by Ronnie Kasrils
The unpalatable reality the ANC needs to confront, if it is to mend itself -- and there are those who maintain the rot is too far gone -- is that the strategic initiative which it had in abundance in 1994 has passed to the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Snakes Alive! The ANC is on a Slippery Slope
by Ronnie Kasrils
This article previously appeared in The Daily Maverick.
“Unless the ANC get rid of their chief liability and his cronies and get busy cleaning out the Augean Stables they will stick haplessly in the mud.”
Having spent much of the local election campaign attacking the Democratic Alliance (DA) as a party led by snakes, President Jacob Zuma, as has been pointed out, will have to lay his head down to sleep in city councils where the despised opposition are very much in charge. And when he goes back home to his Nkandla palace there’s no escaping, for those rural villagers have again opted for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). It appears he has no credibility in his own neighborhood.
That lack of trust and credibility dogs both him and the once seemingly invincible ANC throughout the country. Ever since Zuma came to power, the ANC proportion of the national vote has sunk from Mbeki’s all-time high of almost 70% in 2004 to the current unprecedented and alarmingly 54% low of Woeful Wednesday, 3 August, 2016. A party leader in any normal democratic country would have resigned without hesitation.
The story at my drinking hole is that the ANC honchos are laying the blame on the weather. It seems it is only ANC voters who are frightened off by a little rain and a dip in temperature. What arrant nonsense!
If the ANC wants to remedy its atrocious form it needs to confront reality or else it is in for a similar drubbing in the 2019 national elections, even if it retains power. It is going to be a hard task to get back over the 60% mark. Anything under is a humiliation; a psychological blow; a massive fall from grace and a loss of public representatives and their livelihood.
“Ever since Zuma came to power, the ANC proportion of the national vote has sunk from Mbeki’s all-time high of almost 70% in 2004 to the current unprecedented and alarmingly 54% low of Woeful Wednesday, 3 August, 2016.”
The whole country knows that a fish rots from the head. Every commentator worth their salt has marked up a long list of ANC sleaze starting with the greed, arrogance and corruption of Number One and his appointment of supine ministers and state officials who are there to do his bidding and engage in cover-ups and praise-singing while salting away their ill-gotten gains. From the serial scandals, corrupt relationships, unresolved court cases and “Khwezi” rape trial 10 years ago, to Nkandlagate, Guptagate and Nenegate, the muck has oozed as from a burst sewage pipe throughout the once venerable organization to the detriment of the country and people – the poor in particular. Zuma’s cronies and sycophants seized control of the organization in their Polokwane putsch in 2007 and have run it into the ground. The mantra of serving the people has been turned into serving themselves and the devil take the hindmost. Striking workers are shot down, township protests tear-gassed, students beaten, luckless detainees tortured by police gone berserk. The people are not fools and do not distinguish between state violence and ANC government.
The unpalatable reality the ANC needs to confront if it is to mend itself (and there are those who maintain the rot is too far gone) is that the strategic initiative which it had in abundance in 1994 has passed to the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The ANC has stumbled badly, slipped onto its mug and has first to dig in its heels if it is to regain traction and recover.
“Every commentator worth their salt has marked up a long list of ANC sleaze starting with the greed, arrogance and corruption of Number One.”
Its two chief opponents are on a roll. Just look at the DA’s success: two-thirds of the Cape Town vote; victory in Port Elizabeth; hugely impressive returns in the Pretoria and Johannesburg metros where they could form administrations; a near upset in Ekurhuleni, gains elsewhere, including Mogale City, Rustenberg and the platinum belt, where the Marikana dead and their widows and children have come back to haunt the ANC.
The EFF may not have won a single municipality but has hugely increased its vote. That is not to be sneezed at and is a remarkable achievement for a first-ever run in the local elections. Both parties have shown they have effective electoral machines, with inspired and disciplined volunteers. The EFF have a magnetic attraction on the youth and had already shaken up a docile Parliament.
One hears how ANC election tables were half-manned and shunned in the so-called coloured areas of Cape Town and elsewhere. The ANC is looking more like dispirited troops in retreat. The DA and EFF have shown that the ANC is far from invincible. In councils where the opposition now have the majority they will be raring to go to prove their mettle.
The DA has achieved a beachhead in numerous African townships, spat into Zuma’s face that they are not a party of madams, reptiles and coconuts and do have support across the color divide – more so than the ANC which once upon a time had the appearance and reputation of holding the non-racial moral high ground. The DA are bound to shrewdly assign resources to improve service delivery and provide good governance in the townships, for which they are likely to get the assent of the leafy suburbs to prove a point. This, after all, is not a question of revolution. The name of this electoral game is reform and delivery. The DA would be stupid not to redirect resources.
“The strategic initiative which it had in abundance in 1994 has passed to the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).”
The ANC will not find remedying its divisions and faults that easy, for to do so would require a revolution within the once proud movement of revolution. Factionalism and the unseemly struggle for positions are most likely to increase. The blame game will be the order of the day as was instantly on display at the Independent Electoral Commission finale, where those two-and-a-half ministers turned viciously on the hapless Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, as “security chief” on duty, for failing to prevent the silent rape-protest against Zuma.
My oh my, as we listen to the fulminations of the state organs, is a peaceful protest by four dignified young women really a matter of national security? Unless the ANC get rid of their chief liability and his cronies – for this is not just about one man – and get busy cleaning out the Augean Stables they will stick haplessly in the mud.
The worst elements in the ANC might very well seek to scapegoat the Gauteng ANC, given the big upset in the country's economic heartland. But that would create the rationale to also shaft provincial leaderships in the Eastern Cape for the loss of Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and the Western Cape over the laughing stock the ANC has become in a province it once led. And what of the downslide everywhere else?
“Will the much heralded new workers’ party get off the ground before 2019?”
The floor is thick with filth and vipers. Time is running out. There are only 32 months to the 2019 national elections and the next snake-and-ladder contest.
Of course, if there is to be a real turning point, the socio-economic relations in the country need to be overhauled. Alas, the left appear to have stalled and have thus far failed to demonstrate they can get their act together. Will the much heralded new workers’ party get off the ground before 2019? The EFF at least speak of nationalization and agrarian reform. Will they live up to the symbolism of their red berets?
If elections are a game of snakes and ladders, The ANC's Woeful Wednesday leaves the country in no doubt as to who has taken the slide and who is on the up.
Now, I do not believe the DA can actually get to the top, but the country has reached a turning point all right.
Snakes alive! The times they are a changing.
Ronnie Kasrils is a former commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe, a former Cabinet minister and a writer. He won the 2011 Alan Paton award for his book, The Unlikely Secret Agent.