SAM MKOKELI: Behind the ANC's smokescreen ahead of elections
So, the ANC's integrity commission has identified two dozen people from the party's parliamentary list as being unfit to represent the party as MPs.
It has been reported that some of the party's bigwigs, including David Mabuza and Gwede Mantashe, deputy president and chairman respectively, are on the flagged list. Let's call it the rouges' gallery.
The list also includes ANC head of Presidency Zizi Kodwa, Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini, Zweli Mkhize. This is a significant chunk of the 86-member national executive committee (NEC) - the party's most senior decision-making body.
The fact that the ANC's commission has put together this list has created the false impression that the party can at this stage remove people from the list already submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission. The ANC and its commission do not have the authority to rearrange the list at this point. They can only rely on the conscience of their deployees: a very scarce commodity in politics. That means the party can ask its members to pull out. What are the chances?
Therefore, the ANC integrity commission report may be of no use in real terms. The commission was roped in after the list-crafting process, probably as a way to quell rising public criticism of the party line-up for Parliament. Bringing in the commission serves as a classic ruse, to create the impression that something is being done. Or simply, that it is possible to remove questionable leaders from the list.
It is not the first time for the ANC to create a smokescreen before an election.
In 2011 the party invited the public to vet potential councillors as it prepared for the local elections held that year. Many communities took up the opportunity to contribute to the party's internal processes by backing or rejecting potential councillors.
But generally, what could have been a positive step in the evolution of internal party democracy, the whole process backfired. That is because the party's gatekeepers managed to pack various lists with people who had been rejected by several communities during the public participation process. The ANC being the ANC, it pleaded with the public to vote for the lists, rouges and all, and complain to the party after the elections. It then put together a team after the poll, led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to investigate complaints about those lists. The outcome of the probe was a gory report on the dearth of democracy in the party, with many incidents where unsavoury characters subverted processes to aid deep factional games.
But that probe was just an academic exercise as nothing was ever done about the Dlamini-Zuma report. The report, like many before it, gathered dust.
With regards to the recent integrity commission process, there's still a way to salvage its report after the elections. The NEC would need to give the commission real teeth by fortifying the terms of reference with regards to the list. For example, instead of asking it to identify the rouges, it should assign the commission to purge the MPs. It can also put them through disciplinary processes under the national disciplinary committee.
Seemingly, there is no will to do any of these things. And the current situation - the absence of a political spine among the ANC's top brass - will not suddenly change after an election. There are many events in the not-so-distant future, including the mid-term national general council next year. Those events make it difficult for an ANC president to ruffle the feathers too much.
Sam Mkokeli is a journalist and freelance contributor for Eyewitness News.