Independent Online

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Has ANC-led Alliance outlived its purpose?

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande at a Red October rally at the Saul Tsotetsi sports complex in Sebokeng in 2021. Picture: Itumeleng English

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande at a Red October rally at the Saul Tsotetsi sports complex in Sebokeng in 2021. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Jan 31, 2022

Share

OPINION: The present crisis in the ANC calls for drastic measures by its leaders to prevent further loss of cohesion in its ranks and to remain relevant. There is a need for new blood, people who are not tainted by factional affiliation or allegations of corruption, to be drawn into leadership roles.

BY Professor B Dikela Majuqwana

Story continues below Advertisement

The ANC-led Alliance, consisting of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu, was a formidable force in the struggle against apartheid. It led in the ushering of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994. It has until recently enjoyed unchallenged hegemony in our national politics. That is why the ANC felt confident to describe itself as “a leader of society”. This was no exaggeration as many ANC leaders were prominent national figures. Among these, the ANC can count the formidable figure of Nelson Mandela who gained the status of a global icon as president of the ANC and South Africa. The ANC continued to bask under his glory long after he left government.

A cornerstone of the Alliance's cohesion was built around its branding of post-apartheid reforms in South Africa as a process of National Democratic Revolution (NDR) to usher in a society reflecting the aspirations of the Freedom Charter. However, the unity of the Alliance began to be tested seriously during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, who never entertained views by the SACP and Cosatu.

The ANC’s partners were brought to life in June 2005 when Mbeki removed his then-deputy president, Jacob Zuma, to replace him with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a junior minister at the time. The SACP and Cosatu used this opportunity to campaign for Zuma to secure his presidency at the ANC national conference held in Polokwane in 2007.

Since then the Alliance has never recovered its internal cohesion as it became a site of factional battles. One consequence of this lack of cohesion was steady erosion of its power by electoral losses in 2016, 2019, and 2021. During the 2016 local government elections, the ANC lost the major metros to the opposition parties in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg. During the 2019 national elections, the ANC suffered a huge loss to opposition parties following a declining voter turnout.

During the 2021 local elections, the ANC was not only unable to fund its campaign but was clearly entering a phase of deep crisis. It could no longer lay claim to being “a leader of society”. An ANC that cannot fund its activities is a sign it may no longer be viable. Loss of viability will inevitably translate into collapse or implosion.

As matters stand, it would seem that the fires of factionalism are likely to consume what is left of the glorious movement. Factionalism in the ANC has lately expressed itself as a conflict between those who claim to be defenders of the Constitution and those who criticise it. These defenders are in the main supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his New Dawn agenda. They include the SACP and Cosatu. Cosatu president Zingisa Losi signalled this shift when she came out in opposition to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's criticism of the Constitution of the republic.

Story continues below Advertisement

What irks Sisulu's critics is her view that the present Constitution is a weapon used to protect the gains made by whites under apartheid. The defenders who criticise Sisulu see themselves as opponents of a faction they call RET (radical economic transformation) and place Sisulu in this camp. These RETs are people who insist on the implementation of resolutions of the ANC taken at Nasrec in 2017.

The controversy arising out of Sisulu's writing is unprecedented in the history of the Alliance. For the first time the split has centred around people’s attitude regarding the constitution. Sisulu's position in this can be described as radical constitutionalism as opposed to the liberal constitutionalism represented by her critics. These new tendencies or currents in the Alliance are opening up new possibilities for the future.

Based on this observation, a further split in the ANC to form a new party cannot be ruled out. Gone are the niceties and calls for unity and renewal of the ANC. If these divisions become pervasive and not limited only to the ANC but extend to the SACP and Cosatu, the disintegration may also affect the ANC’s partners.

Story continues below Advertisement

A question many ask is“ which of the two political attitudes will become dominant beyond the forthcoming conference of the ANC in December 2022? If the liberals gain victory, will they be able to dictate terms to the radicals?

Until recently the strength of the Alliance has been governmental power. This power is losing its lustre after each election. The appeal of the ANC to the Alliance has centred on lucrative opportunities in government. Members of the Alliance received deployments in government as public servants. If this is no longer a certainty, it is tempting to imagine loss of political influence. Such an eventuality would lead to intense internal fights for position within the SACP and Cosatu as opportunities for deployment close.

Either way the real challenge facing the ANC and its Alliance partners is how to maintain a degree of viability by way of an Alliance political programme to avert further decline of the South African economy. For example, the latest OECD country rankings in October 2021 placed South Africa at number 4, a drop from 3 in the recent past. It is desirable to restore this lost country credit ranking to secure external investment. This is not going to be easy in the face of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the July uprisings in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The release of the Zondo commission adds another dimension to an already complex situation, thus further denting the reputation of the ANC as “a leader of society”.

Story continues below Advertisement

There is also a growing mass consensus that the country is facing a problem of runaway illegal immigration. Many in the Alliance believe it is xenophobic to raise the issue of illegal immigration. But shying away from addressing weaknesses in enforcing existing legislation in relation to immigration will erode the trust that the alliance has enjoyed over the years.

The present crisis in the ANC calls for drastic measures by its leaders to prevent further loss of cohesion in its ranks and to remain relevant. There is a need for new blood, people who are not tainted by factional affiliation or allegations of corruption, to be drawn into leadership roles. This is likely to be resisted. Even if it were not resisted, it is questionable if the ANC still has the capacity to make strategic deployments prioritising the organisation's health and its ability to lead society as opposed to factional interests.

A healthy ANC and Alliance is one that is sensitive to the present and future needs of society as a whole. This calls for a new political outlook and agenda to steer the economy away from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic towards recovery and growth. A constitutional controversy, relevant as it is in many ways, seems to be far removed from this. If the public trust invested in the Alliance offers no possibility of meaningful social and economic gains beyond social grants it seems certain the Alliance is headed for implosion and collapse to become a thing of the past.

* Dikela Majuqwana is engineer and project director at Grand Polytechnic Institute. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here may not necessarily be that of IOL.

Share