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ANC challenges under scrutiny

Published Mar 28, 2022

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In deeply analysing the ANC, Professor Sipho Seepe of the University of Zululand is advancing an argument that the party has lost its revolutionary character and says it has potentially reached its prime and effectiveness.

In an opinion piece for IOL yesterday, Seepe raised several issues crippling the governing party, among them the issue of two centres of power; the suspicious renewal process and the debate around the need to replace the current political constitutional democracy with parliamentary democracy.

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This constitutional debate was reignited by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala while he was addressing the province’s Human Rights Day in Ixopo on Monday last week.

On the matter, Seepe wrote 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.

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“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 wrote.

On the two centres of power, Seep said the ANC should consider harmonising its elections with the country’s elections and avoid this challenge. Historically, the ANC holds its elective conferences two years before the country’s to allow the incoming leadership to adopt 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 election,” he wrote.

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 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 nationalise the Reserve Bank or implement affirmative action, for instance.“

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

At that meeting, Gwen Ramakgopa was 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 said was dangerous.

Also dangerous, according to Seepe, was the renewal project as Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe are now spearheading efforts to revive the plummeting fortunes of the ruling 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, said the issue of harmonising the ANC’s election with that of the country would not likely be a solution.

He said 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 electoration.

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

On renewal, Mgitywa said he was not convinced that the renewal of the party can happen without shaking up branches, who he said, 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 said, adding that renewal was just a campaign slogan.

Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said he 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 up room for a palace coup.”

He added 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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