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17 December 2017 16:13 (South Africa)
Opinionista Brij Maharaj

Rumours of the death of the ANC … are greatly exaggerated?

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

It is common cause that the ANC is being consumed and dismembered by cliques, clans and coteries who view the organisation as a conduit for quick, questionable wealth, at the expense of the poor majority. Hence, in recent months, the metaphor of death has been used to describe the comatose state of the ANC, but it was not clear whether there was an onset of rigor mortis. However, cerebral paralysis was very evident as the organisation’s NEC members and MPs demonstrated an inability to differentiate between right and wrong, and honesty and corruption. A related view was that the ANC had lost its moral pulse and intellectual compass. As ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe argued: “Once a liberation movement becomes allergic to intellectual capacity‚ you must know it is losing its place.” So are rumours of the death of the ANC greatly exaggerated?

With apologies to Mark Twain

After President Jacob Zuma narrowly survived yet another vote of no confidence, ANC MP Makhosi Khoza said: “Tuesday‚ 8 August 2017 will go down in South African history as the day the ANC’s moral pulse was all but extinguished … In those voting booths‚ we were all confronted with the same choice‚ to choose between right and wrong. To choose between self-enrichment and the service of our people. Unfortunately‚ the majority chose to endorse the steady and relentless destruction of the ANC.”

Khoza argued that given the divisions, tensions and imponderables in the ANC, the leader elected in December 2017 would be forced to sign a pact with the Devil. Archbishop Desmond Tutu prayed for divine intervention. Mantashe warned that votes should not be sold (or bought), as the December conference was not an auction, and the “ANC cannot be sold to the highest bidder” (clever South Africans will argue that the new owners of the ANC were from that compound in Saxonworld).

In a Facebook post, Tshepo Albia disagreed with the argument that the “ANC is in a hearse because, on average, the lifespan of a liberation movement on the continent during post-independence is roughly 20-25 years ... No the ANC is not about to die any time and I want to dispel this myth. There is a general and maybe rather obvious consensus among many thinkers and society at large that South Africa’s political landscape has changed over the last seven years or so”.

Justice Malala introduced the analogy of a life-and-death battle in which the stakes were high and truth, justice and honesty were the first casualties: “Welcome to the dirty war. Welcome to the age of untruths, half-truths, fake news, manufactured scandal, smear, slander and lies. Welcome to South Africa as the weak, dying governing party, the once-glorious ANC continues to eat itself up … The dirty, intense, relentless and debilitating fight-back against Zuma’s perceived enemies, (is) a no-holds-barred assault that is not mere contestation between comrades. This is now beginning to look like a fight to the death.” In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, ANC cadres are being mowed down like flies as the leadership contest turns violent, and the province is beginning to resemble the killing fields of the early 1990s.

Gwede Mantashe similarly maintained that at the December 2017 elective conference the ANC had to make a “choice between life and death. It’s a choice between prosperity and disaster for the ANC; and therefore, when you select leadership ... It should be about which leaders are fit for this phase of our struggle”. He argued that the elective conference provided an opportunity for the ANC to go through a cleansing process so that it can be disinfected from corruption, looting and State Capture. He warned that the dirty tricks being used by some of the leadership factions were similar to that employed by the apartheid state: “Once we go to that level, comrades‚ we must know that it is the beginning of the end of the African National Congress.”

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe warned that the ANC had to engage in critical introspection and regeneration, and revert to its core business of serving the people: “Renewal cannot be just tampering with the structures. It means we must think very deeply about what the challenges are that our people face today. The ANC exists for one purpose only, and that is to address the problems of our people. If it is no longer addressing the problems of our people, we might as well begin writing the obituary of the ANC … The minute we fail to adapt to the concrete conditions and the challenges of today, the organisation becomes irrelevant. And people realise they can continue with their lives and have progress without the ANC.”

Sensing the vulnerability of the once mighty ANC, the opposition parties entered the fray. According to DA leader Musi Maimane: “It doesn’t matter who gets elected at Nasrec in December – it will make no difference. The ANC is dead. Come 2019, we will have the opportunity to save our country and steer it in a new direction.”

Julius Malema from the EFF warned that the ANC government was turning SA into a failed state as characterised by the following: “One: The absence of the rule of law. Two: The emergence of the untouchable president. Three: Massive corruption that is not acted upon. Four: Promotion and embracing of mediocrity into the highest office”.

In a column in Daily Maverick on 19 April 2012 entitled The ANC: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, J Brooks Spector succinctly summarised the challenges facing the ANC: “It also struggles to stifle a still-not-quite-public competition to replace its current head and national president, Jacob Zuma; to contend with awkward, still-unresolved relationships with big business and some feisty, independent media organisations; to wrestle successfully with the internal rot of careerism and insider corruption; and to resolve how to make the move, finally, from a secretive revolutionary movement to a normal – albeit dominant political party in an increasingly non-revolutionary state”?

Off course, the counterargument from those in the Zuma camp would be that the ANC had faced more serious and sinister threats during the apartheid era. However, the difference was that the need to deal with a common enemy had united the various factions within the ANC. In the democratic era, the enemy was no longer apartheid, but rather poverty and hunger – and the insatiable greed of many in the ANC leadership hierarchy. Death can only be the leveller … and depending on one’s faith, there can be resurrection or reincarnation, or the path to hell, which is always paved with good intentions. DM

Brij Maharaj is a geography professor at UKZN. He writes in his personal capacity.

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

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