Will the ANC mend its ways? Does it matter? SA is moving on
Instead of confronting reality after its elections disaster, the party will blame-game its way to self-destruction
The most sober assessment of the ANC’s performance in last week’s local elections from within the party itself was by the usually colourful Fikile Mbalula. In one interview the transport minister said the result, which saw the ANC’s majority declining to less than 50% for the first time since 1994, was “a warning shot”.
“A punishment would have meant we are outvoted, out of power as the ANC. [This result] is a warning shot that says we have confidence that you will deliver for us, but you need to do better,” he said. In another interview, Mbalula said the ANC would take the results “as a lesson”.
Many ANC leaders and supporters across the land are probably following Mbalula’s lead and introspecting. An honest assessment of the situation would no doubt lead to a change, of course: a break with the corruption and excesses the party has for long time allowed to flourish in its ranks, a decisive and unequivocal move away from those associated with state capture, and a renewed allegiance to the values and principles of our constitution.
Sadly, this will not happen, as we are beginning to see. The ANC has now entered a new era of infighting and bloodletting, and will continue to haemorrhage support, split or destroy itself, and try to destroy the country too. In the aftermath of these elections, those who have fed off the party’s dominance of the state are becoming desperate and are already machinating to take SA back into the hands of those implicated in the corruption of the state capture era.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Jacob Zuma, under whose leadership the ANC began its electoral decline in 2009 and 2014, and saw two significant walkouts (the splintering off of Cope and the EFF), called on ANC structures to revolt against the party’s leadership. The former president apparently told mourners at a funeral on Friday that party members should “rise and save the ANC”.
The carcass of the fatted animal that used to be the ANC is quickly being depleted. Soon there will be nothing to fight over. South Africans are now moving on resolutely towards independents, new parties and the established opposition.
He blamed the party’s disastrous showing on ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and his national executive committee (NEC).
“The only resolution they (ANC leaders) were keen on implementing is the step-aside (rule). Other resolutions which are critical in changing the lives of the people and transforming the county are being neglected, and I will not keep quiet when things go wrong in the ANC,” said Zuma.
He is not the only one who has gone on the attack. The Radical Economic Transformation (RET) wing of the party has smelled blood and many of its leading lights in the provinces are organising again. They seek what they have always been hell-bent upon: getting back into power in the ANC and using that victory as a beachhead back into state power.
Thus the charge among many of them is that the ANC has not held its midterm national general council, which would have given them a chance to accuse Ramaphosa of failing to implement populist and largely inconsequential policies, such as nationalising the Reserve Bank. They are also calling for an ANC national policy conference which, they believe, they will use to question Ramaphosa’s implementation of policies adopted at the ANC conference in 2017.
There is no interest in policy, really. The intention is to pack these conferences with Zuma loyalists and use them to harangue Ramaphosa for failing to deliver on land, the economy and other issues. The tactic worked in 2005, when the ANC’s NGC was used to install Zuma — fired by Thabo Mbeki from the deputy presidency and his powers in the party curtailed to allow him his day in court — back in party headquarters. In this round, the likes of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule would receive a similar reprieve.
Now Ramaphosa may have failed on many of these policies, but it must be quite galling to be accused by Zuma and his corrupt allies of being a failure. These are, after all, people who were in charge of the state for nine years and delivered nothing except a declining economy and billions to the Gupta family.
The sad reality of the ANC is that the electorate has fired the warning shot, but the corrupt side of the party chooses not to heed the warning. The “good side”, or what little of it there is left, does not know how to stand its ground and jettison the likes of Zuma and others from its ranks. Thus their fight continues and SA suffers.
It ultimately won’t matter. The carcass of the fatted animal that used to be the ANC is quickly being depleted. Soon there will be nothing to fight over. South Africans are now moving on resolutely towards independents, new parties and the established opposition.