Opinionista Oscar van Heerden 11 May 2021

Don’t allow the ANC sideshow to blur the 1994 political picture

In the midst of the never-ending shenanigans in the ANC, we must stay focused on the ultimate objective post the 1994 election: a better life for all; the structure of our economy, which remains skewed; the ownership patterns of land and other commodities; establishing a wealth tax and introducing a basic income grant.

Just as we see our ANC politics becoming a zero-sum game, and both dominant factions working actively towards mutually assured destruction, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC pulls a rabbit out of the hat. No wonder they have survived for 109 years as a liberation movement.

Over the past few months, the country has been gripped by the shenanigans inside the governing party. NEC meetings, I could have sworn, were as if the pope himself was to address his congregants after meeting. Speculation abounded about whether Cyril Ramaphosa or Ace Magashule would have the numbers on their side and which way the meeting would veer on this or that controversial issue.

Well, all the speculation came to an abrupt end on 29 March 2021 when the president of the ANC again addressed us on the decisions of the much-anticipated NEC meeting – Ace Magashule and others facing criminal charges and who are expected to appear in various courts, have 30 days to either voluntarily step aside or face temporary suspension from the party.

In other words, the ANC leadership was saying to these members: do the honourable thing and step aside, and since you profess your innocence, clear your good name in our courts and if you are found to be not guilty, you are welcome to return to your allotted position in the ANC. But alas, some of these scoundrels decided not to take up this generous offer from the leadership: instead they defiantly indicated that they would do no such thing, preferring to face whatever consequences might be meted out by the ANC.

And so, written letters were served on these members informing them of their immediate suspension. Do not pass go, do not collect R200, and go directly to jail, as the game Monopoly would have it.

Ace, realising the real effect of such a censure, and in a moment of complete befuddlement, penned a letter to the president of the ANC informing him that he, the secretary-general, had suspended the president because there exist allegations of wrongdoing in the matter of campaign funding in 2017. 

Imagine, for a moment, that there exists in this country an individual who can simply wake up on any day, pull his chair up and pen a letter informing the sitting president of the Republic that he no longer enjoys the powers and privileges of the highest office in the land. Step aside immediately and present yourself to the integrity commission of the governing party.

If I had known that we have such an individual, well, all I had to do then is bribe him and no one else. Why the silly Guptas wasted their time with various individuals at the Saxonwold Shebeen, I really don’t know. If all it really took was for the SG of the ANC to be in your pocket, it could have saved the Guptas so much money. Why try to bribe a Treasury official to the tune of R600-million when all you had to do was give the SG a Pierneef painting?

There was no consideration for due process – that is obviously time-wasting – and all this notwithstanding the due process the ANC followed in the case of the very same SG. Several NEC meetings to discuss the matter of the SG, an integrity commission appearance, the commission made its recommendation, and again the SG demanded that this recommendation be reviewed.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe was then asked to carefully review the recommendations of the integrity commission and indeed found in favour of the recommendations and advised the NEC as such. Then there was the demand that a legal framework must be written up so as to ensure that the rights of members and the SG are not violated, which was done by Mathews Phosa.

After this, it had to be circulated to branches for their respective inputs on the matter. And finally it came back to another NEC meeting, where it was decided on the step-aside guidelines. Only then, after the 30-day period, was a decisive decision taken that the SG et al must step aside.

As for the hastily written letter purporting to suspend President Ramaphosa, none of the above processes were afforded to him. No due process at all was followed and no structure of the ANC discussed this letter and its contents. But the suspended SG deemed it within his sole power to give effect to such suspension. 

No, either this was an out-of-body experience or the SG simply lost his marbles and was disconnected from reality. And a person who is disconnected from reality is either a danger to himself or to society at large.

All this is an indication of a governing party ready to implode, and if the sensational media and social media are anything to go by, the mutually assured destruction of the ANC was guaranteed. President Ramaphosa, however, had other plans, and in his address to the nation post the NEC meeting, took careful time to illustrate that actually the ANC and its branches are alive and well, and though there does exist some internal friction, the leadership has resolved two simple things.

One, the ANC leadership will convene a retreat soonest where they will slog it out and hopefully iron out their differences; and two, those members who are hellbent on destroying the party will face the full might of the ANC through disciplinary action taken against them.

In fact, the president also indicated that because of the nonsensical letter issued to him by the suspended SG, Ace must publicly apologise to the ANC leadership within a certain time-frame. Talk about humiliating the man.

Now, allow me to give you some advice on this one, Mr Magashule. Arrogance is not going to be helpful at this point. Not apologising will be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Let me explain: if you apologise and humble yourself before the leadership; if you throw yourself at the mercy of the ANC, they will not only look kindly upon you but you will also remain part of the organisation, which in turn means that you can mount a comeback towards 2022.

But if you do not come and wash the feet of the leadership and beg for forgiveness, you will be expelled from the ANC – and we all know you are nothing without this ANC which you love so very much, as you keep on reminding us all. So, do the right thing, it’s just an apology ,man, remain part of the flock, dude.

Of course we can expel Ace, but we cannot completely defeat the RET faction. Their popular appeal resonates with many in the ANC and outside of the organisation, though they grossly exaggerate their support base.

Similarly, I would argue the RET group have tried and failed to destroy CR and the camp on the right side of history. In light of this reality, a retreat is not a bad idea, because only a united and strong ANC can take the country forward.

Richard Poplak’s recent article on Frelimo was very instructive indeed. We see Chama Cha Mapinduzi in Tanzania, Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, and others, all partially capitulated after about 20 years in power – nationalist movements that succumbed to the lure of money and power and forgot about their historic mission of serving the poor and vulnerable.

It was Frantz Fanon who captured it so uniquely in The Wretched of the Earth, when he wrote:

“After independence, the party sinks into an extraordinary lethargy. The militants are only called upon when so-called popular manifestations are afoot, or international conferences, or independence celebrations. The local party leaders are given administrative posts, the party becomes an administration, and the militants disappear into the crowd and take the empty title of citizen. Now that they have fulfilled their historical mission of leading the bourgeoisie to power, they are firmly invited to retire so that the bourgeoisie may carry out its mission in peace and quiet.

“But we have seen that the national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is incapable of carrying out any mission whatever. After a few years, the break-up of the party becomes obvious, and any observer, even the most superficial, can notice that the party, today the skeleton of its former self, only serves to immobilize the people. The party, which during the battle had drawn to itself the whole nation, is falling to pieces. The intellectuals who on the eve of independence rallied to the party, now make it clear by their attitude that they gave their support with no other end in view than to secure their slices of the cake of independence. The party is becoming a means of private advancement.

“There exists inside the new regime, however, an inequality in the acquisition of wealth and in monopolization. Some have a double source of income and demonstrate that they are specialized in opportunism. Privileges multiply and corruption triumphs, while morality declines. Today the vultures are too numerous and too voracious in proportion to the lean spoils of the national wealth.

The party, a true instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, reinforces the machine, and ensures that the people are hemmed in and immobilized. The party helps the government to hold the people down. It becomes more and more clearly anti-democratic, an implement of coercion. The party is objectively, sometimes subjectively, the accomplice of the merchant bourgeoisie. In the same way that the national bourgeoisie conjures away its phase of construction in order to throw itself into the enjoyment of its wealth.”

Dare I say, it has been enough now, being misdirected on this matter of corruption. The Zondo Commission and putting in place all the necessary institutions and people to effectively deal with this phenomenon was a very necessary thing, one cannot argue against this. We now have to ensure that consequence management post the Zondo report gets effectively implemented and, yes, this could take a number of years still, but we must redirect our attention back to the bigger issues facing our society.

We must stay focused on the ultimate objective post the 1994 election: a better life for all; the structure of our economy which remains skewed; the ownership patterns of land and other commodities; establishing a wealth tax and introducing a basic income grant.

These are some of the more fundamental matters we should pay attention to. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the war on corruption is over. Far from it. But for as long as we are obsessing about it, we divert our attention away from the actual crucial matters of transformation. Wouldn’t you agree?

And so the ANC needs to fix itself to avoid a similar fate as the other nationalist movements. I sincerely hope the team-building exercises will bear the necessary fruits. Let us hope that when Gwede Mantashe, with his arms folded across his chest, falls backwards in the hope that he can indeed trust his comrades to catch him, that they will. For the sake of the future of the ANC.

Is the wretched-of-the-earth hypothesis the inevitable path we are destined to follow as South Africa? Is this it? Can we not aspire to something better? Surely to anyone who asserts that we cannot be better, that we cannot dispel the naysayers… surely we can show them that we can and will do better? DM

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All Comments 4

  • Wise words that might have little effect. We are so far from “a better life for all” that it must be asked is this possible? Platitudes that inspired people during the struggle need reviewing. Given the last 27 years, maybe it’s time to ask different questions of ourselves & set realistic goals?

  • Corruption is not a stand alone stumbling block that prevents transformation; it is the transformation. If it cannot be dealt with successfully, we will without doubt end up where Tanzania, Mozambique and others are right now. Corruption is accepted by all as the way things are and ought to be.

  • Focus on creating an enabling environment for job creation. Ownership patterns and the so called land issue are complete red herrings

  • I love the last six words of your article … they echo the utterances of one Zuckerberg … when properly grilled by some members of the US congress about the negative social impacts of his service, which has become worldwide money machine ! A Masterclass … in how to continue with impunity !

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