Defend Truth


The ANC must go: This is not the South Africa we fought and went to prison for


Ashley Forbes was active in the establishment of the United Democratic Front in 1983. He later joined Umkhonto weSizwe, the military wing of the ANC. He went into exile in 1986 and completed his military training in Angola. After his release from Robben Island in 1991, he completed a three-year Business Management diploma in Singapore. He assisted with the establishment of the Robben Island Museum and returned to the island in an act of unintended irony to take up the position of Estates and Services Manager.

The ANC of today is nothing like the ANC of the past. ANC members who fought against apartheid did so without ever getting paid or having the expectation of being rewarded. We were political soldiers of conscience who fought for justice, equality and peace, and the only reward we desired was to see the lives of all South Africans improve after apartheid fell.

The mass looting and anarchy that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng rocked the very foundations of our economy, the rule of law and our Constitution. In the aftermath, we have to pause and ask what really happened, reflect on the causes and then make urgent plans that must move us forward.

It may take some time yet to investigate who was behind this anarchy and mayhem and if there was indeed an attempted insurrection or coup. But what is abundantly clear is that the Zuma affair only provided the spark. The underlying reasons for the looting and plundering were cruel hunger, poverty and unemployment, coupled with the ANC’s inability to provide any meaningful programme of reform.

Of a population of about 60 million, only 15 million South Africans are employed. A full 7.2 million are unemployed, with 46.3% of our youth between the ages of 15 and 34 registering as unemployed in the first quarter of 2021. Only four in every 100 students will pass mathematics this academic year with grades of 50% or higher: this, in an industrialised nation and a technological world.

According to Stats SA, 49.2% of our adult population live in poverty, while GDP has been flat for almost two decades. According to the United Nations, South Africa’s Gini coefficient makes us the most unequal country in the world, where the wealthiest 10% of the population holds more than half of the nation’s income.

These are the real underlying forces at play, which all citizens should be cognisant of. This pot of discontent has been brewing for over 27 years because the ANC-led government consistently fails to solve these social issues. Add to this toxic mix, conditions where the rule of law, the Constitution and our democracy are not respected because the ANC government fails to set a good example. What we inevitably ended up with on 9 July 2021 were the explosive circumstances that caused millions of ordinary citizens to take the Zuma gap and take advantage of a weak ANC that has long since lost the authority to govern effectively.

Who do we blame for this grim milestone that our country has reached, and who must take responsibility and step aside? Zuma, Ace, Ramaphosa? Must those corrupt officials inside the ANC step aside or must those who are dividing the party step aside? Should we pin the blame on looters, instigators, “counter-revolutionaries”, “insurrectionists” or terrorists, or on tribalism, racism, the minister of police or our incompetent Cabinet ministers?

The grim milestone that played itself out on national television only reflects how far the ANC governing party as a whole has fallen from grace. Failure to address the issues of the poor and factional battles inside the ruling ANC have not only paralysed the party, Parliament and state institutions, but now threaten the very foundations of our democracy, the rule of law, our Constitution, the economy and the livelihoods and wellbeing of every citizen.

Should South Africans rejoice, pat the ANC on the back because the centre did hold, calm was restored and the rule of law was upheld?

Private schools and private healthcare facilities are growing in numbers because our public education and public healthcare systems fail everyone. Solar panels and generators are in high demand because Eskom cannot provide a reliable, affordable supply of electricity. Private cars fill our highways because our public transport systems are broken and the taxi industry is not appropriately regulated.

Our farming communities barricade themselves against stock theft and murders because they can no longer depend on the police force for their security. Caregivers, nurses and doctors run the gauntlet each day to defend our people against the Covid-19 pandemic in the absence of adequate government support.

And today, now that the dust has settled, we can clearly see that it was not the authority of the ANC, police or army that brought calm to our land, but instead the will of ordinary citizens from our community police forums, neighbourhood watches, WhatsApp groups and taxi associations. 

South Africans must no longer accept the narrative – which is often presented as fact – that the ANC will win the February 2022 local government elections and the national elections in 2024 and beyond. We must, in the wake of the 9 July 2021 mass lootings and anarchy, all say, ‘Enough is enough!’

The centre did hold but it was not as a result of any one or other political faction in the ANC. Ordinary citizens held the fort in the absence of an effective ANC government.

The conditions for further sparks and blow-ups remain. Post 9 July 2021, looting and anarchy remain a constant threat to us all, unless South Africans together address the real issues of the poor and an ineffective government.

It is not sustainable in the long term or healthy for our democracy that communities build parallel organs of authority to deal with the innumerable responsibilities of an absentee government. We must accept that the destructive factional battles inside the ANC will rage on for many years to come. The ANC government will continue to lose its moral authority to govern and will drag the rest of the country down with it, unless we vote the ANC out of its position of domination.

Our current president is mainly concerned with unifying the ANC and winning a second term in office. In other words, he is more concerned about keeping the ANC strong and placating the roaring factions so as to secure another term in office than dealing decisively with the national challenges that face our country.

His strategy may bring positive change, but at what price? Do we rejoice when we have to wait 20 years to jail one criminal, when billions of rands have been looted from the poor by ANC members in almost every department of state?

And should we now cry or be apologetic because the highest court in our land sentenced Jacob Zuma to a mere 15 months in prison for contempt of court? Blind loyalty to the ANC has brought us to this point, and we must accept that this is not in the best, long-term interests of our nation.

I am sure that Nelson Mandela never envisioned such moral decay, but he warned us all nevertheless when he said, “If the ANC does what the apartheid government did, you must vote them out of power.”

The ANC of today is nothing like the ANC of the past. ANC members who fought against apartheid did so without ever getting paid or having the expectation of being rewarded. We were political soldiers of conscience who fought for justice, equality and peace, and the only reward we desired was to see the lives of all South Africans improve after apartheid fell.

The ANC of today is devoid of conscience and betrayed the vision that was truly based on the will of all our people. Our country is being held to ransom by a political party whose personal interests overshadow the national interest.

The ranks of the ANC have grown because their leaders have been the perfect symbols of criminality, corruption and private wealth accumulation. Patronage, kickbacks and tenderpreneurs drive the growth of the organisation. 

The quality of ANC members has deteriorated and it is not surprising that our country is saddled with Cabinet ministers, heads of government departments, SOEs and leaders of provincial and local government departments who are grossly incompetent.

Nobody is indispensable and it may just be the wisest thing for all for us to start looking outside the ANC for our new generation of ethical and competent leaders.

All South Africans must take responsibility for allowing this untenable situation to unfold before our eyes. We have allowed the ANC to reach this position of arrogant domination over our Parliament and state institutions. All those leaders of the ANC and its tripartite alliance who have colluded, benefited, been complicit and looked the other way must lower their heads in shame and step aside for abandoning the poor.

Big business and monopoly capitalists must wake up because the chickens have come home to roost. You have benefited, looked the other way and enabled this cohort of unethical leaders to pay lip service to the issues of the poor. The past weeks that started on 9 July 2021 must surely be a wakeup call to you all, too.

It cannot be business as usual.

The choices are clear. Give the ANC government another five years to present more plans of renewal, turnaround strategies and empty promises of economic growth, and we stand to lose much more than our SOEs, generations of youth and private entrepreneurs, our economy, the rule of law and the Constitution.

With all the lofty promises that the ANC has made over the years, the majority of our people suffer in abject poverty, small and medium-sized enterprises are being decimated and the future for big business is uncertain. Service delivery protests will continue to escalate, the movement for social and economic change will grow, and anarchy and looting will become a normal feature of our political landscape.

This is no different to what happened under apartheid where our people undermined the authority of the state and highlighted the incompetence of its leaders. Can South Africans afford to give the ANC another chance?

South Africans must no longer accept the narrative – which is often presented as fact – that the ANC will win the February 2022 local government elections and the national elections in 2024 and beyond. We must, in the wake of the 9 July 2021 mass lootings and anarchy, all say, “Enough is enough!”

We must commit to a new social compact, become active citizens and work to unify our nation against the common enemy, which is unconstrained one-party domination.

The way forward:

  1. In the short term, our priority must be to break the domination that the ANC has over our Parliament, state institutions, economy and local service delivery departments. It is true that most South Africans do not see any viable political parties they can relate to, identify with or trust with their vote. This is the unfortunate reality that has been created by one-party domination. The solution is not to accept mediocrity or abstain from voting, but to go to the polls in our millions and vote for any party or independent candidate other than the ANC. It doesn’t matter who we vote for as long as we erode the absolute power of the ANC and shake them from their pedestals of arrogance.
  2. Whether we wish to accept it or not, there is a new movement for change taking root in our country. It is a movement that is headless at the moment but it does not need to remain that way. At present, this movement coexists outside the ANC and it expresses itself in a wide range of social formations like #FeesMustFall, #DefendOurDemocracy, #DefendOurConstitution, street committees, WhatsApp groups and neighbourhood watches. All peace-loving South Africans must galvanise into a new political force that truly represents all our people, captures our hearts and minds, will be unapologetic about dealing with corruption, will focus on the real issues of unemployment, poverty, service delivery and education, and who will elect ethical and competent leaders to positions of authority.
  3. Any new social compact must strive to unify our people and build a truly democratic, non-racial, just and equitable society for all. The black, white, coloured, Indian and Chinese communities are going nowhere on their own. Foreign nationals are nothing on their own. The Afrikaner community, big business and the monopoly capitalists have a shaky future on their own. Our new movement for progressive change must embrace all our people because this is home to us all. We must all work together, negotiate, be pragmatic and trust one another in our quest to rid our land of one-party domination and build a great nation for our children.

The week starting 9 July 2021 will go down in our history as a watershed moment. 

During this Mandela Month, let us recall the wise words of our founding father and first president of our rainbow nation: “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination… and for this I am prepared to die.” DM


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  • Andre Engelbrecht says:

    Thank you, Sir!

  • Paul T says:

    i agree that the ANC as we know it is finished. Who fills the vacuum? Who do you put your X next to at the next elections? A population that has voted with emotion and not logic for the last 20 years unlikely to start voting strategically this year. They are more likely to vote for someone else who tugs their emotional heart strings, albeit in a much more extreme and violent manner. Cyril and his supporters need to cleave the RET thugs out of the ANC ranks and quickly, so that there is a viable centre to vote for.

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      Agreed but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t weaken the ANC’s hand by supporting a racist DA opposition if needs be. The ANC has policy but contravenes it all the time. The DA is a racist bunch of dead ducks who know how to run a municipality. EFF is well, EFF. We can’t return an unchallenged ANC to parliament.

      • Chris Lane says:

        All political parties are racist, actually, so to single out the DA is disingenuous.

        • Gazeley Walker says:

          All political parties are racist in one way or another, the problem with the DA is that they lack the ability to seize this opportunity to broaden their voter base, and for this, I think they can thank Hellen Zille who seems to exert a huge amount of influence within the party, not all of it projects well for the party.

      • MIKE WEBB says:

        I suppose that you can prove that the cANCer is non-racist with a black-business forum and a black-this and a black-that. Please name ONE white only society outside Oranjeville. (Even the Free Masons are open). Don’t be a joker mired in generalizations.

      • R S says:

        Racist in what sense? I’m not white and I honestly don’t care that many of the “faces of the party” are paler than mine at a national level. Their policies are solid, they’ve changed their stance on social housing in Cape Town, they have many POC in their ranks, and yes, where they govern, things work.

        I honestly couldn’t give two s%&^@ what the colour of their skin is, as long as they are doing a good job.

  • Quinton H says:

    Sums up the situation very well thanks. Two serious byproducts of this. Failing to generate new jobs and becoming a welfare state. As with any enterprise monopoly, innovation and progress stagnate. A political career is seen as an opportunity for money and power, not to serve and build a better country. Politics in general is failing the people, worldwide really. What we don’t need is an unhealthy left and right with a paralysed majority centre. Hopefully Action SA can breathe a bit of fresh air into this space, since the DA with little brother FF+, and ANC with little brother EFF is polarising the political environment, pulling in different directions resulting in a weak forward momentum for all South Africans

  • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

    So, where have all you johnny-come-lately ANC veterans who are now suddenly so very critical of the ANC been for the past 27 years? Where were you when Holomisa was expelled for taking a stand against corruption? Where were you when Lekota and Shilowa left the ANC because they couldn’t go along with the corruption any longer? Where were you when, time and again, ANC MPs protected Zuma against impeachment and votes of no confidence?

    As delighted as I am that you have finally grown a backbone, why is it that now, after 27 years of ruin and destruction, you decide that it’s time to take a stand?

    Please. Take a hike.

    • Jimbo Smith says:

      Very well said. They have been silent as was Ramaphosa for the 9 years he sat alongside Zuma doing and saying nothing whilst the state was being systematically destroyed. So much for Ramaphosa’s “long game”…he has simply carried on where Zuma left off.

  • Derrick Kourie says:

    A well-argued rejection of the current ANC. However, I am weary of hearing this kind of statement: “All South Africans must take responsibility for allowing this untenable situation to unfold before our eyes.”

    No Sir, not all South Africans! The prime responsibility for for the current state of affairs are those who have failed to actively oppose corruption within organisations such as the ANC and EFF. This means that responsibility for the current state of affairs lies with the a large section of the “commentariat”, with ANC/EFF voters and with those who abstain from voting. Millions of South Africans do not fall into these categories. So stop saying “all” must take responsibility.

    The commentariat and news media whose voices reach the mass of poor voters bear particular responsibility for the narratives that they sustain. Few such commentators have had the courage to call out BEE and cadre deployment for the farce that it is, which is at the root of most corruption and incompetence. Few challenge the myth that there is no point in voting because all parties are equally bad. No wonder so many voters decide not to vote.

    Chastise those who are truly responsible — not “all South Africans”.

  • Tony Reilly says:

    Good analysis…… all you need to do Ashley is persuade the ANC voting cattle to “….vote for any party….other than the ANC”. Good luck with that !

  • Desmond Erasmus says:

    “All South Africans must take responsibility for allowing this untenable situation to unfold before our eyes.”
    I’m sorry, I did not vote the ANC into power, so please, do not include me in your “All South Africans”

  • Carl Metelerkamp says:

    I don’t think the ANC is going to go away anytime soon. They did very well in the recent local government by elections! What worries me is is this just the start of the start of the internal strife within the party that has finally fallen out into the public space with grave consequences.

  • Rg Bolleurs says:

    Hundred percent agree. Totally spot on

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    I just love the way so many academics who live in Cape Town are so knowledgeable about what goes on in KZN. Many of the folks who were involved in the looting and mayhem were neither poor, nor hungry.

  • Heidi Smith says:

    I applaud your honesty….and advice….the frightening thing is that none of the alternative parties particularly engender confidence… so where to?

    • Derrick Kourie says:

      This is precisely the kind of gross generalisation that causes people not to vote. Even if one believed that all parties are equally bad (and I don’t think that is at all the case), it would still be better to rotate them in and out of power.

  • Sam van Coller says:

    Very well said Ashley. We need another UDF that will become a new political party that picks up the broken pieces brought about by both the ANC and apartheid. It needs to be led by the younger generations and must seek to draw in both the advantaged and disadvantaged . It needs to bring about a paradigm shift in our political dispensation so that outdated rhetoric, ideology and labels of past conflicts give way to strategies that will deal with the real issues facing the country in this century. It must unite all South Africans behind policies that promote economic growth accompanied by real social progress that meets basic human needs measured against targets each year. It must deepen democracy by strengthening the links between elected representatives and constituents and promoting accountability. South Africans feel excluded from the current political dispensation.
    It will need to focus on economic, social, environmental and political sustainability and recognize the existential challenges facing us all as human beings. Inequality must be top of the list followed by climate change, environmental degradation and waste of scarce resources and pandemics.
    South Africa has the talent and spirit to succeed – we do not accept failure.

    • P G Muller says:

      and we do not have time on our side… “all South Africans” need an all South Africa solution not any more apologies from ANCers that suddenly now “discover” that looting a country was not a solution. What next trick is up their sleeve ?

  • Stephen T says:

    Yes, the ANC can and must be blamed for much of the dire circumstances that this economy finds itself in, as well as being blamed for all of the catastrophic incompetence of government. Their policy of cadre deployment is at the core of this dismal failure and is as shameful as it is destructive. But we have been waiting for several decades now for them to figure out the basics of right from wrong. My patience is at an end so I have no choice but to consider the liberation movement an abject failure in the realm of morality. Apartheid was a failure for exactly the same reason. Two peas in a pod.

    But I digress. What the article does not explore deeply enough is following:
    Yes, apartheid caused a grievous injury, but is it’s legacy the *only* cause of poverty? The ANC and most ‘progressive’ thinkers seem adamant that it is so. I think not. Too many mouths to feed and not enough food is a simple arithmetic that gets zero attention from anyone because it doesn’t sell newspapers. And if the media and ruling party both refuse to acknowledge this as at least a parallel cause, well then of course they’re going to fail at reducing poverty: they can only see half the problem because they refuse to see the other half. We need state-sponsored family planning back on the table and we need it yesterday.
    … cont’d

    • Stephen T says:

      Another question not explored is that of the structure of government itself. It is reasonable to expect any other centralised authority structure would end up making the same mistakes. I contend that it is not only the ANC’s gross incompetence that is at fault here, but also its centralized governance style. How do we prevent this from happening in the future? We federalize. Or look for parties that actively promote federalization as the way forward. More authority for local (and maybe provincial) government to deal with local problems that leaves leaves national government unencumbered to deal only with international affairs.

      As an added benefit decentralisation of government is by its very nature antagonistic to autocratic dictatorship, i.e. the exact problem we see in so many other failed African “democracies”. Populism is still a thorn in the side of practical governance, but in a federal structure its ability to pollute the entire government is limited.
      … cont’d

      • Stephen T says:

        Lastly I hope to see a reform of our school curriculum regarding history. It is well known that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. I would go further to suggest that history must be deliberately taught as a science and not as a religion (as it currently is, if it is taught at all). History as a religion is nothing more than a radicalization tool for the recruitment of obedient idiots. On the other hand, history as a science contributes to the solid foundations of an ethical civilization. A civilisation where every individual is equipped from an early age with the competence, responsibility, and critical thinking skills needed to be able to tell right from wrong and thus live a virtuous and intellectually independent life.

        With freedom comes responsibility. With responsibility comes accountability. With accountability comes virtue. This counts as much for each citizen as it does for entire governments, and transcends all cultures, all creeds, all civilizations.

        • Sam van Coller says:

          Federalism seems to be a critical component in holding the USA together at a time when their central government is unable to function because of the deep divisions there. Federalism needs to be looked at as a real possibility for South Africa. Anymore ‘African Big Man’ occurrences will be disastrous for us.

  • Janie Rorke says:

    I do feel that people need to be shown that abstaining from voting is counterproductive. Any vote, preferably middle of the road, would at least put a party in place that could potentially limit the ANC excesses. At the moment we only have the DA as an opposition, let’s start with them. I agree Federalism is a good option as it seems to curtail the big brother control.

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