Today the ANC is in a bigger crisis. The hegemony of the party since the fall of apartheid and the dawn of democracy is being challenged by more organized, younger and modern parties. In the local government elections held last month, the ANC was mauled by the Democratic Alliance on the right and hammered by the Economic a Freedom Fighters on its left. Talk of being between a rock and a hard place.
No one in the ANC leadership saw it coming. The greatest surprise of the 2016 local government elections is the fall of Tshwane and Johannesburg to a DA/EFF alliance that dethroned the ruling ANC from its municipal pedestal since the dawn of democracy. It is quite clear that the ANC leadership did not, until the releasing of the results, realize the extent of the voter rage as a result of its arrogance and corruption. While president Jacob Zuma and his party leadership we dabbing like teenagers, the voters were angry and had turned against the “leader of society.” This is a serious indictment against a party leadership which while they dismissed the Ipsos polls, also disregarded internal polls that warned that the voters were turning against Africa’s oldest liberation movement.
Since the municipal results, the ANC leadership has not shown any urgency to address the issues that led to the fall of the three metros and the shedding of voter support from 62% in 2014 to 54% in 2016, a whopping 8% fall in only 24 months. Extrapolate that to 2019 and you wonder where the ANC is going to garner the 51% it requires to govern South Africa. Maybe the ANC has reached its sell by date and in the 2019 elections Mandela’s party, after a quarter of century in power, will formally hand over power to a coalition government.
What has happened since 3 August is that the organization has turned on itself as the factions blame each other for the devastating losses it suffered in what will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the hegemony of the people’s Movement. The spectacle of 5 September 2016, when a small # OccupyLuthuliHouse grouping marched to Sauer street, ANC unarmed military veterans made a fool of themselves, including ministers of state Kebby Maphatsoe and the infamous Des Van Rooyen, when they “defended” Luthuli House against an insignificant group of dissenters tired of the failure of Zuma’s leadership. It is a spectacle that will remain etched in the annals of history as historians write the political ll epitaph of the African National Congress. Yes, it was ANC versus ANC in dramatic fashion.
The great question of the day is whether the current leadership of the ANC, under Jacob Zuma has the will or the capacity to save this great African colossus. The answer is an emphatic “NO.”
Developments in the last week bear testimony to the fact that since the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, I have never seen this organization in such disorder and disarray. Despite being an epitome of mediocrity, the ANC NEC is nothing else but accommodation of two factions, the dominant one being a pro-Zuma collection of political entrepreneurs known as the Premier League. Never in the history of the ANC has a faction organized as openly as the Premier League inside the party. The answer is simple: it is the faction of the president. All the Ministers, Premiers and Mayors leading this faction owe their positions to the president. As one of them proclaimed, ” we will defend the president le ka dibono.”
Now, the ANC Youth League, a useless outfit led by overweight pro-Zuma acolytes, has called for an early conference that should not be contested. The Youth League, Women’s League and MKMVA are extensions of the Premier League. Have you noticed how quickly the three Leagues spring to the defence of Zuma every time he is guilty of his many indiscretions? An early conference called by the ANCYL is nothing but a farce. It is nothing but a stratagem by the Premier League to seize the strategic initiative to stay ahead of the other weaker faction in the organisation. It’s not a genuine attempt to address the current crisis but rather to prepare to defeat the other faction in this early conference. The more sensible proposal is one from the SACP that calls for a Consultative Conference in the mould of Morogoro and Kabwe.
The Consultative Conference must be open to the ANC, Alliance partners and pro-ANC civil society organizations. This is obviously a non-elective conference. For instance, friendly church organizations and organizations of traditional leaders will present how religious people and villagers view the ANC and its government and propose what the ANC should do to reclaim the support of these important constituencies that were the founding roots of the South African Native National Congress. In an environment where the dominant ANC factions will not be allowed space to pursue their factional agendas, the conference will have an opportunity to interrogate the demon that is factionalism and propose practical measures to combat factionalism. The conference may as well discuss possible constitutional amendments to the party’s constitution. For instance, a proposal that less than 50% of NEC members should be Ministers, MECs and Mayors who owe their allegiance to the sitting president of the country.
It is at his conference that the Zuma and the current leadership must commit political suicide for the sake of the organisation. Having taken collective responsibility for the poor performance in the local 2016 government elections, the NEC must do the honorable thing. A committee of between 20 to 30 stalwarts and eminent ANC persons should fill the gap. The role of the aged stalwarts will be to give legitimacy to the process and ensure that there is no perpetuation of factional agenda by the new body. A younger but senior generation of ANC leaders will be the driving force in preparing all ANC structures from the branch to the PEC in preparation for the national conference. The stalwarts could include Kathrada, Mlangeni, Goldberg, Sophie De Bruin and Winnie Mandela. The younger leaders of eminent persons could include Kgalema Motlanthe, Cheryl Carolus, Ben Turok, Trevor Manuel and others with outstanding credentials.
The resignation of the entire NEC is important as it demobilizes the current leaders of factions afflicting the organisation. It may even be necessary to give these factionalised leaders a five year break from the leadership of the ANC by barring all of them from standing for elections in the next conference.
If the ANC refuses to take this advice and decides to pursue its current trajectory, the “consequences are too ghastly to contemplate.”
Sello Lediga is editor of www.mzantsionline and author of Tenders & The Fall of Limpopo