What’s in store for SA as the ANC implodes?

As the increasingly less relevant ANC vacates the middle ground and the centre-left, a void opens, which will urgently need to be filled

2021-12-03 10:00:00 PM

What’s in store for SA as the ANC implodes? - As the increasingly less relevant ANC vacates the middle ground and the centre-left, a void opens, which will urgently need to be filled

As the increasingly less relevant ANC vacates the middle ground and the centre-left, a void opens, which will urgently need to be filled

What happens when the ANC loses power and how will it respond? These two compelling questions have slowly formed amidst the swirling mists of South Africa’s post-1994 politics. Now the answers are emerging, linked inexorably to the balance of forces and the central political character of the organisation itself. It is not a pretty sight. 

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If greater clarity was needed, then one moment last week provided it. In various places in Gauteng one part of the leadership of the ANC was offering measured messages of political maturity and magnanimity to those who had won power ahead of it. 

Opposition party politicians had been elected as mayors in Tshwane, Johannesburg and, for the first time, Ekurhuleni. The party’s president chimed in, too.Cyril Ramaphosa, as ever, the voice of calm reason, indicated that the party was ready to spend time in opposition if that is what the voters had chosen and that the ANC would not put together coalition agreements merely for the sake of staying in power. headtopics.com

Yet, a few hundred kilometres south, a bunch of thugs were using violence to disrupt a democratic process, and a day later, bribing elected representatives to ensure that it would stay in power in eThekwini come what may. Never mind the few hundred kilometres. The two places — neatly reflecting the two-faced character of the ANC — could have been on different ends of the cosmos, such was the gap between them. 

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The one, the reasonable, measured, moderate middle of the ANC, unable to do anything to control the other: these are symptoms of an entirely dysfunctional, dislocated and deeply troubled organisation. Meanwhile, coalition deals were negotiated and struck across the land, with scant reference to Luthuli House. 

Luthuli House had lost control, because Luthuli House has lost control. The ANC is a busted flush. It came into power in 1994 with everything in its favour. An iconic leader with a global presence. A long history, providing boots-on-the-ground organisational capacity. A largely adoring international audience of cheerleaders, both political and in the capital markets. And an entirely dominant electoral position, with no serious challenger on the horizon. 

Now all of that is demolished, much of it spaffed on an orgy of unabated avarice and looting of public coffers. That there is still no real, clear ser­ious challenger on the horizon tells us as much about the opposition as it does about the ANC. The fragmented electoral outcome from the local government election shows that the electorate is not terribly convinced by the alternatives on offer, with the majority of eligible voters turning their backs on electoral democracy.  headtopics.com

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About the ANC the message could not be clearer, delivered with resounding force a month ago: you are no longer to be trusted with power. This is the political message of 2021. For a very long time, the prevailing wisdom for political progressives has been that despite its many shortcomings and the growing mountain of evidence of abuse of power, that the ANC remained the best bet — or at least the least bad option; or, that within that already caveated, hold-the-nose-and-hope-for-the-best optimism, the “good guys” within the ANC, led by a decent, reform-minded president, would prevail and somehow hold the centre in spite of the disarray and disintegration all around them. 

That was certainly the view advanced in this column. Until now. A threshold has been passed. Not only has the electorate spoken in such unequivocal terms that the ANC’s dominant political aura has evaporated into thin air, but that its own inability to respond appropriately to its fall from grace renders its loss of national power an inevitability now. 

At the 2016 local government polls, having suffered its first major electoral setback, the ANC had an opportunity to reflect critically. A year later it appeared to have grasped the nettle and turned the tide; theradical economic transformation(RET) gang was defeated.

But not only was it a marginal victory for the “good guys”, it was a chimera. Ramaphosa’s bright new dawn flattered to deceive. While important initial steps in rebuilding public institutions and in restoring integrity in public life were taken, beneath the surface the grotesque saturnalia continued, feasting at the entrails of those public procurement processes that had not yet been fully restored to order or where the detergent had not yet rinsed through.  headtopics.com

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