When a country undergoes thoroughgoing change, it is not always obvious. There are people who still don’t realise that post-Cold War South Africa is going through a second political transition.
A political transition – ie, the fall of an established regime and the rise of a new one – is a momentous development in the life of a country.
The first such transition in our country happened between 1989 and 1994, when the reign of Afrikaner nationalists floundered and was eventually replaced by an African nationalism of former liberation fighters.
Political transitions are generally occasioned by a realignment of political forces, resulting from an escalating crisis or a series of crises.
The new forces that are on the verge of inheriting political power from a dying regime tend to paint a rosy picture of times ahead, but those who are sober get haunted by the magnitude of the challenges.
Such was the atmosphere in the immediate period before 1994.
While his ANC comrades were jubilantly imagining their new offices in government, Thabo Mbeki shared his worries with Willie Esterhuyse: “How are we going to integrate 30 million blacks, mostly poor, in an economic process that is currently controlled by a rich, white elite?
“You can’t eat the right to vote.”
More than a quarter of a century after the ANC took over power, Mbeki now knows that his party has failed dismally to end poverty among black people. The question that haunted him more than three decades ago is determined to follow the man to his grave.
In fact, Mbeki’s party has committed worse sins. After a promising start, the ANC has almost completely destroyed the South African state. Today, very few things that belong to the state work.
In the main, a modern state rests on four crucial pillars: security, health, energy and education. All these, the ANC has ravaged.
Last year in July, we experienced the non-existence of our security forces.
We are lucky that the hideous idea of invading South Africa has not crossed the mind of a madman like Vladimir Putin. Only transnational criminals – such as the Guptas, or zama-zamas from Lesotho, or drug dealers from Nigeria – have identified our country as their playground.
The ANC has broken our public health system to the extent that nurses had to donate money to buy bread for patients in Africa’s biggest hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath. Indeed, when they are sick, ANC thugs don’t go to a public hospital.
A government that cannot provide as basic a need as electricity is not worth its name. The ANC has taken South Africa back to the dark ages.
The party is so brazen in its lack of shame that it even issued a statement instructing South Africans to look for “alternative sources of energy”, which means that we must find our own wood, paraffin, gas or solar.
While countries like China are investing heavily in education and artificial intelligence to future-proof themselves, South Africa’s public education is a factory manufacturing human disaster. Eighty percent of schools in the townships and rural areas are dysfunctional. How could they not be, when they are run by someone so incompetent as Angie Motshekga?
Life in South Africa under the ANC has been like a promising rocket that exploded shortly after take-off. We have now reached a stage where all sane South Africans agree that our country has no future in the hands of the governing party.
The results of recent elections – from 2016 to 2021 – suggest very strongly that the ANC will not secure a simple majority in the 2024 elections.
Nothing has happened to suggest that the ANC can claw its way back from the 46% it secured in last year’s municipal elections.
KwaZulu-Natal, where the party got 41%, will drift even further towards the resurgent IFP. In Gauteng, where the ANC has registered its lowest electoral support (36%), Panyaza Lesufi must prepare himself to be the leader of the opposition.
Let it be remembered that both Gauteng (with 15.4 million people) and KZN (11.5 million people) constitute almost half of South Africa’s population. Should the ANC decline even further in 2024 in these two provinces, which seems highly likely – and should the party lose 2% in every province, which is also not unlikely – it will need a coalition partner to govern South Africa.
Such is the picture that brings us to a second transition.
To say South Africans are angry would be an understatement. There are even people who wish elections could be brought forward so they can teach the ANC a lesson.
Leaders of the ANC are aware of what is about to happen to their party, but they are too embroiled in criminality and factional fighting to avert the approaching crash.
We can already foretell that the 2024 transition will be different from that of 1994. By 1990, it was clear that the ANC was a government-in-waiting. We knew, then, who our next president would be – Nelson Mandela.
As we wait anxiously for 2024, there are three uncertain scenarios that cross the mind.
The first scenario is a coalition government between the ANC and the EFF. This would indeed be a natural scenario, given that the EFF are young graduates from the ANC’s university of corruption.
The main complicating factor would be the bad blood between Cyril Ramaphosa and Julius Malema. But now that Ramaphosa has been exposed as a dodgy hoarder of US dollars, a criminal deal between the two is no longer unimaginable.
The second scenario is a coalition government between the ANC and the DA. Indeed, Ramaphosa is the darling of the DA. The main problem would be disagreements among ANC members over such a deal. But we must not forget that the National Party eventually dissolved into the ANC.
The third scenario is a coalition by former opposition parties, constituted largely by the DA, ActionSA, the EFF and the IFP. The main difficulty here would be relations between the DA and the EFF. These two parties have told their constituencies that they are irreconcilable enemies. But we must not forget that, even though they have no formal coalition agreement, the two parties are currently de facto partners in three big Gauteng metros: Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.
What makes the third scenario most likely is the possibility that a party – be it the EFF or the DA – that would partner with the ANC to form a government would incur the odiousness of being viewed by voters as preventing the death of a political criminal gang that has brought South Africa to its knees.
Thus the DA and the EFF are likely to swallow their pride and let history unfold. The big question is: Who would be the president of South Africa under the third scenario?
It would depend on numbers. The biggest party among the four would not give up the top job, president, and the second-biggest would go for the second prize – deputy president. Such is the uncertainty of our second transition.
Those who fear the third scenario may very well start packing their bags to emigrate. And those of us who have nowhere to go must consider how we could support the new government to push things in the right direction.
No one must be under the illusion that things will be easy. The damage done by the ANC is mammoth.
Those among us with a sharp nose for political change can already smell the possibility of Cyril Ramaphosa being the last president of South Africa from the ANC.
The first president from the party, Mandela, is remembered as a global moral icon. Ramaphosa will go down in history as a spineless and dithering blackguard with loads of unexplained cash under his mattress.
In the end, history will hand down its judgement on the entire ANC – not on individual leaders. Even Nelson Mandela will not escape his association with the party he said he would join after crossing the line between life and death.
Given everything we know now, it is not difficult to foretell that the ANC will be remembered as a bunch of idealists who contributed to the liberation of black people and, when the party was given the opportunity to govern, proved itself to be one of the most corrupt and incompetent criminal gangs in history. DM