South Africa

South Africa

ANC in 2017: The year of a shambolic free-for-all

The ANC ought to be in a flat panic about the chaos over the social grants system, considering the impact on its constituency. Or they should be reassuring South Africans that their deployees in government, President Jacob Zuma and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, have a grip on matters and all grants will be paid come April 1. But the ANC is silent on this issue, on the attacks by its youth league on another of their deployees, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and on the aggressive campaigning for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be president. In a year when the ANC should be directing the political agenda, it is paralysed, diminished and full of contradictions. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

A year ago, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe came out fighting for Pravin Gordhan when it emerged that the minister was under investigation by the Hawks and that they had sent him a list of 27 questions before the 2016 Budget speech.

“From where I sit… I see that as sabotaging and actually deflecting the focus of the minister on what his task at hand is,” Mantashe said last February. He also took issue with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for leaking information to the media.

“We [are] having a discussion with that person and our view is that you don’t leak information to the media because you are being dirty if there is a conflict. You must be confidential in dealing with matters that are sensitive… that can impact negatively on the country and the economy,” Mantashe said.

Mantashe appears to be MIA this year, maintaining his silence as ANC structures attacked the Budget presented by an ANC minister, while the party’s senior leaders and opposition parties welcomed the speech.

The ANC has also remained silent as tensions between SARS commissioner Tom Moyane and Gordhan again burst into the open. Moyane called a media briefing about his fraught relationship with Gordhan and appealed for intervention from Zuma. Letters exposing the animosity between Gordhan and Moyane were leaked to the Mail & Guardian. If Mantashe had the same objection he had last year to the public spat and leak of information, he has said nothing about it. 

The Budget speech exposed some of the hostilities in the ANC, with a handful of ministers choosing to stay seated while Gordhan received a standing ovation from the rest of the House. The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) claimed there was “incoherence” between Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the Budget speech. The ANCYL president Collen Maine launched a vicious attack against Gordhan, accusing him of being an “impimpi” for monopoly capital. Maine told an ANC gathering in Durban that the minister should be dealt with in the same way spies used to be dealt with during the liberation struggle. Spies were subjected to torture in ANC camps and were “necklaced” by communities.

While Maine effectively prompted his members to bring physical harm to a senior ANC leader, there was no official statement from the party or any form of censure against the youth league’s leader. The ANC’s national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa responded to media queries earlier in the week saying Maine’s statement was “reckless and regrettable”. On Thursday, Kodwa told Daily Maverick via text message that the statement was “incorrect and unfortunate”.

“Am aware that ANCYL president has been trying to reach out to cde Pravin Gordhan to explain his statement,” Kodwa said.

This is not the first attack by the ANCYL on senior leaders in the party. In January, the youth league claimed that Gordhan and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa were trying to collapse South African Airways (SAA) to benefit companies they had interests in.

They also claimed that Bidvest was behind calls to close down certain routes so that Comair could take over. ANCYL spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said:

“Amongst those that we know is at Bidvest is the deputy president of the ANC and that of our government, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. But who else is there? It is the minister himself, Pravin Gordhan.”

“Who are the stakeholders at Comair? It is Bidvest and Comrade Pravin who owns nothing less than 20% of Comair,” Mkhize said.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the ANCYL claims were a lie. “I told them the matter they raised publicly is a lie, is a fabrication and, as you say, fake news,” Ramaphosa said in response to a question from the IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa. “I did not leave business to come into government service to come and conduct fraudulent business in government.”

Asked by Daily Maverick about this, Kodwa responded: “We have noted allegations by the ANCYL against [the] Deputy President. We call on the ANCYL to provide any evidence as proof to these allegations.”

It would appear that the ANC has almost given up on trying to contain the factional battles in the organisation and in government. It did not respond to the ANCWL’s claim that there was incoherence between the Budget and SONA, even though the league’s statement was effectively in contradiction to those made by Mantashe and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize.

The ANC has also not called the ANCWL to order as it continues campaigning for Dlamini-Zuma to be president. Despite the ANCWL being defiantly in violation of a decision by the ANC national working committee to refrain from pronouncing on names or campaigning for candidates, there has been no denunciation. The ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini and Dlamini-Zuma continue on the campaign trail using church platforms to drum up support.

Asked about this, Kodwa responded: “The ANC has on many occasions warned [about] premature pronouncements of names for leadership and which undermine [the] unity of the ANC. The NWC further called on all our structures and leaders not to allow their names to be used to further divide the ANC.”

Asked whether any action could be taken against those who disregard the NWC pronouncement, Kodwa said: “The NWC mandated officials to talk to anybody including structures that continue to discuss succession.”

Of those top six officials, Zuma would probably encourage the campaign for Dlamini-Zuma; Ramaphosa, Baleka Mbete and Mkhize are possible candidates themselves and therefore not be able to call another to order; and Mantashe has gagged himself. That leaves Jessie Duarte who would hardly go to war with the ANCWL unless it is in the interest of her faction. 

Dlamini, in any event, seems impervious to criticism. In the midst of the social grants crisis, with no system in place to disperse money to 17 million recipients next month, Dlamini has shrugged off attempts by Parliament to hold her accountable for the mess in her department.

The ANC is seemingly helpless to get answers out of Dlamini, while the ANCWL remains steadfast behind their president. Following a call by the Cosatu central executive committee (CEC) that Dlamini should be fired for her handling of the SASSA matter, the ANCWL hit back on Thursday night calling the ANC’s alliance partner “populist”, “selfish” and “opportunistic”.

“They create unfounded allegations to assisinate [sic] characters of some ANC leaders who are serving in the ANC led government with the hope that those leaders will be recalled and that will be opportunity for them to be deployed. These opportunistic ambitious grandstanders are misusing their positions in Cosatu leadership to advance factional politics,” the ANCWL said.

The shambles in the ANC has also been evident through contradictory statements by ANC senior leaders. Speaking outside Parliament after the SONA, Mantashe said if he had been the Speaker, he would have acceded to the request by the Democratic Alliance that a moment of silence be observed for the psychiatric patients who died as a result of being moved from the Life Esidimeni centres in Gauteng. The Speaker, Mbete, steadfastly refused to allow the moment of silence.

There have also been contradictory statements on the recent spate of xenophobia in the country. While Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Gauteng Premier David Makhura acknowledged the threat of attacks on foreign nationals as xenophobic, Zuma claimed that these were as a result of crime and feuds between people.

“We should not highlight that and give the wrong impression that South Africans are xenophobic,” Zuma said.

But perhaps the biggest embarrassment for the ANC has been on the issue of land, which is supposed to be the cornerstone of its radical economic transformation agenda. Zuma said last week that South Africa would amend the laws to allow for expropriation of land without compensation for owners in order to speed up the redistribution of land to the black majority.

“We need to take bold steps that will transform our economy, including land ownership, very fast,” Zuma said. “We are busy amending (laws) to enable faster land reform, including land expropriation without compensation as provided for in the Constitution.”

In a special debate in Parliament this week, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema offered his party’s 6% of the national vote to the ANC in order to amend the Constitution to allow for land redistribution without compensation. The ANC rejected the offer, saying this would be unconstitutional.

But there is clearly internal discord in the ANC on the issue, particular amongst the proponents of radical socio-economic transformation. ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala on Thursday called for a referendum on the issue of land redistribution without compensation.

In a year when the ANC should be powering towards its national policy conference and 54th elective conference, it appears to be caught up in policy confusion, deep factional divides, incoherence in messaging and paralysis. The ANC seems unable to cope with its internal conflicts or the crises affecting the country. Its senior leaders are at war with each other and nobody has the authority to call anyone else to order.

It is a veritable free-for-all.

Perhaps most concerning for the ANC is that it is still unable to hold its chief deployee in government to account. The ANC appears to be as helpless as the rest of the country regarding the pending Cabinet reshuffle, which might or might not affect the finance ministry. Zuma has also ignored the ANC and Parliament’s difficulties at holding his ministers, including Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and Dlamini to account.

The great irony is that Zuma ran his campaign for the presidency on the basis that power would be vested with the ANC rather than in the state. He claimed that his presidency would be different to that of Thabo Mbeki’s, when the centre of power was in government. Zuma led his organisation to believe that his presidency would be run through the ANC collective.

The concept of an ANC collective no longer exists. The ANC is now broken into factions, lobbies, patronage networks, dynasties, interest groups and individuals, all in fierce competition for control of the organisation – and by extension the state. The centre cannot hold because there is no centre. 

Going to an elective conference in this state will not only be about power but about survival. It could, in fact, be downright dangerous. DM

Photo: ANC top six at the January 8 celebration, 2017, in Soweto. (Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)