South Africa watch

ANC in disarray, SA in dangerous spot


The chances that the ANC, and its alliance, will survive the Zuma era in one piece are fast diminishing.

The when, and how of Mr. Jacob Zuma’s exit from the Presidency is, at the time of writing, still unsure, with speculation and rumours rife after a day (Tuesday, 6 February) which has seen both the State of the Nation Address (SONA), and a much-anticipated meeting of the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) being postponed. In the first case two days before the scheduled joint sitting of parliament for the SONA, and in the latter only hours before it was due to start.

During the course of the day it became abundantly clear that within the ANC structures the left hand no longer knew what the right was doing, with contractionary statements coming from different party officials.

And, on a broader socio-political front, statements from not only opposition parties, but also a wide array of formal civil society organisations, foundations, and pop-ups under hashtag banner told the story of a society that has become much fragmented and highly polarised.

When, like happened this week with the so-call #SaveZuma march on Luthuli House, even a funeral practitioners association become involved in street politics, and with a taxi ‘alliance’ threatens civil war, it tells one how dangerously radicalised politics in the country has become.

The violent clashes on Monday in the streets surrounding Luthuli House was in essence between two ANC factions

To that can be added accusations by ANC alliance partner, the SA Communist Party, of “ethnic mobilisation” in a statement, that alleged Mr. Zuma engaged with “ Amabutho (Zulu regiments) …  as part of his plan to continue overstaying his welcome in office.”

This speaks to how explosive the political environment has become. The SACP, which his already indicated that it is likely they enter next year’s election on their own ticket, might have gone into election mode. In practical terms it constitutes the final fracturing of the ANC on one of its organisational fronts.

Early election?

From the general reaction of political parties to the latest developments, it was clear that they are in general going into almost full election mode, more than 12 months ahead of next year’s scheduled general election. That is, if one of the speculations that were floated, of an early election does not turn becomes true.

It is doubtful it that the ANC would go for that option while Mr. Zuma is still in office, with opinion polls indicating that even 60% of its own supporters are not happy with his performance. However, if an interim president takes over from him, as happened when Mr. Thabo Mbeki resigned, it might become an attractive option for them – giving them an opportunity to synchronise the terms of office with that of party leader.

From the perspective of the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (ANC), being at present beset by its own internal problems, an early or ‘snap’ election might be to the ANC’s advantage. However, it would not solve its problem of so-called two centres of power; the Union Building and Luthuli House.

Scrutinising statements this week emanating from Luthuli House reveals that Mr. Ramaphosa and the party’s administration is not always singing from the same hymn sheet. Add to that the divergent approaches from different provincial party structures, and from of its different leagues, and it is clear that there is a multitude of centres of power. Mr. Ramaphosa’s stature within the party is growing, but his position is not nearly consolidated yet.

Broken telephone

This week’s developments also illustrated to what extent the ANC is presently from “broken telephone syndrome.” While it is being reported that after a constructive meeting between Mr. Zuma and Mr. Ramaphosa, the President decided to ask for a postponement of the SONA.

When the Speaker of Parliament and Chair of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) arrived at the President’s office, right next door to Parliament, they were surprised to be told there is a letter from him on its way to request a postponement of the SONA.

The ANC’s chief parliamentary whip, Jackson Mthembu, responded to the news about the SONA by saying he welcomed the decision and that the party’s caucus, which is largely seen to be anti-Zuma, would wait for the NEC’s meeting,scheduled for the next day, to "give guidance … on the way forward.."

Shorty afterwards it became known that the NEC meeting at a luxury hotel near Parliament, and for which a number of people have travelled for all over the country to Cape Town, was also postponed.

Orderly SONA?

At writing it was still unknown when, and by whom the SONA will be delivered, however the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have already indicated that if Mr. Zuma is still around, or if Mr. Ramaphosa delivers it, it will not be a dignified or orderly occasion.

EFF leader Julius Malema has already gone on record that his party plans to give Mr. Ramaphosa even more trouble than they gave Mr. Zuma.

“What we were doing with Zuma, … was a picnic. Wait and see what is going to happen with Ramaphosa. What we are going to do to white monopoly capital this year, wait and see,” he told the media on Monday.

Whatever happens with Mr. Zuma, whenever, an extremely challenging, and long road of reconstruction of both the ANC and state institutions awaits Mr. Ramaphosa. If I was a betting man, I would not give odds that the ANC will arrive in one piece at the election, or that it would be entirely peaceful.


by Piet Coetzer

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