South Africa Watch

Can the ANC government survive its present crisis?

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As the drive for a deepening of South Africa’s democracy picks up momentum the ANC might be serving its last term as governing party.

While there is a fixation on the numbers on which speculations and predictions regarding the outcome of the African National Congress’ elective conference – starting in ten days’ time – are based, much more important factors and processes are emerging.

The most important of these come from within the party and its structures, like calls that the election of leaders should be brought closer to ordinary members of the party.

The first such call in public was made last month at a so-called consultative conference of stalwarts and veterans of the party. They called for the establishment of an electoral review commission for regular reviews of the party’s electoral system and declared: “The Independent Electoral Commission must handle our elections. The ANC president and chairpersons must be directly elected by one member one vote."

This past weekend the Provincial General Council (PGC) of the ANC in Gauteng province adopted a resolution to have individual ANC members to vote directly for party leaders at all levels.

Wider society

This apparent drive to deepen democracy within the ANC is a reflection of what is happening in wider society. As we report elsewhere, a national survey by Future fact   has found that 82% South Africans would prefer an electoral system where the people (electorate) choose the president of the country, rather than have a political party’s members doing so.

Also read: If South Africans could choose their next president….

The same survey found that as far as the broad public are concerned, between the two main contenders for the leadership of the ANC is concerned, for twice as many people Cyril Ramaphosa is the preferred presidential candidate as those who chose Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma. There was a dramatic swing from a year ago when the two were absolutely neck in neck.

But even if Ramaphosa wins, he may not be able to meet with expectations of either the party’s members or the broad electorate. At least, not until after the 2019 election, especially if Mr Zuma remains president until then.

Distrust

Besides the general distrust that has developed between the broader public and political leaders, a divide has developed between ANC members and leaders elected on the present organised, and often manipulated factional process, called “slate politics.”

Reflective of this, the stalwarts and veterans at their conference also proposed that the ANC integrity commission (IC) should function as an independent constitutional structure that can act without influence from leaders.

The IC was established in 2013 following a resolution at the ANC’s 2012 Mangaung conference. Chaired by the stalwart and former Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni, it is recommended now that it should report directly to the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).

The IC last year recommended that President Jacob Zuma step down, but he refused, destroying the intention of setting up   the IC – to tackle matters where ANC members are accused of criminal or improper conduct.

It is against this background that there has been of late attempts from a number of senior ANC leaders like KwaZulu-Natal’s Zweli Mkhize and Mpumalanga’s David Mabuza to drive so-called ‘unity” campaigns, with pre-agreed upon, unopposed election of candidates from across the factional divide for at least the top six ANC leadership positions.

Zuma himself seems to have developed concerns of even the conference itself collapsing and started embracing the ‘unity’ campaign.

Such a move might save the ANC an embarrassing collapse of its elective conference however it would run counter to the general trend of calling for deeper, more direct democracy. It would be rather less than more democracy. It would probably entail compromises between the factions, and prolong the governance paralysis that has become a hallmark of the Zuma-administration. It is likely to become a brew too bitter for the electorate to swallow.

Has ANC caucus smelled the coffee?

Although they are not directly elected for parliament, but arrive there from a party list of candidates, members of parliament are indirectly dependent on the voters. If the trend of the ANC support displayed in the 2016 municipal elections continuous a, good number of the present ANC MPs will be out of a job after the 2019 election.

The smell of this coffee might be the reason members of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus of late seem to have finally find their voice in holding the executive to account. Suddenly there are calls to hold members of cabinet accountable, and some key public enterprises have been ‘uncaptured.’

Meetings of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) have become an entity for ‘deployed’ officials – be it purely by the ANC or by the so-called Zupta network – to fear. 

For the first time there are also signs of going after the culprits of state capture with the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams announcing that he has authorised a team of financial investigators and lawyers to help hunt down some of the ill-gotten gains.

How nervous the ANC has become, was illustrated by its reaction to the launch of ex-ANC MP Dr. Makhosi Khoza’s new party, the African Democratic Change (ADeC), immediately declaring it would lodge a complaint with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) over the colours and logo of the party.

New dispensation

In the meantime, the new dispensation of coalition government, predicted for the country by analysts in recent weeks proved that it can work at local government level. The ANC attempted to put political pressure on these coalitions with motions of no-confidence, without success.

Whoever is elected as new leader of the ANC next week, will have her or his work cut out to save the image of the party.

A most critical phase lies ahead during the next two months and a bit, until the 2018/19 national budget. The inexperienced Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba has started to make the right noises, however at the same time President Zuma seems to have captured the Treasury, committed him to an unaffordable nuclear build programme, and is creating unaffordable expectations about free tertiary education.

However amidst the storm clouds surrounding the ANC elective conference there are also positive signs, like what is happening in parliament, and the increasing resistance to corruption.

And then, PSG Group founder, Jannie Mouton, said last week: “We believe there are opportunities in South Africa. And if you focus on the opportunities and not the problems then you realise this is a fantastic country.”

Over the last few months the PSG Group has invested nearly R1 billion in two South African businesses.

There is some light shining through the dark clouds. What is not sure is whether it is from the sun setting over the ANC government or the sunrise over a more complete democracy. Our guess is the latter.

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by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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