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Going, going…gone…or second term miracle for the ANC?

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File Picture: GCIS/SAPA – ANC members attend the ANC’s centenary celebrations in 2012 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The ruling party is yet again expected to descend upon Free State next week to celebrate its 111th anniversary.

By Kim Heller

When Mmusi Maimane addressed DA supporters at Constitution Hill in May 2017, as he launched the DA’s Road to 2019 election campaign he said: “the ANC is dead”. I was outraged by what I considered to be a fake and inappropriate notification of the untimely passing of the ANC, from a leader of the official opposition party.

I penned a furious and fierce counterattack on Maimane, using the best weapon I have in hand, my words. I wrote: “The DA’s latest crusade is to declare that the ANC is dead and hastily prepare for an afterlife in South Africa midwifed on the fragile umbilical cord of an opposition party configuration.”

At the time Maimane was envisaging a coalition-style political configuration with the DA as a major player. As is my style, I did not mince my words. I wrote “His irreverent sermon, with its parasitic focus on the fictional death of the ruling party, rather than on the vital signs of his own party, exposes an unhealthy political pulse and deathly ideological deficiency within the DA.” At the time, in 2017, I was not an ANC devotee, although at one time I was both an avid supporter and member. This changed with the Marikana massacre, which felt to me like a betrayal of the very mission of the ANC. The party, had in my view, chosen the interests of white capital over black workers. I was deeply pained and disappointed with the ANC.

However, five years ago, I did not, and could not conceive of the ANC as a party in death row. I was affronted that the leader of a party which was a bastion of white interests could declare that he was in mourning for the death of the ANC, which Maimane had described as a “once a proud liberation movement”.

Today, five years later, I must admit that Maimane’s words ring true. Perhaps my ears are a little more open to hearing uncomfortable truths. Just a little. For truth hurts. After the Marikana massacre, I held onto the hope that the ANC would account for the terrible ills of that day and apologise to the widows of those slain on that terrible day in August 2012. An apology has not come. Not for Marikana, where thirty-four miners were gunned down in their fight for a living wage. Not for Life Esidimeni, a human rights holocaust, where one hundred and forty-four mentally challenged hospital patients died, as they were transferred to inadequate facilities. There were deeply disturbing accounts of how patients were moved as if they were livestock, to the ‘death camps’ of their new care facilities.

Over the years, the ANC, the great protector of South Africa’s people, the dreamcatcher for generations-long hopes for true democracy and justice, has become a party where accountability and empathy have been as neglected and abandoned as the mentally challenged patients that died horrific deaths in the Life Esidemini tragedy.

In the easy speak of the modern-day ANC leader, accountability is a word not easily vocalised, and its growing lack of empathy for the plight of the poorest and most marginalised in society is fast placing the ANC in the death throngs of total collapse. A party without accountability to its people, and empathy, and routinely puts itself before its people, is a party in cardiac arrest.

The ANC will continue its slow decline into a diminished and dying party. The black, green, and gold of the ANC is not what it used to be. There is no messiah that can bring salvation to a party that has not only failed to deliver promised economic liberation and economic self-determination but the very fundamentals of service delivery. The ruling party has set the standard so low that citizens have come to expect less. There is some political genius in this lack of delivery for eventually people simply settle for the little they have.; the job that hardly pays a living wage, the taxi ride to that piece-job that eats into the lowly day’s earnings, the six hours of loadshedding that is better than the ten hours. The ANC has trained the electorate well. Settle and be grateful for what you have. As if service delivery was a privilege rather than a right.

The new top seven is unlikely to change the fate of ordinary people. Division is set to multiply in the ANC and ordinary South Africans will continue to be the collateral damage of the ANC internal wars. Despair, joblessness, landlessness, and disenchantment will continue to be the everyday of the every man. Cyril Ramaphosa will enter his second term weakened and Paul Mashatile could well take over the reins earlier than expected, as Ramaphosa tries to put out the fires of Phala Phala. Renewal, is a phrase, easily churned out, but unlikely to surface.

In his book, Manifesto, a New Vision for South Africa, Songezo Zibi wrote: “There is no ANC under Cyril Ramaphosa or anyone from within it that will turn South Africa’s fortunes around. If anything, it has become an urgent national duty to give the ANC the opportunity to renew itself outside the levers of government, so that in future elections it can make believable promises. None of what it says now is credible, and anyone who chooses to believe it is refusing to see the evidence before them.”

During his address way back in 2017, Maimane continued, in his impassioned address to his DA supporters “The death of the ANC has given us the opportunity to rebuild our beloved country. Long live South Africa!” Mmusi Maimane was imploring voters to envision a future without the African National Congress. Maimane says: “We need to look towards a post-ANC South Africa.”

As the 2024 opens we as South Africans do have the opportunity to reimagine and co-author a new political universe. Not one of a conglomeration of conservative centrist parties where the increasing right-wing ANC joins hands with DA and embraces other anti-transformation forces. But a collective of progressive black led, worker first, women first organisations.

But for now, this is a pipe dream, as we head into a 2023, the health of the ANC and the nation is unlikely to improve. Unless the ANC turns its full attention to the plight of ordinary South Africans and tends to the poorest and most needy with loving tender care, the ANC will die, and it the unrequited freedom it promised and never delivered.

Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’

Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’

This article was exclusively written for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.This article was exclusively written for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.