Killings, thieving, factionalism: ‘Daddy, why on Earth did you ...

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Killings, thieving, factionalism: ‘Daddy, why on Earth did you vote ANC?’

Ensure your children don’t have to ask this by thinking long and hard about where you put your cross in November

Columnist
Defence minister Thandi Modise during a media briefing on Friday about the hostage situation at the St George's Hotel in Pretoria.
UNACCEPTABLE Defence minister Thandi Modise during a media briefing on Friday about the hostage situation at the St George's Hotel in Pretoria.
Image: GCIS

SA faces two extremely serious dangers. The first is the ANC. The second is the party’s inability to fix itself.

Last week’s hostage situation in Midrand, where alleged Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veterans and other supposed members of liberation armies held minister of defence Thandi Modise, her deputy Thabang Makwetla and minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele in a hotel room against their will, is a case in point. Don’t be fooled, this was an incident that had nothing to do with ordinary South Africans. It was just the usual dangerous ANC factional politics playing itself out.

Few if any of the hostage-taking “veterans” are members of MK from the ANC’s army of the 1970s and 1980s. The sorry lot in that hostage hall in Midrand on Thursday evening are mainly members of a disbanded group called the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA). Jacob Zuma supporters led by the late Kebby Maphatsoe and a few others, such as Des van Rooyen, the man who served one of the shortest stints ever by a finance minister anywhere. The most outstanding feature of MKMVA is the youthfulness of its members. These guys, many in their 20s, 30s and 40s, carried arms against apartheid? If that’s true then my name is Methuselah.

The MKMVA is notorious for having been funded by the Guptas and being part of the Zuma/RET faction of the ANC. If you don’t believe me, then tell me why the same people who took ministers hostage did not say a word against Zuma or Maphatsoe, a president and a deputy minister in charge of veterans’ affairs who never lifted a finger to address their “needs”? Between 2009 and 2018, when Zuma oversaw the state, the military veterans’ budgets were well known to have been looted extensively. Where were these veterans?

It is therefore clear that ours is not a South African problem, but an ANC problem. The question then is whether the party can save itself and thereby save our country. The answer is simple: the chances of that are now far smaller than they have been since the optimism of the new-dawn era in 2018.

The point is, first, that a faction of the ANC was responsible for the Thursday’s incident. Second, and more distressingly, the ANC’s faction fighting was responsible for the July riots that left 342 people dead. Third, the ANC’s policy paralysis is responsible for us having one of the worst, if not the worst, unemployment rates in the world.

The bigger picture is that we are on the same knife-edge we found ourselves straddling in July. All the elements are necessary for a rupture such as the July 6 riots are in place: poverty continues to be endemic, unemployment is overwhelming and inequality reigns supreme. Inspirational and sophisticated political leadership is deeply lacking. Zuma is back from jail and is playing the same victim tune he was singing ad nauseam before the July riots. And now we have this hostage-taking incident.

Who is safe in such an environment?

It is therefore clear that ours is not a South African problem, but an ANC problem. The question then is whether the party can save itself and thereby save our country. The answer is simple: the chances of that are now far smaller than they have been since the optimism of the new-dawn era in 2018.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is under siege from his own comrades. Four years since he took over as ANC president, the party is still riven by divisions and a culture which allows its members to kidnap ministers, instigate and incite riots, undermine institutions of the state and the rule of law, and send out conflicting messages about future policy of the country.

The ANC cannot save itself. So why do South Africans think it can save them when it cannot pay its staff, discipline its members or protect its leaders from its members? Why do so many South Africans still think a party that seems to have no vision or plan for its internal renewal can lead them out of the state of emergency the country finds itself in?

The November 1 elections are local, but in fact they are national, in that the rioting and hostage-taking and infighting that happen at national level are endemic in ANC-run municipalities across the country. The thieving and the impunity at national level are even worse locally. Death or threats of assassination are now commonplace among ANC politicians at branch level. Competition for resources has become deadly.

It is time for South Africans to reflect deeply on how they cast their votes. This year has taught us something profound: that vote is a matter of life or death for our country. We need to exercise it with humility, care, deep consideration and an eye to our children not having to look back at this time and ask: what was wrong with those people?

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