti-Zuma, anti-Gupta pistol from his hip and fired it all those who would have us believe everything is in order within the ANC's highest decision-making body.
A lesson from your detractors Mr President: If you want to get the message across, be blunt; if you have nothing to hide, be honest.
Nzimande criticised senior leaders, saying they are unable to lead themselves, much less a country. He also refused to remain silent on the crises unfolding in every sector the Guptas have had a hand in.
"We're being threatened because we're supposed to keep quiet," said Nzimande, insisting that "we're not going to keep quiet". He further told Cosatu's central committee meeting of an open faction within the ANC doing as it pleases.
A lesson from your detractors Mr President: If you want to get the message across, be blunt; if you have nothing to hide, be honest. Criticism of the president from within his own alliance carries weight in the public discourse. But he is nonetheless poised to serve out his term as party leader until December. That's because the only thing more concerning than corruption in the governing party is its inability to address it. The current circumstances within the NEC and the party as a whole are evidence of a political stalemate. Progress – in any direction – seems a near impossible task.
Yes, the NEC sent Mantashe back to Luthuli House with a list of decisions. What is concerning is that none of those give any indication that the party seriously intends to address the concerns around Zuma, effectively threatening the ANC's political survival. The party has tried to demonstrate leadership by dealing swiftly with smaller matters, such as Brian Molefe's return to Eskom. But those are insignificant for the two major factions fighting for control over the ANC and, more importantly, government. Control of the ANC would, however, mean little if it suddenly found itself in the opposition benches.
As much as the battle for the soul of South Africa's liberation movement is between factions, it is also one against the clock. And as things currently stand, one can only wonder how long it will take one faction to convince the other that, for the ANC, winter has already set in.