Constitutional Watch - Opinion

For democracy to survive ANC must die


The core message from the way the ANC’s succession race is panning out, is that the party must die for democracy to survive in South Africa.

As commentators, analysts, political experts and -scientists and reporters are frantically rolling out their predictions, scenarios, and speculations of what can, could, will or might be happening at the December elective conference of the ANC, one truth is becoming increasingly clear: probably less than a hundred individuals will decide who will be the next head of government – it the ANC should win the general election in 2019.

It could even be the president for the next 18 months, if the ANC should decide to recall President Jacob Zuma as head of goverment immediately after his successor as party leader has been elected, as they did with Mr Thabo Mbeki.

In the meantime, uncertainty reigns as a multitude of permutations, including a range of legal processes and court cases, are floating around while powerful individuals in the ANC are judging and conniving as to how their own personal interests in various centres of power, like provincial- power structures and governments, will be best served.

The best-case scenario is that some 5 000-odd people – the collection of ANC branch-delegates from the provinces and party sub-structures like the Youth- and Women’s League will be voting for a new leader. That is if the conference is not tripped up in legalities and it is left to an even smaller power elite to basically ‘appoint’ president Jacob Zuma’s successor.   

However, all indications are that even if it does get to the 5 000 delegates, they will not be voting in either their personal capacity or according to personal conviction, but rather under the instructions of the leadership of their particular ANC sub-structure. In fact, as court cases in a number of provinces indicate, they often in the first instance became delegates based on predetermined allegiance to a particular contesting leadership allegiance.

How far removed from true democracy the ANC structures and processes have become, was was also illustrated by two recent news events:

  • It came to light that the Mpumalanga provincial structure has succeeded to become the second largest delegation to the December conference via a scheme by the provincial leader, David Mabuza to dramatically increase the number of ANC branches in the province (and his influence) which is totally out of proportion with the number of party members in the province, never mind the broader population; and
  • President Jacob Zuma remains the fully functioning leader of government in violation of an internal ANC rule that a member facing criminal charges, should step down from public office until the criminal law and procedures have taken their course.

The election platform used by factions supporting a number of candidates for the party leadership, also illustrates how far removed from democracy for “all the people” in the nation, the ANC culture has become. It has all to do with the ANC and its leaders and not the broader public interest or real majority will. Campaigns centre on issues like “ANC-unity or tradition,” (the deputy taking over) and notions like gender instead of personal qualities.

Also read:  Lessons from Africa’s first female president’s legacy

In the meantime, South Africa remains captured by the ANC’s internal politics and a highly compromised head of state.

If it was not for its vibrant civil society, facilitated by its constitution ensuring the rule of law, freedom of expression and right to organize and press freedom, democracy might have died some time ago under ANC rule.

The constitution is not flawless, like others in the world, – the USA-constitution delivering Donald Trump while Hillary Clinton secured the overall majority of votes – however, the chances are good it might deliver a new government in 2019.

It would, in all probability be a coalition government, tasked with the claw back after the havoc caused by the Zuma-era.

Also read:  The true financial cost of Hurricane Jacob Zuma

Work in progress

When the then governing party, the National Party (NP), entered into the 1994 election  it did so knowing it would lose power after it earlier shed itself of dissenting factions. It was by in large a peaceful process.

 What it did not foresee, due to the weight of historical baggage it carried, was that it would die as party. It, the ANC and most South African also did not foresee that negotiating the 1996 constitution was just another phase in the full democratisation of the country.

The next phase in that process is presently in full swing. The ANC, unable to shed itself fully of its own dissenting factions and its culture as a liberation movement, rather than a true democratic political party, has not come to grips with the full implications of a truly democratic dispensation.

Like the NP before it, it looks like it too is set to die. The danger, judged by what is happening inside its structures in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, and elsewhere, is that the present transition phase might not remain as peaceful as the previous one did. And it has been coming for some time.

Also read: Gossip or truth – the ANC looks doomed to break up

               Slate-driven factionalism destroying the ANC

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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