African National Congress delegates sing as they enter the hall at Gallegher Estate in Midrand north of Johannesburg where their party's 4th National General Council is held.Photo: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Corruption, an arrogant leadership and faction fighting are tearing at the soul of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, according to an internal report presented to the top leaders of the party after its worst-ever electoral performance.

“The ANC is bleeding, with every Sunday full of headlines about one cadre or the other accused of corruption,” the report prepared for a National Executive Committee meeting last month said. It cited widespread criticism among party branches of President Jacob Zuma and the NEC itself.

“Calls for the president, the officials and the NEC to step down are loud in a number of regions,” according to the report, which Bloomberg News obtained from an NEC member who declined to be identified. “The branches are of the view that the leadership is not accountable, and fails to make each other accountable.”

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The report provides striking insight into the deepening anger among members of the party that Nelson Mandela led to power in 1994 to end apartheid. It indicates growing concern about the ANC’s fading popularity in the wake of its worst electoral performance in August’s municipal vote, when it lost control of three metropolitan centers, including Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg. The party’s in a “sombre mood,” it said.

Facing reality

“It is well known that there is a lot of corruption in the ANC; people are disenchanted because of corruption,” Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group, said by phone Friday. “You can do as many reports as you like, there is no willingness to face reality.”

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

More criticism of the party came on Friday from a group of 101 senior ANC members, including former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, ex-parliamentary speaker Frene Ginwala, and Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni, who were sentenced with Mandela.

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“The trust between the ANC and communities, built over up over so many years, is now severely under threat,” the group said in a statement. “Communities that have looked to the ANC for leadership and who we should serve, increasingly see self-enrichment, corruption, nepotism and the abuse of power -- the moral high ground that the ANC enjoyed is being lost.”

Court ruling

The internal party report said members are critical of the ANC’s efforts to put an end to investigations into the use of taxpayer money to upgrade Zuma’s private home. The Constitutional Court ruled in March that he violated the law by not abiding by graft ombudsman Thuli Madonsela directive that he repay some of the money.

Zuma is seeking a court order to block the release of a report by Madonsela on allegations that a wealthy family, the Guptas, used its friendship with Zuma for profit and influence - what is known in South Africa as “state capture.”

“Branches are convinced that the NEC did not handle both the Constitutional Court judgement and the State Capture debate correctly,” according to the report.

Prepared by a 33-member working committee, which includes Zuma, the report said there was “visible and vocal unhappiness” about the failure to refer controversies that involved the president to the party’s disciplinary committees.

Corrupt reputation

The party compared itself unfavourably to the Chinese Communist Party, on which the ANC often models itself as a mechanism to create a developmental state to tackle poverty.

“This should send a signal to us that corruption is viewed by society as a distinguishing feature of the ANC as opposed to it being an exception as the Communist Party of China proclaims of itself,” it said.

Corruption was seen as a defining character, with the strife-torn party tearing itself apart and unable to offer a clear message.

“Good leaders get sidelined and get replaced by those who have the money,” according to the report. “The new culture therefore is to display wealth and dispense patronage rather than ideological and political clarity.”