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The ANC still presents the best possible and most viable programme of action to build national unity, says Busani Ngcaweni.
Johannesburg - In spite of all the challenges cited by pundits and analysts, the ANC continues to win the elections beyond 60 percent because of brand resilience – strong and recognisable, enduring and reassuring.
The ANC is an institution with a long history and traditions. The institution is stable, has structures and systems in place which helps with self-preservation.
There is a high degree of transparency and participatory democracy (even party lists need branches to partake according to well-established processes). Importantly, the ANC is not dependent on one person, it has a pool of leaders and activists to draw from.
The ANC has a record. It has successfully delivered on areas such as housing, water and sanitation, social welfare and even on education, seen in an unprecedented increase in enrolment levels.
Although transformation and unemployment remain our biggest problems, the ANC has gone beyond stabilising to growing the South African economy which was almost in ashes when it assumed power in 1994.
Need we say more about our expanding social and economic infrastructure, including telecoms and transport networks necessary to facilitate trade and the movement of people?
The ANC still presents the best possible and viable programme of action which prioritises social and economic inclusion, but more important, the all-important vision of building national unity. South Africans know this and appreciate that no other political party has consistently championed the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous society.
The ANC retains its revolutionary rhetoric and credentials which enable it to constantly review itself, a necessary condition for renewal and management of internal and external contradictions.
After all, the broad church (the ANC retains this character) can’t be sustained outside any appreciation of the value that diversity brings to the organisation, as mass-based and diverse as it is.
The ANC’s sustained mass appeal emanates from the fact that it retains its internationalist outlook and continues to express solidarity with the oppressed people continentally and globally. All this notwithstanding, there are important lessons from the outcome of these elections, especially the failure to achieve the targeted two-thirds majority.
One of these is the need to recognise challenges of poor communication. South Africans need to know what government is doing. They must know when the clinic will be built and the bridge finished.
They need to know when water interruptions will end and their villages will be electrified. Government plans are as good as non-existent if they are only known by state officials. The tardy government communicators need a shake-up.
Half the service delivery protests could be prevented by strategic and targeted communications such as Twitter, but social media should never be a substitute for below-the-line communication and public participation.
The ANC led a successful global anti-apartheid campaign and won the battle of ideas at the height of the Cold War and white supremacy, agendas that profited from apartheid.
Presently, the ANC must win the battle of ideas locally, taking all South Africans into confidence, and walk the journey of change and continuity along with them.
The ANC must restore its hegemony. It must lead all sectors of society and must devise strategies to deal with the following:
* Socially conservative middle class (hypocritical because their conservative views counter their social behaviours and conduct).
* The increasingly dependent working class. There are limits to the expansion of the social security system, especially if the tax base remains stagnant.
* At the same time, it must force change and transformation from the chauvinistic and monopolistic white capital which must remember that their prosperity can’t be sustained in the midst of poverty and growing inequality.
* It should carefully respond to global forces that want to undermine the movement and weaken its hegemony over society.
It is in the interest of global conservative forces to have a weaker ANC which can’t pursue land reform and champion the agenda of deracialising the economy.
Finally, society wants to be led. Let it be led. Party and government communicators are called by history to rise to the challenge.
History calls. History judges!
* Busani Ngcaweni is the editor of the recently published book “Liberation Diaries: Reflections on 20 Years of Democracy”, published by Jacana last month.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.