Social Stability

Time for the ANC to step aside

Arthur Fraser, SSA-boss no four
Arthur Fraser.jpg

The time has come for first President Jacob Zuma and then the ANC, to step aside for the sake of stability in the country as its full liberation enters a new phase.

The details and processes were different, but as the National Party had to disappear for the task immediately at hand – and ongoing – to erase the legacy of apartheid, that time has come for the ANC, to rid the country of the legacy of violent and destructive factionalism.

This factionalism came into the country’s body-politics with the ANC’s entry into the mainstream political processes during the early 1990’s, and became entrenched after it won the 1994-election. It reached a pinnacle under the Zuma-administration, with intimidation, stigmatisation through innuendo of opponents and patronage networks, the order of the day.

As we wrote in the first delivery of this series about the legacy of Zuma, as representing the most prominent symbol of ANC-administration, to become the personification of being “corrupt and self-serving.” 

In this article, we first look at what the legacy of intimidation looks like at the moment and how it impacts on state institutions and society at large.

What it looks like  

Typical of a factionalise political power structure, South Africa is presently a hotbed of attempts to intimidate, make threats, innuendos levelled at and disinformation spread against opponents, – real and perceived.

State institutions, particularly law enforcement and intelligence structures, are often used and abused to intimidate and incriminate, sometimes in extraordinary and startling ways, to protect and cover the tracks of the president, associates, and factions supporting him when their involvement in nefarious activities is exposed.

Not even the ANC’s governing alliance partners are spared. Over the weekend, South African Communist Party (SACP) General-Secretary Blade Nzimande claimed that a rogue intelligence unit has been spying on the party’s leadership for some time now.

The most recent cases involved break-ins at the SABC’s Parliament office; the office of the Chief Judge and the Hawks’ “sensational” uncovering of an alleged coup and assassination plot against some prominent South Africans.

 The common thread linking a string of break-ins is the targets’ criticism, in one way or another, of Zuma and the manner in which the ruling party is allowing him to destroy South Africa – the once proudly so-called rainbow nation.

Expecting that the burglary of the Chief Judge’s office would be of the highest priority for SAPS but the lack of progress with investigations, fuels speculations that many of these incidents are concocted purposely in great secrecy with malicious intent, never to be solved.

Suspicions of foul play  at play, increase even more so when the president is not prepared, as the DA has asked in court, to release the “kindergarten-like” intelligence report (as aptly described by one analyst), on which Zuma apparently based his decision to fire finance minister Gordhan.

How it plays out in civil service

How this factionalism plays out in the country’s civil service, especially those involved in security services, is well illustrated by what has been happening with the State Security Agency (SSA) since its inception in 2011.

Created six years ago by pulling together seven then existing agencies, from the then National Intelligence Agency and the South African Secret Service (now known as the Foreign branch of SSA) to the South African Secret Service, SSA has had four directors-general (DGs) in six years.

This amounts to a new head of the agency, on average every 18 months. But that is not where it ends. Each new head seems to be elected to serve which ever political faction is dominant at the time. And, in the wake of his appointment follows internal restructuring within the agency.

The current DG, Arthur Fraser, was appointed in late 2016, amid reports that he in 2009 had leaked secret recordings to Zuma’s lawyers, which saw corruption charges against him dropped.

Since his re-appointment by president Zuma, (he left the SSA in 2010) Fraser has restructured the agency, eliminating the two director-general positions – for domestic and international services – and created a structure that concentrated power in his own position with seven deputies reporting directly to him.

Half of the 16 general managers in the agency have also been shifted and replaced by new people. A power struggle seems to have been triggered within the agency, splitting it into opposing factions.

According to reports the new structure could create a direct channel of communication between the DG and the president, bypassing the minister of intelligence – a recipe for conflict.

This story of factionalism and patronage networks has become the order of the day throughout the civil service and state enterprises, with stories of corruption, huge severance packages for those being replaced, sometimes when only a fraction of original contract periods have lapsed, has become commonplace and costing taxpayers millions.

Deep roots

How deep the roots of a culture of factionalism, that has taken hold of the ANC goes, was laid bare in an insightful 2013 study done by Sarah M. Mathis under the title: From warlords to freedom fighters: Political violence and state formation in Umbumbulu, South Africa.

The article analyses the relationship between violence, the transition from apartheid, and contemporary state formation in South Africa, using the rural area of Umbumbulu outside Durban as a case study.

It describe how the ANC recruited warlords involved in tribal “faction fights” to compensate for lack of organisational structures on the ground in the runup to the 1994 elections.

“The alliances the ANC made with these warlords continued into the post-apartheid period and helped shape the ways in which power was exercised within the new political institutions of the democratic state,” she writes in the abstract of the study.

“These ANC warlords or their kin were later integrated into local governance structures in the post-apartheid state, bringing with them many of their networks of supporters and habits of rule from the apartheid era,” she writes.

It also explore the “local struggles over political power in the 1980s and 1990s in Umbumbulu often drew on forms of power associated with customary leadership.

“These were centred on identities based on kinship and chiefly affiliation, and on the exchange of allegiance as a quid pro quo for belonging to the group and having access to patronage.”

Although warlordism is usually attributed to the allies of the apartheid state, “the ANC, in fear of losing influence during this crucial time, also recruited warlords to its side. In the post-apartheid period, many of these individuals have continued in or moved into positions of power within the new political order – and brought with them many of the behaviours that served them during the period of violence, such as building political power through dispensing patronage and drawing on networks of kin for support.”

It is clear that factionalism and the system of patronage is deeply ingrained in the DNA of at least parts of the ANC as it transitioned from liberation movement to political party.

Final transition

All the signs are there that the culture of factionalism is destroying the ANC as a political party in a constitutional state. The final transition to a fully-fledged democracy might just come in 2019 if a coalition government emerge from the scheduled national election.

But, the scars of the ANC legacy of factional politics are sure to linger and the final transition is unlikely to be easy or without problems.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria, probably was spot-on when he recently wrote: “As the ruinous and divisive presidency of Jacob Zuma continues, killing off the fractured ANC and decimating the beleaguered economy, it is also imposing onto the next administration a thankless task. “The administration that will take over the reins in June 2019, whether it’s run by the increasingly buoyant opposition or not, will have no space to breathe. There will be no honeymoon. By that time, Zuma’s ANC faction will have almost completed his multifaceted ruin of our country.”

(This is our second delivery in our series of articles, looking at the legacy South Africa will inherit from the Zuma administration.)

Also read: Zuma legacy will leave deep wounds, and lasting scars

                  Final days of the ANC-empire

                  Divorce between organised labour and political parties

by Bulletin team

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