SELLO LEDIGA: A tale of two ANCs
Civil war has broken out inside the party and the organisation is already split
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair
- Charles Dickens
After a quarter of a century in power, the African National Congress (ANC), like most liberation movements in Africa, is on a death spiral. The best of times when Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as the first democratically elected president of South Africa, while the worst of times were the ruling by the Constitutional court 22 years later that President Jacob Zuma had violated his oath of office; the age of wisdom of Oliver Tambo that culminated in democratic elections was replaced by the foolishness of the ANC in electing Jacob Zuma president; the dawn of democracy was a spring of hope, while the mass looting of state resources represents the winter of despair. Today, 25 years since the ANC came to power, South Africa is broken, unstable and broke.
Oliver Tambo's glorious movement that launched a heroic struggle against apartheid, stands today as the greatest threat to the people of South Africa. The factional battles that began after Mandela's presidency have destroyed the party of liberation. Money, the root of all evil, has conquered the current leaders of the organisation. Under the ruinous presidency of Zuma, the state has succumbed to corruption and looting on an industrial scale as the IMF beckons to rescue a collapsed economy.
The ANC is so factionalised, some of its top leaders are working with the opposition and some criminal syndicates to oust the only person who can save the embattled country, Cyril Ramaphosa. It is such a self-devouring free-for-all political jamboree that external forces are joining the factions fighting for the soul if the ANC. Yes, it is a tale of two ANCs, one struggling to free the party from the clutches of corruption, rent-seeking and capture, while the other is in a frantic fightback to stay out of jail. Something is gonna give. Very soon.
To refresh your memory about the Reserve Bank episode, it took President Cyril Ramaphosa four days to calm the markets after his party secretary general had done the damage with his “quantity easing" pronouncement. Prior to that, the Finance Minister and ANC Economic Transformation head had publicly contradicted the SG of the ruling party. In obvious exasperation, the Governor of the Reserve Bank charged that the “barbarians are at the gate” of the central bank.
That was the week when the factional battles inside the ruling party spilled into the national economy, causing serious damage immediately. How is it possible that comrades who attended the same meeting can differ so fundamentally about the content of the resolution adopted?
If you hadn’t realised it by now, civil war has broken out in the ruling African National Congress. The ghosts of Nasrec continue to haunt the former glorious movement of Oliver Tambo. The remnants of the Zuma patronage network that Joel Netshitenzhe characterised as the “beneficiaries of corruption and state capture” fired the first salvos after the 2019 general election in which the citizens of South Africa and Parliament have confirmed Ramaphosa as president of South Africa and commander in chief of the armed forces.
According to Ace Magashule and company, the powers bestowed upon the president constitutionally belong not to Ramaphosa the president, but the ruling party that the president belongs to. Every time Ramaphosa takes a decision in running the country, he has to remember that Luthuli House is the strategic centre to which he reports. In a nutshell, Ramaphosa must always run back to Magashule at Luthuli House to get his ideological orders on a regular basis. That he is the president of all the people of South Africa counts for nothing.
With the implementation of the Nasrec resolutions as his key performance indicators, Ramaphosa is constantly reminded by Magashule overtly and covertly that failure to implement the Nasrec resolutions will lead to a fate worse than that which befell Thabo Mbeki and Zuma. The narrative is that no matter how imperfect the resolutions are, and how detrimental they may be to the economy, their implementation is non-negotiable.
To sober you up, remember that the resolutions in question were adopted by 2% of the ANC membership in a highly contested conference whose membership is less than a million. These resolutions are mechanically imposed on 58 million South Africans. This is the essence of democracy in a country with the best constitution in the world. The ANC constitution is more important than the Republic of South Africa.
Recent developments in the ANC and the country are worrisome. Magashule appears to be leading a total onslaught against his president. Not only has he asked his supporters not to sing songs in praise of Ramaphosa, he has contradicted the party elections chief Fikile Mbalula that without the Ramaphosa effect, the ruling party would have lost the 2019 elections.
This public expression of hatred between comrades has blown to smithereens any myth of unity in the embattled party. It is uncertain whether Ramaphosa himself believes in unity when he is confronted by such hostility in the party. Let us not be naive about it, civil war inside the ANC will impact negatively on the stability of South Africa as the Reserve Bank episode has demonstrated.
With its almost total domination of South African society since Mandela took the oath of office in May 1994, crisis in the ANC translates into instability for South Africa. See how a reckless and uneducated pronouncement by the ANC SG has frightened the markets and hammered the rand. It is therefore in the best interests of the country that the Magashule faction is decisively defeated so as to free President Ramaphosa to lead South Africa to a better future for all South Africans, irrespective of political affiliation, race or religion.
It is noteworthy that for the first time in a long time, the factional battles in the ANC are turning ideological. The faction that was dominant during the presidency of Zuma has been championing their own brand of radical economic transformation (RET) and their guns trained on white monopoly capital, courtesy of Bell Pottinger.
Led by Ramaphosa, the other faction is painfully aware how cold it is to try an existence outside the dominant global economic system. Ramaphosa and his allies know that any attempt to antagonise the global hegemony of the dominant economic order will turn South Africa into a Zimbabwe or Venezuela, with dire consequences for all South Africans, including champions of RET. From central Johannesburg, RET forces hope to inspire ANC branches all over the country to reject Ramaphosa's neo-liberalism and embrace EFF-type of radicalism that will definitely widen the gap between the two factions in the ruling party.
Indeed, signs of co-operation between the EFF, the Public Protector and the Magashule faction in the ANC are emerging. They are united on RET, expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and protection of the current embattled PP. The Magashule faction of the ANC is already looking for allies outside the Alliance as it confronts its adversaries inside the party.
President Ramaphosa is on the ropes for his indiscretions in the Bosasa scandal. His internal enemies have tasted blood. This does not augur well for the ruling party and South Africa. In my view, the two factions are finding it increasingly difficult to co-exist in the same party. The broad church is facing its greatest challenge since 1912. Next year the party holds its mid-term national general council and I can see blood on the floor.
South Africans need to understand that Ramaphosa represents the last generation of distinguished leaders the ANC has produced and his fall means the entire nation will be ruled by a new and self-serving mediocre leadership inspired by power and money. Fasten your seat belts. Something is gonna give. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Sello Lediga is a social commentator, author and CEO of the Patriotic Movement, a civil society organisation that promotes patriotism in South Africa.