Political Watch

ANC self-destruction leaves SA in uncertainty

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South Africa’s governing ANC has lost control of its internal political processes with uncertainties about it’s, and the country’s future constantly intensifying.

All indications are that this situation will last at least until the party’s December elective conference, but mostly probably beyond it, until the 2019 general election, which is likely to ring its own harvest of uncertainties, and spreading to other parties.

With the impact of these uncertainties already visible in several economic indicators, like both foreign and domestic low investor confidence levels, things seem set to become worse before a turn-around point is reached.

In an ironic twist, while the ANC until recently accused position parties of using the courts to fight political battles, warring factions inside the party are increasingly turning to the courts to settle bones of contention.

This past weekend the Eastern Cape became the second provincial structure of the ANC, in so many weeks, where to turn to the court with claims that they were cheated in internal election processes. The same thing happened, and is still ongoing in KwaZulu-Natal, and there are strong indications that it will also happen in the Northern Cape, the Free State and North West.

Underlying all of this is the highly factional and polarizing multi-candidate succession race in the build-up to the December conference, where a successor to President Jacob Zuma as leader of the party must be elected. A multitude of permutations and scenarios are in play depending on what might happen between now, and at, the conference.

This depends on how a losing faction, or factions, and its candidate and/or collective of leaders might react when it loses or sense that it is likely to lose at the conference. Then there are also those inside the party who are punting for the possibility to find a unifying/compromise candidate or election slate.

At this stage readings of who are the so-called leading or dark horse candidate are based on indications from leadership groups within the party, and guess work, if at times somewhat informed so, on what the leanings will be amongst delegations from various ANC regions throughout the country.

At this stage there is no reliable basis on which to judge how the broad voting public would react to the election of any particular new leader.

Based on thick flow of accusations about irregularities with the compilation of delegates to regional and/or provincial conferences, and possible further court challenges, it is not above all doubt sure that the December conference will indeed take place. And, if it does, its outcome itself might be open to court challenges.

Then there is the strong possibility of another split from the ANC happening before, or after the conference. Already there are talk off the various cooperation agreements during, and coalitions after the 2019 election.

There are also indications of a strong possibility that the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the labour federation Cosatu might soon leave the ANC led alliance. The SACP has not announced officially on the matter, but there is a strong possibility it will enter the election under its own banner.

Blood in the water

Any hope that the election itself will immediately bring more certainty is also pretty slim, especially in the face of the general expectation by most experts that the country will end-up with a national coalition government.

As the post local 2016 government elections era presently show, coalition politics brings challenges off its own and in a number of local authorities coalitions are struggling to maintain stability. There are also signs that some of the smaller parties have smelled blood in the water, positioning themselves as potential coalition partners come 2019.

At this stage, it is also impossible to predict who might lead a governing coalition at national level post 2019. Possible coalitions at provincial level might also have different compositions.

As recent developments in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro have shown, what happens in one area of jurisdiction can impact on another one.

South Africa has moved well into a transition from one phase of its democratic development into another phase. Apart from the new political challenges, the ANC’s programme to date of cadre deployment in state administrative structures and its spin-off of state capture will bring its own tensions.

It will probably take at least five years, if not a decade, before things settle down and the country’s politics to develop a ‘new normal’ with higher levels of certainty.

by Piet Coetzer

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