This year will go down as probably one of the most challenging ones in South Africa’s brief history as a democracy. There were the dismissal of the political heads of the ministry of finance, revelations of state capture, the near-implosion of the ANC, and, quite painfully, the downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign credit ratings by ratings agencies.
Yet, somehow, we are about to end the year and hope still reigns supreme.
Over the last four weeks, we have witnessed ANC branches across the country holding their branch general meetings to nominate their preferred candidates for the leadership of the ANC at the 54th ANC conference that starts this weekend.
Thus far, it appears the candidate much preferred by the markets has the upper hand in terms of the number of nominations.
However, it remains to be seen if Cyril Ramaphosa will indeed carry the vote as delegates have been known to reject their given mandate when they get to conference.
The question, however, has to be asked: does it really matter who wins the ANC presidential race?
Does a Ramaphosa presidency really hold that much promise for the renewal of the ANC and South Africa?
Would a Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma presidency really be that bad? If so, in what respects? It is quite apparent to this writer that Dlamini-Zuma has worked tirelessly for the advancement of this country.
At no point in her career as a politician has she ever been found to have pilfered resources of the state or to have acted contrary to her oath of office.
Indeed, even her most ardent critics accept that in her various deployments, she has done some wonderful work which has transformed those institutions.
On the other hand, Ramaphosa is rightly credited with playing an instrumental role in driving the process for South Africa’s transition to a democracy.
He did very well for himself in the time he was not in politics.
As a deputy president, he has managed to bring together disparate interests to agree on the semblance of a vision for our society, that being the National Development Plan.
In conversations with mid-level leaders and ordinary members of the party, the hope has been expressed that a Ramaphosa presidency will do much to restore the party and the country.
When the question is asked about how this is going to happen, people tend to dwell on issues of state capture and how Ramaphosa is the best placed person to resolve this issue.
No doubt, this is an important consideration.
However, our problems in South Africa do not begin with state capture.
This phenomenon has always been with us.
The only thing to have changed over the years is the personnel and the modus operandi of the perpetrators.
What South Africa lacks is internal democracy within the ANC.
Members of the party do not take their role of enforcing accountability seriously enough, leading to tumult at any given point.
President Jacob Zuma and his cohort have been able to carry out their brazen project purely because members of the party have allowed this to happen.
The manner of electing leaders does not foster accountability, leading to those who are given power to act with carte blanche and a devil-may-care attitude as they know they have allies who will die for them.
Thus, short of a structural change in how the ANC conducts its internal democracy, it is likely that charlatans will continue to thrive in the movement.
It matters not who takes power if the ordinary members are not in a meaningful position to hold their leaders accountable.
It matters not how progressive one leader is over another, if the membership is not able to demand of its leaders that they act in the best interests of not only the party, but the rest of society.
In the ultimate analysis, Ramaphosa, if elected, will only serve to slow down the morass, but will not be able to reverse the tide of decay if members do not have the facility of calling him and his leadership collective to order on all matters concerning policy.
Luyolo Nqakula is the Nelson Mandela Bay ANCYL regional task team coordinator. He writes in his personal capacity.