Political Watch

ANC has gone into full self-destruct mode


The African National Congress (ANC) seem to have gone into full self-destruct mode, its future as clear as the sky during a raging thunder storm.

Two weeks ago we wrote: ”The ANC has become a machine of endless wheels within in wheels, out of control, grinding itself to pulp and threatening the country’s stability.”

In the past week things have gone from bad to worse, and not only has the party become more openly dived than ever, but the threat to stability in the country has also ticked up a notch or two. Predicting the future, be it who is likely to be the next president or what can be expected on the national policy front, has become virtually impossible.

The battle between the factions in the party, especially I the race for control over the leadership of the party I succession to President Zuma, has stretched into the top echelons of the party’s leadership and of government. Even the President himself, who is backing his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa are directly pitted against one another – and so are members of the cabinet.

Over the weekend at Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, in what can be seen as open launch of his election campaign, Ramaphosa took a direct swipe at President Zuma and the Gupta family closely associated with him.

Speaking at a Chris Hani Memorial lecture, he said allegations that individuals were exerting undue influence over state appointments and procurement decisions should be of grave concern for the ANC, that state capture needed to be addressed, called for “wrongdoing’ to be exposed, and for an independent investigation into the allegations in this regard.

The battle for succession has now clearly, finally morphed into a full-on war between the Zuma faction and what can be described as the “traditionalist” for control over the heart and soul of the party.

Lost control

To what extent the leadership of the party has lost management control was illustrated when the, for all intents and purposes, official launch of yet another contender for the ANC’s top spot – and by extension the presidency of the country – was announced over the weekend in the Easter Cape.

To the best of our knowledge the official nomination and election season for December’s party elective conference has not yet been opened.

What we could find on record, is that ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, in January this year announced that in future nominations by branches will “be sealed and sent to a central place to avoid slate nominations.” (Our emphasis.)

However, over the weekend Human Settlements Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, at the launch of a new party branch at Keiskammahoek was publicly announced as its presidential candidate. An extended slate with potential names for positions from deputy president to secretary general and treasurer-general was floated.

Sisulu, herself a member of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), and national working committee, aired strong criticism against the present leadership, referred to the protest against President Zuma and cautioned that the ANC could lose the 2019 general election if it continued on its current trajectory.

Country-wide storm 

However, the rumblings and lightning of the weekend was by far not contained to the Eastern Cape. If anything, it was even worse in Mr Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Zuma himself, used a commemoration event to lash out at his critics inside the party, some of whom he “used to trust” – trust seem to have gone out the door.

While he has thrown his weight behind his ex-wife, Mr Zuma questioned the number of contenders to succeed him as leader, claiming it is an indicator that there are “other forces” at play.

Also in KZN, at another Chris Hani commemorative event at Durban’s Currie’s Fountain, South African Communist Party’s (SACP) general secretary, Blade Nzimande, took Zuma to task for not consulting alliance partners before his recent cabinet reshuffle.

In an open attack on Zuma, he also said: “We did not struggle to then hand over our beautiful country to an immigrant Indian family, the Gupta family. Comrades, we must stand up and fight against this because our country is being sold.”

At the same SACP event, the ANC’s provincial executive member Mxolisi Kaunda was booed. Revealing something of the dangers of the present factionalism inside the alliance, this disruption mainly came from a group from Inchanga, where more than a dozen SACP members have been killed in politically linked murders.

In this regard, it is also important to note that Minister Sisulu over the weekend confirmed that she has received death threats and also raised concerns about the state of intelligences services in country.

“I am a trained intelligence officer and I worry about the level of intelligence in this country,” she said in reference to claims about a “rogue unit” at the national Treasury.

Thunder and lightning was also present in the Northwest province, where Mantashe at another Hani commemoration event, in an thinly disguised reference to the recent protests against Mr Zuma, said  that the electorate could not be undermined.

Controversial birthday

Under the present circumstances even Mr Zuma’s 75th birthday, celebrated at an ANC with an event in Soweto, became contested territory, with just about it’s whole national executive committee boycotting it.

And, now the Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini may face a motion of no confidence form his own organisation, an ANC alliance partner, for attending the event after Cosatu called on Mr. Zuma to step down.

The birthday bash also looks set to deliver its own episode in the long-running drama of scandals, that has become a hallmark of the Zuma leadership. It is reported that a company that won state enterprise Eskom tenders worth R2-billion, sponsored the event to the tune of nearly R2-million. 

Road ahead

It is clear, the ANC is in trouble, not only with a large chunk of, especially middle class and urban, voters (as we will report in more detail tomorrow), but also internally. And, it will be hard pressed to keep its governing alliance together past the end of year elective conference.

In the meantime, none of the prominent factions have made a decisive move yet, and a confusing number of months await the political landscape. Scenarios of what can happen is being developed by all and sundry, but the simple truth is nobody is sure what to expect.

There is also the uncertainty associated with the upcoming motion of no-confidence in parliament after a still unknown Constitutional Court verdict on the question whether it can, or should be, subject to an open- or secret vote. 

The only thing we are pretty sure about is, Mr Zuma and the forces aligned behind him – politically, in state structures and institutions and commercial interests will not quit without down without a fight – a fight that can become dirty and dangerous in the extreme.

Also read: Zuma a deadly symptom, not the illness

by Piet Coetzer

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