One must sympathise with the spin doctors of the ANC who day in, day out dodge bullets and questions which the leadership must account for and respond to. The conflicting voices coming from one revolutionary house are evidence of a leadership crisis that has unwittingly spilled over from Luthuli house into society.
The malaise in the ANC is fast becoming a burden to ordinary South Africans. Various statements in reacting to recent events are a reflection of how deep the cancer has ingrained itself. It has eroded the leadership incumbent to a point that NEC members have in a cowardly fashion resorted to public platforms to air their views.
This demonstrates that protecting the patronage network and political careers has superseded speaking truth to power and protecting gains of our democracy. However, these crises are no longer just an ANC issue. Unfortunately the ANC continues to tiptoe around the real calamity, indicating that no one dares to rattle the already fragile political empire.
The current reaction to the education crisis is evidence of a growing distance between two centres of power – the State and the ANC.
Although the ANC might deny this, it is evident that the State is being paralysed by a weak ANC which can’t provide leadership on how the state must respond. The current task team formulated by the President and now rejected by Sasco, the biggest student formation in the country, is indication of leadership in panic that chooses to react rather than constructively respond to the education debacle. The reaction affirms that the call for free education is one that was merely procrastinated about and not dealt with over the years, with the hope that it would eventually simmer down.
Ideally, the responsibility of formulating a task team to deal with the crisis should have been done at Luthuli House, bringing together the Progressive Youth Alliance and the broader student movement. Instead, students have taken to the streets and organisations have taken advantage of this crisis, destroying property in the name of #FeesMustFall, compromising a legitimate call.
The current toxic state of the ANC has left it vulnerable, with no moral ground to persuade young people through the Progressive Youth Alliance. The issue yearns for political intervention and decisiveness. Yet the preoccupation in the ranks has been about the “bogey man” called a third force. This “third force” has become the convenient scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong. All comrades, all citizens and veterans who have publicly spoken out against the evident political catastrophe have been attacked by defunct leagues of the ANC that have lost relevance within their constituencies. Leagues have been reduced to private battalions of leaders embroiled in factional battles not only to the detriment of the organisation but the entire nation.
The current economic status quo, which privatises everything from water to education, makes it virtually impossible for the majority of South Africans to survive, let alone afford education. We have opened room for bogus colleges and unregistered training centres to thrive, given how desperate young people are for employment and opportunities.
While the education crisis might be resolved, this issue has precipitated many other issues impacting the majority of our people – particularly the youth. The millions of unemployed young people who are at the forefront of service delivery protests and short-term interventions such as learnership programmes and temporary employment are no longer a feasible solution.
One of the dismal failures of the liberation generation was a settlement which didn’t allow the government to own even a single industry in the commanding heights of the economy. Not one industry in South Africa is transformed or is owned by the majority of our people, which perpetuates inequalities.
Chickens have now come home to roost and the next generation is paying the price. The government has failed to channel the private sector towards a broader developmental agenda. Instead we have become content with co-option of those with political capital to benefit, while the majority remains in the periphery. If the ANC fails to deal with this, society will no longer wait for its permission. It will lead itself towards change. The consequences, unfortunately for the ANC, are far worse, should this carnage unfold. South Africans are paying for our mistakes and the inability to lead.
The ANC is well aware of its faults and what exactly to do; however, the posture of our leaders is that of narcissism and awaiting Armageddon with the hope that some will survive. It begs the question as to who really is the third force destroying democracy, is this “bogey man” hiding in our ranks masquerading as a revolutionary? We have only ourselves to blame for the current trajectory. DM
Gugu Ndima is an ANC member and activist
"Man is by nature a political animal" ~ Aristotle