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‘Ideologically bankrupt’ ANC in a governance tailspin

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People queue outside a voting station at Thandokhulu High School in Mowbray, Cape Town. The ANC that formed a government of national unity in 1994 was politically and morally on a good footing. The ANC of Ramaphosa is politically battered and morally compromised, says the writer. – Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers / May 29, 2024

By Sipho Seepe

To suggest that the 2024 electoral outcome has fundamentally altered how parties relate to one another post-election would be an understatement. Never has the party with a majority of votes found itself thrust into a tailspin of negotiations in a frantic search for a solution that will maximise its electoral performance.

As it is wont to do when faced with a seemingly intractable challenge, the ruling party prevaricates, puts its head in the sand, and embarks on its worn-out strategy of “buying and selling”. At the heart of this prevarication is a self-created conundrum.

The ANC of Ramaphosa stands for nothing. It wants to be all things to all people. On the other hand, it wants to please the so-called markets. Accordingly, South Africa’s democracy can be sacrificed on the altar of a group of international banks and firms whose preoccupation is on maximising profit.

At the same time, the ANC is concerned with having to reclaim a demonstrably disappointed traditional constituency that feels betrayed.

The mooted government of national unity is the ANC’s spineless reluctance to choose between a DA-ANC coalition and a black-dominated ANC, EFF, MK Party, IFP, and PA coalition(s).

As far back as 2019, the DA was very clear about its position. On record, Helen Zille averred. “I think we can consolidate the DA around 20 percent of the vote … 20 percent is big. It is not a seat or two-seat party. It is a big block.

“And then the ANC falls to (get), let’s say 40 percent. I’d rather make tough demands on Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC and forces them to unite under them, and go into coalition with them, and make strict conditions for them than go into coalition with anyone else.”

Indeed, the ANC of Ramaphosa would have no qualms about entering into a coalition with a party led by a person who is of the view that Africans should be grateful for having been colonised. “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water.”

For Zille, the ANC of Ramaphosa is a walk in the park. Ramaphosa is the epitome of indecisiveness.

As Unisa’s emeritus professor Raymond Suttner once remarked: “There is little in the record of Ramaphosa to suggest anything more than a self-indulgent, narcissistic attachment to the idea of being president, a presidency that has little content. What ideas, what vision, what ethics, if any, drive this man, and for that matter the organisation that he leads?” (The Daily Maverick, Op-ed 9/01/2021).

Unlike their counterparts who have remained trapped in conditions of squalor and degrading poverty, black proponents of the DA-ANC are individuals who have benefited immensely from the post-1994 dispensation. A majority of the pro-DA-ANC has handsomely been rewarded with positions on the boards of local and global companies. In a sense, these are modern-day “house negroes” who are ever eager to sing for their supper.

The mooted government of national unity is not a repeat of 1994. The ANC that formed a government of national unity in 1994 was politically and morally on a moral good footing. The ANC of Ramaphosa is politically battered and morally compromised. If anything, the ANC of Ramaphosa is suffering from a serious bout of denialism. The most obvious fact is that a big chunk of its votes went to the MK Party. This is the bitter and painful truth that confronts Ramaphosa.

Former minister Penuell Maduna could not have said it better in his article, “People are rejecting elitist character of ANC leaders (Sowetan, 03 June 2024)”.

He wrote: “The leadership is aloof of the living conditions of our people. This is seen by how we conduct ourselves at a critical time of campaigning, driving luxury cars, dressing in expensive Italian clothes, living in mansions, taking our children to the most affluent schools and getting the best medical care. All this while our people live in dire poverty not knowing where their next meal will come from.”

While ANC beneficiaries of the post-1994 are busy shielding the ANC of Ramaphosa, Maduna is unequivocal. He opines that “we find ourselves with an ANC NEC that cannot unite and lead society, an ANC Youth League that cannot champion the interests of young people, and an ANC Women’s League that cannot galvanise women behind the banner of the ANC”.

The second bitter truth is that about 70 percent of the votes went predominantly to black votes; EFF, MKP, ANC, PA, and IFP. In its unsolicited advice (June 6, 2024) to the ANC leadership, the Black Business Council (BBC) argues that at “a policy level, a union between the ANC and the DA threatens the many gains that the ANC made over the last decade.

The DA campaigned on repealing progressive and race-based legislation, including the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, National Health Insurance, the Expropriation Bill, and removing racial targets/quotas from Employment Equity and Preferential Procurement Acts.”

BBC continues to state that a “coalition between the ANC, EFF, IFP, and the MK party would be a great victory for progressive policies”. “This is a coalition of parties with many policies in common in key areas. This coalition also guarantees the two-thirds majority threshold which is important for constitutional amendments”.

BBC then moves on to suggest that “the challenge with MK is that they seem to be advocating for the disregard of the rule of law and the South African Constitution”. This utter nonsense is repeated ad nauseum by the mainstream media.

First, there is nothing illegal about challenging the decisions of the courts. Second, there is nothing unconstitutional about raising issues with certain aspects of the Constitution. Had BBC paid attention, it would have realised that post-1994 has had its fair share of constitutional amendments.

Third, there is nothing unlawful about expressing outrage at some court decisions, and differences of interpretation are allowed in any functioning democracy. Minority judgments are not a reflection of disrespect for the rule of law. Some of the minority judgments were proved to be the most sustainable judgments.

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, the former president of the US, Barack Obama, provides a quick lesson on the Constitution and the rule of law. Obama writes that “one of the surprising things about Washington is the amount of time spent arguing not about what the law should be, but rather what the law is”.

“The simplest statute can become the subject of wildly different interpretations, depending on whom you are talking to the congressman who sponsored the provision, the staffer who drafted it, the department head whose job it is to enforce it, the lawyer whose client finds it inconvenient, or the judge who may be called upon to apply it.”

Obama continues: “Much of the time, the law is settled and plain. But life turns up new problems, and lawyers, officials, and citizens debate the meaning of terms that seemed clear years or even months before … More than two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was written and the Bill of Rights was ratified, we continue to argue about … whether the desecration of the flag should be considered speech.

“We debate whether such basic common-law rights as the right to marry or the right to maintain our bodily integrity are implicitly, if not explicitly, recognised by the Constitution.”

Our Constitution, which is a mere 28 years old, is also not sacrosanct. The same applies to judges. Contrary to the nonsense that is bandied around, there is nothing special about them. They are as fallible as all of us.

Nothing exposes the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the self-appointed custodians of the rule of law and accountability than their deafening silence when it comes to the Phala Phala scandal.

A three-person parliamentary panel concluded that the information at its disposal discloses, prima facie that Ramaphosa may committed a serious violation of the Constitution including sections 96(2)(a), a serious violation of section 34(1) of PRECCA, serious misconduct in that the president violated section 96(2)(b) by acting in a way that is inconsistent with his office, and serious misconduct in that the president violated section 96(2)(b) by exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business of the Constitution.

Since then, state organs have been at pains to find a way of shielding Ramaphosa from accountability.

Lastly, what the ANC lacks is the conviction of its views. It suffers from a syndrome best described by Biko when he observed: “In the privacy of his toilet, his face twists in silent condemnation of white society, but brightens up in sheepish obedience as he comes out hurrying in response to his master’s impatient call.

“In the home-bound bus or train, he joins the chorus that roundly condemns the white man but is first to praise the government in the presence of the police or his employers. His heart yearns for the comfort of white society and makes him blame himself for not having been ‘educated’ enough to warrant such luxury.”

A careful look at the type of black persons calling for the DA-ANC coalition would be enough to tell you on which side of the haves and the have-nots they belong. Revolutionary consciousness has long left the ANC of Ramaphosa. What is left is just an embarrassing shell.

Professor Sipho Seepe is an independent political analyst.