Some simple rules for understanding the ANC

Ernst van Zyl says there is no reason for anyone to be perplexed at the ruling party's actions

Occasionally one still encounters those who proclaim their perplexity at the ANC’s policy proposals. They simply cannot make head or tail of why the ANC would so boldly pursue policies which seem to go against basic economic principles, common sense and reality.

I discovered a simple rule of thumb that will assist anyone who tries to make sense of what really directs and motivates ANC decision making. First, you need to understand what drives the ANC: an insatiable appetite for increasingly centralised government power.

Whenever you are challenged with evaluating ANC policy proposals, looking for the method in their madness, you should ask one simple question: Does this policy increase or decrease the power and control of the government?

You will soon realise that virtually every ANC policy will exhibit the vital characteristic of centralising more power and control in the hands of the government – anything different would be a betrayal of their fundamental National Democratic Revolution (NDR) gospel.

Albert Camus succinctly noted: “The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”

It then comes as no surprise when ANC comrades and their lap dogs lose their composure when their ruse is exposed. When AfriForum and Solidarity for example recently challenged the government’s racist and discriminatory Tourism Fund, the ANC hyperbolically likened it to a “declaration of war”.

The ANC has shrewdly honed its skills in cloaking its power ploys under the moral mask of “uplifting the poor” and “righting the wrongs of the past.” Their determined and occasionally even desperate pursuit of expropriation without compensation, establishing an unaffordable National Health Insurance (NHI), defending their right to have a monopoly on COVID-19 vaccine procurement, and their insistence on keeping privatisation far away from insolvent state-owned enterprises like ESKOM and SAA, are all testaments to this fact.

In recent years a substantial amount of analytical attention has been given to factionalism within the ANC. The internal battles within the party have been framed as a titanic struggle between the “extreme” Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction and the “moderate” New Dawn Ramaphosa faction.

However, if one looks closely through the smoke and mirrors of ANC policy, these two factions agree on a lot more than what they differ on. The key commonality which they share is their dedication to the aforementioned power-based axiom: they are joined at the waist with their shared mission of accumulating more and more power for the government as their end goal.

Where each faction follows their own head, however, is in the means of achieving this goal. The RET faction appears to prefer smash and grab tactics, while the New Dawners favour an insidious pickpocket operation.

One needs to look no further than the so-called “good cadre” Tito Mboweni, who has been hailed as a voice of reason and prudence within the alliance, to see this point in its essence. This current Minister of Finance has let this mask slip on too many occasions.

Mboweni’s proclaimed dedication to establishing a state bank, getting pally with his “homeboy” Julius Malema, throwing more billions down the bottomless SAA pit, preferring a policy path of debt-fuelled public spending, and his recent scapegoating, villainising and stereotyping of the white minority when under pressure, prove that he is simply acting the “good cop” in the ANC’s good cop/bad cop routine. One must always keep in mind that both cops in this scenario work for the same corrupt police station.

As long as the ANC remains dedicated to its philosophy of unyielding state expansion, as encapsulated in the NDR, it does not matter in the end which faction reigns victorious or how many cabinet reshuffles the President undertakes.

These are mere distractions and will remain as futile as reshuffling a pack of cards containing only Jokers. By rooting for the “lesser of two evils” ANC faction, you are merely postponing the inevitable, hoping not to be eaten by the crocodile … at least not for now.

The solution to our predicament is not to elect a different gang of power centralisers to rule over us, but rather to make ourselves better equipped to resist the mugging tactics of the ANC government when it comes to our freedoms, by becoming power accumulators ourselves. If the only language the ANC understands is power, it is imperative for our ability to push back that we become fluent in it.

The power to effectively stand up against the threatening tyranny of the government must be concentrated in civil society, non-governmental organisations and communities. Rather than fruitlessly vying to gain control over the ever-growing state leviathan, we should start building and strengthening our non-state counterweights. When you are hunted down and cornered by a hungry predator, it is much more sensible to pick up a big stick than to reason with the beast not to eat you.

Ernst van Zyl is a Campaign Officer at AfriForum for Strategy and Content. He co-presents the Podlitiek podcast, hosts the Afrikaans “In alle Ernst” podcast, and hosts a political commentary and interview channel on YouTube. Ernst usually posts on Twitter and YouTube under his pseudonym Conscious Caracal (follow him at