ANC leaders readily admitted fault after a downturn in support in the local government elections. They had to, slipping 8% and losing their majorities in key municipalities demands that they do.
After a national executive meeting, they spoke of immediate, bold actions to fix weaknesses and shortcomings. They aim to re-energise the party and its supporters. Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said this would require dealing with perceptions of the ANC being arrogant, self-serving, soft on corruption and increasingly distant from its social base.
Just a few years ago, these would have been the criticisms of opponents alone. That the faithful share these views now must be a source of urgent concern for the ANC.
One of the disappointments of the executive outcome for ANC critics would have been the collective responsibility it accepted for the slide.
This shielded President Zuma amid strong feelings that he is part of the problem for party and government. His role had not even been discussed, Mantashe reported.
There is no public sense, then, that Zuma is considered a liability – not for the time being, which would have frustrated those in and outside the party yearning for a leadership change.
Very much in the revival mood is the ANC leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, who was more specific than Mantashe. Voters had told it the party it was distracted by in-fighting rather than leading society; ANC representatives were looking after themselves rather than communities; and again, the arrogance came up.
He indicted individual interests taking precedence over those of the ANC, and highlighted people using positions to amass wealth and dispense patronage. Both are costly pitfalls for the ANC and the country.
The ANC knows what is wrong. But it has been good at this in past admissions. Voters have notified it now, though, that meaningful changes are what they seek. Delivery is everything.