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A tale of two ANCs


Sello Lediga is an author and the Chairperson of ActionSA in Limpopo. His latest book, South Africa’s Transition from Apartheid to Democracy, will be available in September.

Civil war has broken out inside the party and the organisation is already split.

After a quarter of a century in power, the ANC, like most liberation movements in Africa, is in a death spiral.

The best of times was when Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. The worst of times came 22 years later with the Constitutional Court ruling that then-president Jacob Zuma had violated his oath of office; the age of wisdom of Oliver Tambo that culminated in democratic elections was replaced by the foolishness of the ANC in electing Jacob Zuma president.

The dawn of democracy was a spring of hope and the mass looting of state resources is our winter of despair. Today, 25 years since the ANC came to power, South Africa is broken, unstable and broke.

The glorious movement that launched a heroic struggle against apartheid, is now the greatest threat to South Africa. Factional battles that began after Mandela’s presidency have destroyed the party of liberation. Money has conquered the current leaders of the organisation. Under the ruinous presidency of Zuma, the state succumbed to corruption and looting on an industrial scale. Now the IMF waits in the wings to rescue a collapsed economy.

The ANC is so factionalised, some of its top leaders are working with the opposition and criminal syndicates to oust the only person who can save the embattled country, President Cyril Ramaphosa. It is a tale of two ANCs, one struggling to free the party from the clutches of corruption, rent-seeking and State Capture, the other in a frantic fightback to stay out of jail.

It took Ramaphosa four days to calm the markets after ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s “quantity easing” pronouncement earlier in 2019. Prior to that, the finance minister and ANC economic transformation head had publicly contradicted Magashule. In obvious exasperation, the governor of the Reserve Bank charged that the “barbarians are at the gate” of the central bank. That was the week the factional battles inside the ruling party spilt into and damaged the national economy. How is it possible that comrades at the same meeting can differ so fundamentally about the content of the resolution adopted?

If you hadn’t realised, civil war has broken out inside the ANC. The ghosts of Nasrec 2017, when Ramaphosa won the ANC presidential race, haunts the movement. The remnants of Zuma’s patronage network that Joel Netshitenzhe characterised as “beneficiaries of corruption and State Capture,” fired the first salvos after the 2019 general election in which the citizens of SA and Parliament confirmed Ramaphosa as president of South Africa and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

According to Magashule and company, the powers bestowed upon the president do not belong to the president of SA, but to the ruling party the president belongs to Ramaphosa must run back to Magashule at Luthuli House to get his ideological orders.

Ramaphosa is constantly reminded by Magashule that failure to implement the Nasrec resolutions will lead to a fate worse than what befell Mbeki and Zuma. The narrative is that no matter how imperfect the resolutions are or how detrimental they may be to the economy, their implementation is non-negotiable. Remember that the resolutions in question were adopted by 2% of the ANC’s less than one million members at a highly contested conference. These resolutions are imposed on 58 million South Africans. This is the essence of democracy in a country with the best constitution in the world. The ANC constitution is more important than that of the RSA.

Recent developments in the ANC and South Africa are worrisome. Magashule appears to be leading a total onslaught against Ramaphosa. He has asked his supporters not to sing songs in praise of Ramaphosa and openly contradicted party election chief Fikile Mbalula’s statement that without the Ramaphosa effect, the ruling party would have lost the 2019 elections. The blatant public enmity has dispelled any notions of unity within the party. It is uncertain whether Ramaphosa himself believes in unity when he is confronted by such hostility.

Civil war inside the ANC will have a negative impact on the stability of South Africa, as the Reserve Bank episode has demonstrated. It is in the best interests of the country that the Magashule faction is decisively defeated to free Ramaphosa to lead South Africa to a better future for all South Africans, irrespective of political affiliation, race or religion.

The factional battles in the ANC are becoming ideological. The dominant faction during Zuma’s presidency has been championing its own brand of radical economic transformation (RET) with guns trained on white monopoly capital, courtesy of Bell Pottinger. Led by Ramaphosa, the other faction is painfully aware of how cold it is to try existing outside the dominant global economic system. Ramaphosa and his allies know any attempt to antagonise the global hegemony of the dominant economic order will turn South Africa into a Zimbabwe or Venezuela, with dire consequences for all South Africans, including champions of RET.

From central Johannesburg, RET forces hope to inspire ANC branches countrywide to reject Ramaphosa’s neo-liberalism and embrace an EFF-type of radicalism that will widen the gap between the ruling party factions. Indeed, signs of cooperation between the EFF, public protector and the Magashule faction are emerging. They are united on RET, expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and protecting the public protector.

The Magashule faction is already looking for allies outside the Tripartite Alliance as it confronts adversaries inside the party. Ramaphosa is on the ropes for indiscretions related to the funding of the CR17 campaign. His internal enemies have tasted blood. This does not augur well for the ruling party and South Africa. The two factions are finding it increasingly difficult to co-exist in the same party. The broad church is facing its greatest challenge since 1912.

Next year the party holds its mid-term national general council and there will be blood on the floor. Ramaphosa represents the last generation of distinguished leaders the ANC has produced and his fall means the entire nation will be ruled by a new and self-serving mediocre leadership inspired by power and money. Fasten your seatbelts. DM


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