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ANC’s failures, coalition politics in spotlight amid cholera crisis

South Africa - Pretoria - 23 May 2023 - Hammanskraal residents collect water from a water truck, Skampaneng, Hammanskraal. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa - Pretoria - 23 May 2023 - Hammanskraal residents collect water from a water truck, Skampaneng, Hammanskraal. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 28, 2023


By Professor Bheki Mngomezulu

When the ANC was formed in 1912 becoming the first liberation movement in Africa to fight white supremacy, it brought a glimmer of hope that the oppressed masses of this country would have a liberator. The organisation’s decision to form Umkhonto we Sizwe on December 16 1961, after realising that the apartheid government was not willing to relinquish power or to share it with the black majority was a justifiable move. Those who died fighting for freedom did so with the hope for a better life for their contemporaries and future generations.

The coming into power of the ANC in 1994 after the first democratic election revived hope that eventually the masses of this country would regain their lost dignity. Although the country’s freedom was a negotiated settlement and did not come through the barrel of the gun, there was optimism that the reconciliatory spirit epitomised by the Government of National Unity (GNU) would accelerate the pace of service delivery.

Indeed, there was discernible change in different spheres of life. This was evidenced in the adoption of the country’s Constitution in 1996 in which human rights were enshrined in Chapter 2. RDP houses were built, water and electricity reached rural areas. Social security was provided. Free education started happening, albeit in phases. In each election, the ANC’s support increased to the point that under former president Thabo Mbeki, the party obtained a two-thirds majority. Intriguingly, the ANC failed to use this majority to amend the Constitution. Only after losing this majority has the ANC tried in vain to make changes in the Constitution such as revising Section 25 on the land issue.

But what has become a serious concern is the rift in the ANC. Factionalism has become a stark reality. Intra-party squabbles have silently killed the ANC. There is trust deficit within the party and within the Tripartite Alliance. This has become so bad to the extent that there have been instances where ANC members and members of the Tripartite Alliance have been killing one another. This has brought shame to an organization that was once a role-model for many others across the African continent.

These developments have resulted in leadership challenges. Unlike before when an ANC leader was respected by all members, lately, the president of the party only enjoys support from some members who belong to a faction and is seen differently by others.

In fact, the president has no power any more. Such power resides elsewhere. Those who control factions are the ones who decide what the president should and should not do. It is within this context that when Cyril Ramaphosa was ready to throw in the towel and resign as president in 2022, he was instructed not to do so. This proved beyond doubt that power does not reside with him any more. This has dented the image of the ANC which was once a powerful organisation.

These developments do not augur well for the future of this country. Signs are there for all to see. The ANC’s support has been declining in successive elections – both during the general national and provincial election as well as during the local government elections. The performance of the ANC in the 2021 local government elections leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

As the tussle for control of the ANC rages on, power is slipping away from the party. Already, the party has lost control of several metros during the 2021\ elections. In KwaZulu-Natal, the IFP has been winning one by-election after another. Political instabilities in municipalities in other provinces such as the Free State, North West, Eastern Cape and others point to the danger posed by internal squabbles in the ANC.

These developments have adversely affected service delivery. Consequently, coalition governments led by the DA have become a common occurrence. Unstable coalitions have aggravated the situation and have resulted in the blame game.

The current untenable health situation in Hammanskraal is a sign of what the country can expect as a result of instability in the ANC which result in coalition governments. As 17 innocent lives were lost to the cholera outbreak, politicians are blaming one another. Cilliers Brink, the mayor of Tshwane, and his coalition partners blame the dilapidating infrastructure to the ANC. The ANC and the EFF place the blame squarely at the doorstep of the DA-led coalition. It was for this reason that the EFF asked Brink and the municipal Speaker to drink the water if they claim that it was checked and found to be safe.

For years, the ANC has led society to the promised land. Lately, it has relinquished its identity as leader of society. The tussle for power has placed the country on a timed bomb!

* Prof Bheki Mngomezulu is director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at the Nelson Mandela University