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ANC politics: The Great Plague and we all fall down


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Those interested in the origins of children’s rhymes passed down from one generation to the next have focused on sneezing and falling down, when analysing the ditty ‘Ring-a-ring o’ roses’. It is thought by some to date back to the Great Plague in London.

A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, and posies of herbs were carried as protection and to ward off the smell of the disease.

Ring-a-ring o’ roses,

A pocket full of posies,

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down

Sneezing or coughing was a final fatal symptom, and “all fall down” was exactly what happened.

And so the factional politics of the day is suffocating us all to death, much like the plague. Friend and comrade are forced again to choose his or her side. Choose carefully, because the resultant effect will change your life forever and not in a good way if you are to be part of the losing side.

I see the national chessboard as it currently stands now as follows:

In the Western Cape one of the regions, the Dullah Omar region, supports the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma camp. The rest of the province under the leadership of the Provincial Executive Committee has not as yet pronounced on the matter. It ultimately resulted in the PEC deciding to disband the Dullah Omar region. However, because of the fact that it supports the NDZ camp, the national office-bearers decided to visit the province and conduct a fact-finding mission which, you guessed it, resulted in the region being reinstated with not so much as a slap on the wrist. Presumably this was done to give the Dullah Omar region ample time to try to win more support over to their side for the NDZ camp before December.

In the Northern Cape, on the other hand, the province is deeply divided along racial lines, with the majority black African faction supporting NDZ and the so called “coloured” cadres supporting the CR17 camp. This played out at the provincial elective conference not so long ago where the black African camp won the day and has now sidelined the losers.

The Eastern Cape is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand they would like to see their preferred cadre Gwede Mantashe feature as a potential deputy president. On the other hand the province wants to see the CR17 candidate win the race.

Gauteng as usual is more complicated than ever. The Ekurhuleni region supports NDZ. Johannesburg central supports CR17. The West Rand is still undecided. Tshwane is seemingly in a state of confusion.

North West and Free State provinces are both experiencing serious challenges. The ANC membership there are beginning to take issue with the heavy-handed nature of the two premiers. Both Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo are under severe pressure from contending views with regards to the ANC December conference. Some of the ANC members are saying to them that (1) you have been in the position of chairperson far too long and (2) that the corruption associated with your respective offices will no longer go unchallenged. So, whether the so-called Premier League is still intact remains to be seen.

The wild card from Mpumalanga, Premier David Mabuza, has decided to throw his lot in with CR17, to the absolute chagrin of the rest of the NDZ camp.

Limpopo has been rather consistently backing the CR17 candidate, perhaps also because he hails from that part of the country.

Then we have the KZN province, which traditionally would have been seen as the stronghold for the NDZ camp, were it not for the manner in which the current provincial leadership came to be in the driving seat. The PEC under Senzo Mchunu was not in full agreement with President Zuma’s policy choices and indeed took umbrage with regards to the ongoing Gupta saga and its associated alleged corruption.

As far as Zuma was concerned this group had to go at all costs. And go they did. Here is the juicy part. A PEC elective conference was hastily convened by the Sihle Zikalala faction. This drew on only certain branches and strategically left out key branches in particular from the metro inner city region, which were suddenly not “meeting credentials”. This suddenly poorly constituted conference was opposed by Senzo et al, who requested a postponement. The postponement was supported by the national ANC but amazingly the conference went ahead, and had an opening speech by the big Mkulu baas himself, Jacob Zuma.

A bogus and fraudulent provincial conference was organised and a new, more pliable leadership under the leadership of Sihle was elected. The Senzo group did not take this lying down and took the matter to court, effectively challenging the outcome of the provincial conference. This matter is now before the courts and a ruling is expected within the coming months. This is a ruling that could alter the entire outcome and national dynamic of the race towards December.

I’m sure that the Sihle group is hoping that the case be postponed until after the December conference, otherwise they would appeal the matter and again hope that the appeal is not heard before the conference. Senzo’s camp, I am sure, are hoping that the ruling is in their favour and will almost immediately apply for an interdict to halt all ANC activities in the province so that a new fresh provincial conference can be organised. This would make sure that all branches are properly constituted towards such a conference. This process might also mean that the national conference scheduled for December hangs in the balance and possibly would have to be postponed pending the outcome of the KZN provincial conference.

This analysis is of course speculative on my part. Whichever way this ends in December, it’s not going to be good for the ANC. Hardened positions are already the order of the day. Neither of the two key candidates is interested in talks or compromises.

It does make me question whether a third way is effectively dead. A non-starter position. It certainly looks like it, depending on whom you talk to. Or is it, I wonder?

Suffice to say that most ANC comrades have become so consumed by this disease, even killing others suspected of infection, so as to ensure personal own survival. All have pockets stuffed full of posies because of the stench all around.

I’m afraid it’s not only those in the ANC that are affected or infected; the disease permeates throughout our society. Corruption, making a quick illegal buck, cutting corners and collusion are indeed the order of the day in Mzansi. This is what happens when a liberation movement loses its way and capacitates itself with unethical and morally bankrupt leaders.

We cannot any longer stand tall among the global community of nations, because everyone is asking: what is happening to South Africa? What was once a shining light of hope on the southern tip of Africa is now a morass.

The problem, as I see it, with both the NDZ and CR17 camps indicating that they will be asking President Zuma to vacate the west wing of the Union buildings as soon as January 2018, is that they have not realised that they as a collective are the problématique, not an individual called Zuma. They have not cottoned on to the inescapable reality that they all are at fault with regards to where the ANC finds itself today.

That the liberation movement that brought us freedom is consumed by this death.

And so, like the Black Plague, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! we all fall down. DM


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