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United we stand, divided we fall – why pooling resources is a smart move


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.

It is time to put differences aside and stay focused on the task at hand, which is to rid ourselves of the tyranny we have been exposed to over the last eight years.

The historic mission of the ANC since 1912 was to attain universal suffrage for the majority peoples of Mzansi. It finally attained that historic goal in 1994, 82 years later.

The problem as I see it now is the ANC, and as a result the country, is rudderless and has been unable to define the new historic mission post-1994.

I hear some of you shout “poverty eradication”, but this objective finds expression in the numerous economic policy documents of the ANC since 1994. Indeed, the triple challenges as we know it remain strategic objectives of the movement but this cannot constitute our new historic mission, surely.

First there was the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) but this ran aground after the leadership of the ANC realised that there was no money in the state coffers; it had all been spent by the Nationalist government. Then came the now infamous Growth Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR), a self-imposed structural adjustment programme but without the IMF; this gave us much needed growth and stabilised the economy as a whole but it did not result in employment in redistribution on any large scale. Next came the Accelerated and shared growth initiative for South Africa, which died a slow and painful death at the hands of the New Growth Path, which ended up being a damp squib and followed swiftly with the now National Development Plan (NDP), which was still-born.

In short, poverty eradication is not a historic mission but simply an economic imperative.

It seems to me that the emergence of strong black nationalism is a direct consequence of the absence of a more equitable, inclusive and distributive economic system in South Africa. I might even go so far as saying that the absence of socialism is giving rise to Black Nationalism.

In other words, the National Question versus the Class Question.

Changing or demanding the change in the complexion of the economy is not going to eradicate the systemic fault lines in our society. To illustrate my point more succinctly I refer to the recent ANC National Policy Conference where one of the delegates stood up and stated that the problem of South Africa (as he sees it) is that the Boers took our land and the Jews took our mines and therefore the enemy is white monopoly capital. What he in effect was saying to everyone present was that the enemy is white people. That white monopoly capital is code for white South Africans.

Besides the obvious racism and fascism displayed by this person, what I found even more disgusting was the fact that not one person stood up to call the comrade to order. In a way, all present were tacitly agreeing with this most absurd hypothesis. I unfortunately could not say anything for I was not a voting delegate to the said conference.

Now, if the number one raison d’etre of the ANC is to create a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa, how then do we justify such drivel as outlined by the cadre at the conference? That the enemy are the Boers, and the Jews and they must be defeated. This is problem statement number one.

Now, when a country is rudderless and there is clearly no historic mission that the governing party is pursuing, this is when you find space for unethical and corrupt practices and behaviours. But we will not get into those for now, suffice to say that soon criminal charges against the perpetrators will be the order of the day. This is problem statement number two.

My point with the above analysis and stating clearly what the problematiques are in the ANC today is to understand how there is still time for factional politics/battles.

It simply defies logic why so many contenders (seven at last count) in the race for the ANC Presidency would want to do it on their own. Surely it makes sense that they pool their resources in order to fight a common enemy, in this case the Zuma faction? A progressive alliance perhaps between the like-minded contenders? Notwithstanding that all of the contenders are campaigning illegally up to this point since the NEC of the ANC took a decision that no one should mention any names and certainly no one should campaign until such time that the ANC branches have been audited and they nominate possible contenders for certain positions. And yet, as if the ANC does not already suffer from a credibility gap, they simply ignored the Secretary-General and campaigned throughout the country.

Continuing as individual candidates like this is simply counterproductive and will defeat the purpose of repositioning the ANC and craft the next historic mission for Mzansi. In fact, one might even say that by dividing yourselves you give more impotence to the Zuma faction.

As former President Kgalema Motlanthe once remarked in his organisational report at the ANC conference in Polokwane in 2007, “If we are not vigilant, we could easily slide down a dangerous path of least resistance to the bottom of an abyss where the content of our revolutionary tasks is lost in the ferment of opportunistic electoral politics.”

Writing in 1885, the Latin American revolutionary, Jose Marti, aptly described the dangers that await us at the bottom of this path:

Once the candidates are nominated (he wrote) pails of mud are dumped upon heads. Lies and exaggerations are knowingly spread. Bellies and backs are polished. All manner of infamy is considered legitimate. All kinds of blows are good as long as they stun the enemy. Whomever invents an effective villainous act struts about like a peacock. Even prominent men believe themselves excused from the more trivial duties of honour.”

I say again, united we stand, divided we fall.

It is time to put differences aside and stay focused on the task at hand, which is to rid ourselves of the tyranny we have been exposed to over the last eight years. I am the first to admit, it is no easy path to December. There remain a few outstanding matters that could still see the journey being severely scuppered. Here I am referring to the still outstanding court case with regards to the appointment of the head of the commission of inquiry into State Capture; the President has challenged the then Public Protector’s assertion that the Chief Justice must indeed appoint such a head (either a sitting or retired judge). Second, there is the matter of the 783 fraud and corruption charges still unresolved, though the lawyers for Zuma successfully managed to stall this matter for the past eight years; we are all keenly awaiting the court’s pronouncement on this long overdue matter.

We know full well that no precise formula exists, only the hope that in the spirit of comity, the warring factions and the courts will carry on the quest for a modus vivendi that takes into account our constitutional democracy and freedoms.

We are together in this house of war, the courts are playing their part, the fourth estate theirs and civil society has also come to the party. Shouldn’t you also stand together and face the common enemy – Zuma? DM


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