Can the ANC rescue itself?
The African National Congress is its own worst enemy. Presented by the breakthrough in December with a chance to rescue itself from decline, it chooses to engage in internal civil war and squander the chances to renew itself.
Given the gift of an inspirational and clear-eyed new leader in Cyril Ramaphosa, it chooses to try to collapse his new government.
The question now is whether we have underestimated the extent to which the rot has seeped into the marrow of Oliver Tambo’s party.
Perhaps corruption, infighting and factionalism are so deeply embedded within the marrow of the party that the ANC cannot rescue itself and cannot even be made to resuscitate itself by the prospect of electoral defeat.
The ANC’s technocrats have sifted through research and have warned the party that it is in danger of losing power.
In a document prepared ahead of the next provincial and national elections and published in part by the Sunday Times yesterday, the technocrats warn that the ANC faces the clear and present danger of going into coalition with other parties to stay in power or be relegated to the opposition benches.
The Sunday Times reported that the technocrats warned: “If we want to make a significant impact on voter mood we need to use the next 15 months to demonstrate political will, concrete actions, and capacity to deal with these issues.
“This includes concrete and drastic action (not just statements) against corruption, especially among our leaders, and to strengthen the capacity of the state to investigate and prosecute offenders.
“We also have to provide clear action and proof that we are prioritising job creation and economic development and that our efforts are bearing fruit.”
If this doesn’t happen, the paper warns, then it is the back benches at provincial and national level for the party.
Not even the so-called Ramaphosa Effect will help: “The outcomes of [the ANC Nasrec] conference have led to a more positive mood in the media and economy, but it should not be mistaken for a massive change in voter behaviour . . . Turning the situation around requires drastic and immediate action.” Five months after Ramaphosa became ANC president, several trends are now clear.
The network of patronage built around Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family, provincial leaders such as Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo and key civil servants, is still alive – and desperate for survival.
Indeed, it seems that some of them are prepared to destroy the party to avoid jail for themselves and to stay in power.
Zuma was surprised by the swiftness of Ramaphosa’s removal of him on Valentine’s Day. But now this faction is regrouping. In KwaZulu-Natal, the former president’s supporters are pushing fast and furiously to hold regional and provincial conferences so that they can consolidate power and get rid of Ramaphosa supporters.
With the support of Magashule at ANC head office (remember Magashule told a KwaZulu-Natal ANC meeting three months ago that he is surprised by this new ANC and that “we will get our ANC back in five years”) they intended to build an antiRamaphosa stronghold in the province.
They are so disdainful of him they have even refused to put up his picture on their walls.
To them, the manifestly corrupt Zuma remains a leader.
Mahumapelo in the North West is showing Ramaphosa the finger. Mahumapelo will go, of course.
That is as inevitable as the sun rising in the east tomorrow.
He might even go to jail given the extent of the corruption in that province.
But how much damage will he have done to the ANC and Ramaphosa’s credibility?
Then there is the fight against corruption. Ramaphosa has done much to begin fixing things in this regard.
Tom Moyane at SARS is gone; the Eskom board and executive have been overhauled; but why is Shaun Abrahams still around?
Many Zuma supporters within the ANC have embraced Ramaphosa.
But the man’s support is still fragile and his ability to act decisively still curtailed.
He has to walk softly around discredited, undemocratic and possibly deeply corrupt individuals like Mahumapelo in the North West. That has consequences. Ramaphosa may have to take time before acting, but it is clear that by then it may be too late to resuscitate his party’s fortunes.
Voters will walk away.