The ANC and the failing of democratic governance

Paul Trewhela
26 August 2011

Paul Trewhela on the US consulate cable on Abahlali baseMjondolo

In a statement headed "Is The ANC As Democratic As It Claims?", a confidential report by the US consulate in Durban dated 8 January 2010 - released publicly by Wikileaks on 24 August this year - stated: "The AbM movement is a test of democratic governance for the ANC..."

In its introduction, this report sent to the US State Department reads: "What began as a Durban road blockade in 2005 has become a shack-dwellers movement in South Africa. Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM, which means `those who live in the shacks' in Zulu) now includes thousands of shack-dwellers from more than 30 informal settlements throughout the country. AbM has garnered international support and has won legal battles against the African National Congress's (ANC) attempts at forced removal. While the ANC claims to be making efforts to clean up slums and provide the poor with adequate housing, AbM leadership claims intimidation and anti-democratic tactics are used against its members by the ruling party. AbM represents a true test of democratic governance for the ANC."  

I agree with the sense of this report. It is significant, however, that it has taken the leak of a confidential communication from a US consular official to make plain to South Africa and the world such a major threat to the country's still young and vulnerable democracy. The full report should be read with care by every South African with a concern for the country's present, past and future.

A major question is: Why, in such a highly politicised country, has there been such minimal attention to such a major political issue?

In the exile period through to its formation of the first post-apartheid government of South Africa, the ANC embodied both democratic and anti-democratic qualities.

Its formation in 1912, as the Native National Congress, was a profoundly democratic event. I am not aware of any other political party in Africa which so early and - generally speaking - so successfully sought a political practice that would rise above tribe and clan, and thus provide a genuine route to nationhood. One need only look to Zimbabwe, by comparison, to see how miserably this process has failed there. No other political party in South Africa was so responsible as the ANC for the winning of universal suffrage in 1994.

This was grossly disfigured in exile, however, by its behaviour as a one-party state over its own members, with democratic debate stifled by its security department - iMbokodo, "the grindstone" - and its history of abuse at Quatro concentration camp in Angola.

There was always the danger that these practices would return to South Africa once the ANC became the majoritarian ruling party, over-riding its democratic heritage.

Serious challenges to fundamental democratic elements in the Constitution, among the them the freedom of the media and the independence of the judiciary, now make this danger more acute than ever.

Nothing in post-liberation experience, however, has been closer to the totalitarian model to which the ANC looked in exile, through its client relation with the Soviet Union, than the violent assault by ANC local political structures on Abahlali baseMjondolo at Kennedy Road in Durban/eThekwini in September 2009, followed by the arrest of those who had been attacked and free license given to the attackers, followed in turn by the scandal of a trial of the innocent lasting longer than any in the history of apartheid bar the Treason Trial of 1956-61, when, as with the Kennedy 12, all the defendants - Nelson Mandela among them - were found not guilty.

The scandal is that this political prosecution was ever instituted in the first place, and that it was dragged on, month after month, by magistrates, prosecution and police without a shred of reliable evidence - with plentiful evidence, rather, of manipulation and intimidation of witnesses by the police and local ANC structures.

This was a Quatro trial, following a Quatro assault on South African democracy. The innocent were persecuted, and the guilty were - and remain - untouched.

Alongside magnificent support for the victims from the very first day of their ordeal provided by the Diakonia Council of Churches, and in particular by Bishop Rubin Phillip, as well as by fellow poor people's organisations across the country and across the world, a further scandal though was the abysmal level of attention provided to this political prosecution by the media in South Africa. Generally, the media failed in its responsbility - a worrying signal, and a serious fall beneath the best examples of media integrity in the apartheid period.

This trial was a warning that the country is in danger, that the defence of AbM was a defence of democracy, and that defence of democracy in South Africa requires a defence of AbM.

All strength to AbM today - especially AbM at Kennedy Road - for its place at the front of the struggles of the whole of the last century.

There are further hard times ahead.

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 responses to this article

Anti-Boilerplate Movement launched

Now that the murderous fanatical cult scam called AbM is no more, the other ABM - the Anti-Boilerplate Movement - is coming out of the closet!

Viva ABM, Viva!

Warmed-over BS down, down!

by Domza on August 26 2011, 15:34
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Domza Rides Again
Remember, Domsa, you have incurred an obligation to precede any and all your posts with a solemn assurance that you have ACTUALLY READ the article upon which you are commenting, and that you THINK (at least) you UNDERSTAND the subject matter, and GRASP . .more

by Questor on August 26 2011, 15:47
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I am officially done with the ANC
They no longer care about the poor and only wish to line their own pockets and find any way they can to keep that the case until Jesus returns.

by Kom net met Dromadaris on August 26 2011, 16:31
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Democracy farse
The ANC never fought for freedom and democracy in RSA. They fought to take over the government of RSA and stay in power for ever.
They are no different from any other African "Liberation" movement.
Power or nothing !

Forward to Afrikaner . .more

by chris on August 26 2011, 18:23
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Domza's Stalinist, party, the SACP, is deeply implicated in the attack on AbM
It was Willies Mchunu, SACP central committee member, that called the attack the 'liberation' of the settlement, organised the ANC take over, announced that AbM was summarily 'disbanded' and then set up the task team that organised the failed frame-up of . .more

by let's keep it real domza on August 26 2011, 18:28
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....it all sounds sooo familiar & trhe base guerilla liberation movement m.o. is clear in both nations. Militarism is very UNdemocratic - so when soldiers/guerillas become governments; little wonder they behave & act how they have been so . .more

by John Austin on August 26 2011, 18:51
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@Paul Trewhela
...i hate to enlighten you, but sa stopped its journey into democarcy with the advent of the arms deal.....yip, even on mandela's watch...and know it is a criminal state through and through...

by onlooker on August 26 2011, 18:56
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Sign of the times
It is indeed a sad turn of events and more so by the way the media reflect on society. Sensationalism seems to trump real newsworthy stories now and the reason may also lie in the threat to the existence of print media.

by Howard Klaaste on August 26 2011, 20:07
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@let's keep it real domza
Thank you for reminding us of the context of the Kennedy Road scandal. I was puzzled as to why Domza was reacting the way he did, and you've explained it. Let's hope the Zulu hierarchy keep their Murambatsvinas and Gukurahundis confined to KZN.

by Mute Fool on August 26 2011, 22:19
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....join the dots, viz:

TRIPOLI - "...KILL the RATS and enemy agents", by the Colonel Leader;

GAUTENG - "...BLOODY tjatjarag agent, do you know who I am", by the L/Cpl Junior Leader;

HARARE - "...Operation . .more

by John Austin on August 27 2011, 11:27
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Domza (Dominic Tweedie) sends a cold chill down my spine
We tend to throw political labels around rather casually in South Africa but Dominic Tweedie is a genuine Stalinist. The fact that the SACP has put him in charge of their youth education is clear enough indication that the SACP is Stalinist to the core. . .more

by democracy looks fragile... on August 27 2011, 12:48
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Regime change and other fears...
The ANC was/is a successful practitioner of "justified" regime change [against the hated apartheid government of the now defunct National Party - for the edification of those whose interests lie elsewhere] and I'm starting to get the idea that the . .more

by James Mashele on August 27 2011, 14:01
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What was said about the ANC then....

Paul, have you ever read these words again since 1994?

"Their actions speak louder than their words. Their words offer ready panaceas such as one-man-one-vote, freedom and justice for all. Their actions leave no doubt that the freedoms that . .more

by JVR on August 27 2011, 16:52
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....picking up from your above thread; I often hear folk bemoaning "so when did MUGABE and ZANU change ? 1990 ? 2000 ? more recently ?"

The answer much simpler - He hasn't, they haven't.

The policy & deeds that MUGABE & ZANU . .more

by John Austin on August 27 2011, 17:55
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"Forward to Afrikaner Self determination" - dream on brother! That ain't gonna happen. The Afrikaner is the goose that lays the golden tax eggs.

by Jannie on August 28 2011, 14:58
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I wanted to react to your comment regarding Afrikaner self determination and then Jannie said that "the Afrikaner is the goose that lays the golden tax eggs. Jannie is correct.

I am 30 years old and i can tell you that Afrikaner in their 20s . .more

by Republican on August 28 2011, 18:07
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There are however some organisation that do good

by Republican on August 28 2011, 18:09
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by IN HIND SIGHT on August 29 2011, 12:30
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Dear Paul Trewhela
Congratulations! You have converted "Kom net met Dromadaris ". If you can do the same to "Mute Fool" et al we may be able to put black racism behind us, and get rid of the ANC mafia which is happy with a National Commissioner of Police who has been . .more

by Siegfried Hannig on August 29 2011, 16:02
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I meant the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, not the Menzi Simelane who ousted his honest predecessor,Vusi Pikoli, to put ANC cadres like Fana Hlongwane and Jacob Zuma above the law..

by Siegfried Hannig on August 29 2011, 16:10
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