Mushtak Parker is a writer and economist based in London. Picture: Supplied
Mushtak Parker is a writer and economist based in London. Picture: Supplied

ANC has little clue to a sustainable long-term plan

By Mushtak Parker Time of article published Sep 6, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - The spectre of the ruling ANC party resorting to a crowd funding campaign to raise funds to pay staff salaries.

The spectre of staff forced to go on strike because they have not been paid for the last three months and because of their “appalling employment conditions.”

The spectre of a ruling party’s offices closed throughout the country less than two months prior to key nationwide local elections scheduled in October 2021, despite party efforts to get the Independent Electoral Commission to postpone them.

The spectre of that same party’s iconic “prison museum” – a World Heritage Site - on the infamous Robben Island where ANC and anti-apartheid stalwarts including Nelson Mandela were incarcerated for decades, in a state of dereliction and decay, confirmed by relatives of ex-inmates.

That the ANC is a party in crisis must be the mother of all understatements.

Is it merely a question of the ANC being institutionally inept, or do these metrics of organisational dysfunction hide a deeper malaise of misplaced self-entitlement, unfettered cadre deployment and a proven lack of party management leadership?

Cynics argue that if the ANC cannot get its own house in order, what hope is there for its management of the country and its challenges.

To be fair to the ANC, the issue of party funding and mismanagement is the bane of liberal democracies whether in the so-called advanced or emerging countries.

How liberal democracies fund their political parties is a perennial issue. Should they be funded from taxpayers’ money or from private donations or a bit of both, subject to the usual caveats of full donor disclosures, caps to donations and a ban on foreign contributions.

In the US, presidential, congressional and senate elections are beholden to corporate and wealthy donors which has corrupted American democracy into ‘Bizdemocracy’.

That spending on US presidential elections runs into billions of dollars is anathema to the very ethos of democracy.

In South-East Asia, money politics is an entrenched part of the electoral landscape unless parties or candidates get caught in the act.

In the UK, Labour is as beholden to trade union coffers as the Tory party is to corporate donations.

In South Africa, ANC intellectuals such as the late Sedick Isaacs despaired over party funding.

He leaned towards funding political parties from the public purse.

The problem with ANC party development is its dependence on political donations and the generosity of forgiveness of South Africans, “which even permeated into frauds by political party members.”

Cadre deployment, he added, favouring ANC members led to factionalism, skewed departmental management and inconsistency of policy, which is why he strongly believed in a politically neutral civil service.

The ANC’s attraction to its liberation history, as opposed to its government one, too remained “a huge problem for the party.”

That the ANC has resorted to casuistry claiming that its new crowdfunding strategy for fundraising “is responsive to the Political Party Funding Act requirements,” shows it has little clue as to a sustainable long-term plan, instead relying on a stop-gap measure.

At best crowd funding can be one small component of a larger funding mix which includes political donations, membership fees and levies.

Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden all successfully raised donations through crowd funding. So did Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primaries.

Another debacle was by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who opened up party membership to every Tom, Dick and Harriet at the princely sum of £3, paving the way for diehard-socialist pro-Jeremey Corbyn activists flooding the party and voting him in as the next Labour leader, thus confining the party to the doldrums of the Opposition benches for almost a decade.

For a party with a 109-year history and a current membership of 1.4 million, the ANC has a tendency to move in painstakingly pedantic ways.

The ANC is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, pioneering activist, first black South African woman to obtain a science degree, a delegate to the ANC’s founding conference in 1912 and a founder of the Bantu Women’s League, a forerunner to the ANC Women’s League. Yet it took another 31 years for women to be accepted as full members of the ANC in 1943.

It has taken 26 years into South African democracy before the ANC embraced online membership and digitisation which went live only in February 2020.

Judging by their declarations, party officials appear overly formulaic as if they are ‘Stepford’ functionaries, still bent on espousing the rhetoric of revolutionary aspiration.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently on a mission taking on corruption in the body politic of South Africa.

Perhaps as the leader of the ANC he should also take on the equally crucial challenge of internal reform of his party.

In a democracy a robust government and opposition are equally important.

The former to get on with their electoral mandate of governing and the latter acting as checks and balance by holding the executive to account.

The glaring weakness of South African democracy is that we have neither. We have the ANC, entitled as if it has the divine right to rule in perpetuity. And a fragmented Opposition - one defined by its irrelevance and the other by its bigotry.

In his riposte, ANC General Manager FC Potgieter declared: “I do regret the hardship and the uncertainty that (delayed salaries) has caused staff and their families. This is deeply regrettable. The ANC management will continue to engage with staff representatives on their grievances, with a view to find a solution, so that we can resume normal operations.”

Comrade Potgieter, the question you should ask yourself is: “How on earth did the ANC get to this sorry state of affairs?”

Parker is an economist and writer based in London

Cape Times

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