ANC stalwarts must face the facts. They’ve failed

William Saunderson-Meyer says this group waited too long, and failed to act in concert


It’s a powerful political instinct. Don’t break ranks. To do so will destroy not only the party but also your own sinecure.

Unfortunately, the glue of self-preservation that holds a political party together can leave the nation exploited and eventually destroyed. That is South Africa today. 

The avowed aim of President Jacob Zuma’s internal critics — to excise from the African National Congress a malignant growth, without irretrievably damaging itself — is doomed.

State capture is no longer a prospect. It is a reality. The Zuma-Gupta axis runs directly from an unassailable president to a now daunting array of ramparts in the economy. 

The situation may be irreversible. Certainly, the enormous powers of Zupta patronage and intimidation, the velvet glove and the iron fist, make it impossible for the ANC to perform corrective self-surgery upon the cancer within. 

That can only happen from without. Hence the necessity for the ANC’s self-labelled “stalwarts” — modesty is rare among politicians — to face up to the fact that the Zupta faction has won. 

The only option now for those who care more about the nation than they do about the mythology of liberation, is to leave the ANC. To regroup as a new political organisation and then redeploy.

Certainly, explosive pressure is growing. A telling example of the intensity of internecine antipathies that when outspoken ANC MP Makhosi Khoza gets death threats for calling for Zuma to stand down, the response is not outrage at intimidation, but calls for her to be disciplined for her “blatant betrayal” and, ominously, for her to have to “immediately face the consequences of her actions”.

But while centrifugal forces within the ANC have increased markedly, any hiving-off won’t happen until after the ANC’s leadership conference in December. The reformers have one last-gasp hope, that they can ensconce Deputy-President Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the party and, hence, as the ANC’s choice as next president of SA. 

The dissidents, or as they would have it, the true keepers of the Freedom Charter flame, are aware of the stakes. Ramaphosa last week called on the alliance to draw “a line in the sand” against the capture of democratic institutions, saying that “the house is burning” and that “when things like these are spewing out in our national discourse we cannot turn a blind eye”. 

One has a sense that it is all too little, too late. While Ramaphosa has been campaigning hard, he has an immense amount of ground to make up.

Zuma has spent eight years ensuring control of the ANC party apparatus, sidelining from power with ruthless efficiency, every internal critic. He has also worked assiduously to control the majority of branches from which come the delegates to the December conference.

To challenge the nexus of power, unity of purpose and action are of the essence. Or as Benjamin Franklin phrased it in 1776 to his fellow revolutionaries, upon the treasonous signing of America’s Declaration of Independence, “We must, indeed, hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Unfortunately, the ANC veterans and stalwarts never had the guts to act in concert against the Zuma sewerage pit. Instead, they stepped forward one at a time, to succumb, in turn, to the Zuma guillotine.

The cost of that lack of courage, that failure to seize the moment, is that the state capture forces are well organised to perpetuate Zupta control on the levers of power beyond Zuma’s nominal exit.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s ex-wife, is the designated safe pair of hands that the Zupta faction wants installed. This will not only ensure that JZ remains immune from criminal prosecution on the 783 fraud and corruption charges that hang over him, but also that state looting can continue untrammelled.

Frank Chikane, a struggle veteran and close to former president Thabo Mbeki, this week said he believed that funds laundered during the state capture project will be used as part of a “war chest” to make sure that the “corrupt” retain control at the leadership conference.

It does not end there. A logical consequence of Zupta success in December is that the “billions” that have been siphoned will then be used to “steal the 2019 elections”. 

“There are people who fear for their lives today, people are being threatened. Some of us are beginning to live like we lived during apartheid.”

It is pity that the ANC dissidents hadn’t taken their script from Manuel Quezon, rather than Ben Franklin. Quezon, a Philippine radical and statesman, proclaimed, “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.” 

Despite these admirable sentiments, Quezon died in powerless exile, after his homeland was caught in the cauldron of events swirling around the outbreak of the Second World War. By dithering for so long to break ranks with a failing party, the ANC stalwarts similarly face being cast into irrelevance, as events escalate.

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