By the time the NEC met to grapple with the resolution of stepping aside, the political battle was already won, says the writer. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency
By the time the NEC met to grapple with the resolution of stepping aside, the political battle was already won, says the writer. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency

ANC implosion makes unity elusive

By Sipho Seepe Time of article published Apr 4, 2021

Share this article:

The decision that “members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which, they should be suspended” is the most definitive move to have been taken by the NEC of the ANC.

The line is drawn.

No more political games.

The constitutional provision that all are presumed innocent until proven otherwise has been dispensed with. It had become politically inconvenient.

On the political front, the decision has the effect of obliterating the so-called RET (radical economic transformation) faction within the ANC. At a strategic level, the decision places the party on a path of no return. But this outcome was long in the making.

For too long, the ANC has dabbled with the idea of a broad church. A benevolent interpretation was that the party is home to different ideological strands.

But this opened the ANC for capture. The party lacked ideological clarity. Hence, it can fall for anything.

This is a history lesson that those who sought to capture the ANC understood very well.

The second history lesson is that empires are rarely defeated. They implode. Those who sought to defeat the ANC knew this and sponsored its implosion in a Trojan horse fashion. Once inside, the next order of business was to weaken the party by deepening its internal contradictions. The decision by the NEC of the ANC arguably represents a crowning moment of this mission.

The third history lesson is that the best way of defeating your opponents is to enlist the services of some within their ranks. The strategy entailed co-opting former activists to serve as directors on the boards of companies. Once co-opted, they are reduced to pliable gatekeepers of black advancement. For this, they are handsomely rewarded.

It comes as no surprise that the storm troopers against are largely led by this group. They have become active in opposing any proposal that seek to radically transform or disrupt the economic relations in this country.

To ensure that there are no comebacks, the NEC “called on all ANC members to rally around this decision and not to engage in any acts of indiscipline, including through mobilisation or public statements that undermine implementation of the conference resolution”.

This has a chilling effect. Any attempt to reverse the decision of the NEC by disgruntled members would be seen as an expression of ill-discipline on their part.

The right to express yourself politically is now a dismissible offence. It can be argued that the suppression of dissent, which this amounts to, is constitutionally suspect.

Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed (but there’s responsibility).

Before going for broke, the Ramaphosa faction exploited the political ambitions of members of the NEC by floating the idea of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle. They knew full well that very few members would risk speaking out against their own political interests.

By the time the NEC met to grapple with the resolution of stepping aside, the political battle was already won. The ANC NEC must be honest and admit that the resolution is merely a smokescreen to purge those perceived to be RET forces.

The above notwithstanding, the most chilling effect of the step-aside decision is captured by Professor Chris Malikane.

Malikane correctly observed that “charging is a state action ... some will not be charged and others will be charged.

“Those who are not charged may be charged after 30 days. (This opens) a way for classic abuse of the state to pursue a political agenda in the ANC… the prosecutors are now in the most powerful position to decide who becomes ANC leader and not the branches.”

On the political front, the NEC decision puts Ramaphosa in an unassailable position. He can now confidently avail himself to serve another term as President of the ANC and of the country.

Unless something dramatic happens in the next three weeks, this is the stubborn reality that Ramaphosa’s opponents must come to grips with. Given the balance of forces in the NEC, the likelihood of a reversal of this far-reaching decision is as remote as that of a snowball in hell.

The NEC could not have come at a better time for Ramaphosa as it serves as a useful distraction. Since taking over the reins as President, the country has slid further into a socio-economic quagmire. The economy is down on its knees.

Business confidence has plummeted to the all-time low last experienced in the mid-1980s.

The country is still reeling from the impact of Covid-19. The energy crisis is no closer to being resolved despite repeated promises. The mandarins at Eskom have told the country to brace itself for five years of load shedding.

Three years into his presidency, Ramaphosa has nothing to show.

Instead of focusing on the real challenges, both the NEC and Ramaphosa are engaged in sideshows and public relations exercise that are supposed to give an impression that something is being done.

When it is all said and done, the unadulterated display of triumphalism that characterise the ongoings in the ANC will not address the socio-economic malaise the country finds itself.

If anything, they are likely to divert all our energies from resolving the challenges faced by the country.

* Professor Seepe is Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) – Institutional Support at the University of Zululand.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

Share this article: