Trying to keep an eye on the ANC and its partners from here in Europe continues to be a fascinating, if unsettling process.
This week there was the eulogy by minister Blade Nzimande, leader of the SA Communist Party (SACP), of the late Joe Slovo, and his outspoken praise of non-racialism. At the end of last year there were a series of quarrels between the SACP Youth League and the leader of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema.
It all concerned the position the SACP assumed in the power politics of the ANC alliance, as well as the ideology of the alliance, particularly as it related to the relationship between white and black.
In the past decade or three before the legalisation of the ANC and SACP in 1990, the leadership of the former increasingly was taken over by leaders of the latter.
Also, the vanguard of the alliance was very similar to that of the old National Party, NG (Dutch Reformed) Church and Broederbond - although formally they were separate organisations, the leadership of one not being distinguishable from the leadership of the other.
So ideologically there was almost no difference any longer between the ANC and the SACP. In this situation, the communists exercised both a radical and a moderating influence. On the one hand, concerning its foreign policy, the alliance without more ado attached itself to the Kremlin's leash and also virtually took over totally the Marxist-Leninist political and economic ideology; on the other hand, the communists with their emphasis on non-racialism prevented the alliance being taken over by anti-white racism.
The events of 1989-1991 - the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and of communism as a global power factor - changed everything. It pulled the communist rug fiercely from the under the feet of the ANC/SACP.
Then when the alliance leaders began to return to South Africa in the course of 1990, their ideal of a two-phase revolution - first the ANC as a civil organisation controlling the government, then the SACP solely taking over domination - was in tatters. Thus many SACP leaders, like the later president, Thabo Mbeki, let their membership lapse. The grip the SACP had on the ANC was broken. From a democratic-capitalist view, this was positive.
But was it? Every coin has its obverse.
In that development, in the course of Mbeki's two terms, this at once became clear. When the SACP's ideological leadership regarding Marxism-Leninism disappeared, the same thing happened to its non-racial approach.
Today, it is known how Mbeki's African-nationalist approach, consciously or unconsciously, awakened black racism in the ANC. His ideologically driven refusal to act against the corrupt and power-obsessed Zimbabwean regime, or to acknowledge the realities of HIV/Aids, his rigid attitude towards corrective action - all this gave a green light that black racism had become acceptable.
President Jacob Zuma was not primarily responsible for this; he was saddled with Mbeki's legacy. But the vacuum left by his failure of leadership is occupied now by someone such as Julius Malema, whose popularity rests at least partly on his tirades against non-blacks.
The ANC is no longer a communist organisation. But simply it is also neither the non-racial party as in the past.
This article is no praise-song for the SACP or for minister Blade Nzimande. If the SACP succeeds in overcoming the government's economic policy, it will be a disaster. Besides, as minister of higher education, he is also an outspoken enemy of Afrikaans.
All this means that people who support a free market - hopefully one with a social conscience - together with those who support a liberal multiparty democracy and a non-racial approach will, in future years, have to build ramparts as never before. Defences will have to be built against all the tendencies in the ANC-alliance (socialist as well as racist tendencies), but also against the novices in their own circle who do not see the danger signs flickering for Afrikaans (Stellenbosch!).
South Africa is not irrevocably lost. All will be well, but then everyone must do his duty.
Dr. Leopold Scholtz is Media 24's representative in Europe. This is a translation of an article which first appeared in Afikaans in Beeld newspaper.
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