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Professor Sipho Seepe opens debate on the ANC’s sell-by date, suggests reforms but others disagree

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses party supporters during an ANC election campaign in Diepsloot township, Johannesburg. File picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses party supporters during an ANC election campaign in Diepsloot township, Johannesburg. File picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE

Published Mar 28, 2022


Writing for IOL, Professor Sipho Seepe of the University of Zululand, argues that the ANC has been stripped of its “revolutionary content” and suggests governing party has reached its sell-by date.

In his piece, Seepe raises several issues engulfing the party, among them having two centres of power; the sham process of renewal; and the debate around the need to replace the current political constitutional democracy with a parliamentary democracy.

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This debate was reignited by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala while addressing the province’s Human Rights Day event in Ixopo.

On the matter, Seepe writes that the debate regarding the Constitution and the judiciary should be welcomed.

“This view is premised on the notion that ours is a living Constitution that evolves with the passage of time, and adapts to new circumstances. Viewed through this prism, a conversation about an adaptable evolving Constitution requires constant re-evaluation of our nation’s priorities: the needs of our society, especially the marginalised and dispossessed African majority.

“Beneficiaries of the status quo will not take kindly to such democratic engagements. We are not the only country that has sought to subject its democratic experiment to scrutiny,” Seepe writes.

On the two centres of power, Seep says the ANC should consider harmonising its elections with the country’s elections to avoid this challenge. Historically, the ANC holds its elective conferences two years before the country’s elections to allow the incoming leadership to adapt, and the outgoing to hand over power.

However, since 2008 there have been challenges that the outgoing president is always ousted before he could finish his term.

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Former president Thabo Mbeki lost power in December, 2007 and he was ousted in September, 2008. Former president Jacob Zuma’s faction lost power in 2017, and he was ousted in February, 2018.

“Arguably, the two centres of power will continue to haunt the party for as long as its elective conference is not aligned with that of the country’s national elections,” he writes.

Ngoako Ramatlhodi ANC National Executive Committee member and former Cabinet Minister, writing on IOL in a piece titled 'ANC Renewal: What is to be done?' also called for required legislative amendments to be made

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"Simultaneous with the implementation of the resolution on the Reserve Bank, it is here argued that the state should develop an alternative banking system by investing money of the fiscus in an alternative bank, such as the African Bank combined with other banks like the Land Bank.

This would open competition in the market and, most importantly protect the state against possible collusion of the established banks, as and when they do not like what the state is doing at any given time. Recent behaviour by established banks points to the possibility of these banks shutting down government accounts should they so decide. They could invoke the principle of reputational risk, as the government decides to nationalize the Reserve Bank or implement affirmative action, for instance.“

Ramatlhodi and Seepe’s pieces come at a time when the ANC is having its national executive committee (NEC) meeting where issues of renewal and realignment of subcommittees take place.

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At that meeting, Gwen Ramakgopa is being pushed to move to Luthuli House to hold the fort, until deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte comes back. To some that is seen as a concentration of power in the Presidency, which Seepe says is dangerous.

Also dangerous, according to Seepe, is the renewal project as Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe are now spearheading efforts to revive the plummeting fortunes of the governing party, as factionalism and corruption tear it apart. Ahead of its policy and elective conferences this year, the problems the country faces have less to do with rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship, but are more ideological.

However, another political analyst, Makhosini Mgitywa says the issue of harmonising the ANC’s election with that of the country would not likely be a solution. He says it may create another dilemma as the party could find itself bogged down with internal election processes while having to campaign for the country’s elections.

“The ANC may end up not knowing who it will field in the national elections… that’s the problem with that (of harmonising the elections),” Mgitywa says.

On renewal, Mgitywa says he is not convinced that the renewal of the party can happen without shaking up branches, which he maintains are the ones that need attention the most.

“The calibre of the branches will not give you a chance (to conduct a renewal process),” he says, adding that renewal is just a campaign slogan.

Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, agrees with Seepe that the ANC should harmonise its elections with that of the country in order to create stability within the government.

“When the party’s term is aligned with that of the country, it creates stability for voters… this misalignment creates instability within the government and opens room for a palace coup.”

He points out that as long as the environment of suspicions within the ANC exists, some will always see the renewal project as a form of a purge.

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Political Bureau