A wake-up call for South Africa’s ruling ANC

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), seems to have lost its ground as champion of the poor majority. The movement, as it is known among its members, enshrined national participation in and ownership of land and economy by all living in the country, more particularly by the poor majority, in its Freedom Charter.

The historic torchbearers of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Duma Nokwe, Albert Luthuli, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Anton Lembede and Chris Hani defended the defenceless and thus, kept the hopes of the poor masses high.

History reflects that the ANC took pride in its tried and tested leadership. In fact, the international community on both sides, the West and the East respected its leaders then. Great pride was also taken in the broad-based support from a wide range of South Africa’s society at large. Those included civic organisations and NGOs. 

By 1994, however, the ANC was totally disarmed, negotiated and manipulated to become an organisation of patronage. The Freedom Charter was dropped and replaced by, among others, the secret Sunset Clauses. To date, those clauses protect the senior politicians, their ministers, their generals, their strategic key personnel of the former colonial-apartheid regime and their sponsors, including those of the Bantustans and those based in Namibia.

Negotiations with the criminal colonial-apartheid powers and their imperialist Western backers ensured that the movement had to accommodate the former Bantustan administrations as well as the racist regime’s national overt and covert structures.

Stratcom agents, murderers, spooks, money launderers, downright criminals, the likes of the Selous Scouts from former Rhodesia, Koevoet and 32 Battalion from former Southwest Africa, hit squads of the former Military Intelligence’s Civil Co-operation Bureaux (CCB) trained in Argentine and Israel in urban warfare, assassination and sabotage, as well as a host of organised crime syndicates, were infiltrated into the ANC and its alliance partner, COSATU. Today, most of them are card-carrying members of the ANC. A frightening scenario indeed. 

This would explain the continuous low-key sabotage of many government and parastatal services, tender rigging, bribery and corruption, steadily undermining the ruling party, badly affecting the poor majority.

The above-mentioned has set a trend.

Instead of employing and deploying known real cadres, new, unknown, corrupt, untested and untried people build their career in the ANC-led government and the party. This abuse of deployment causes a degeneration and eventual decay of the broad church of the ANC. It is this recent development that centres on control, working towards the exclusion of incorrupt, tried and tested cadres of the ANC.

Meanwhile, the national debate and the dialogue with the masses were stifled. Corrupt and compromised praise-singers were allowed to move into senior positions of the movement.

It is, therefore, small wonder that an ANC elite is criticised on the ground for participating in right-wing actions. Such developments became even clearer when certain technocrats within the ANC elite adopted imperialist neo-liberal policies through Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR).

GEAR kicked off the downward spiral. It was never debated, nor dialogued. From then, technocrats took over and decided without any consensus, or debate.

To this day the same tactics that imposed GEAR are implemented. Most of the ANC members and followers left for exile because of unjust and discriminatory laws, structures that worked for a discriminating, minority dictatorship.  

A senior member of the ANC NEC and NWC pointed out, “Most of the real ANC members are kept uninformed and in the dark. The question often raised is, who is leading whom?”

“The last straw that would break the camel’s back is the insensitivity towards the poor and unemployed majority by not dealing with the issues of numerous inequalities. Examples are a continuation of resembling the ‘grand apartheid structures’,” explained the respected elder cadre, still serving the ANC. He told this columnist, “The ANC fails to dialogue with its communities across the board. The movement has forgotten to take the national debate forward and continues to show rightwing anti-poor actions such as the upcoming e-tolls. The ANC knows, big business will absorb those new expenses and pass them on to the poor masses. This will leave them to deal with a massive increase of basic living expenses and eventual starvation.”

Those misguided decisions entrap the ruling party and create a vacuum for new, small and opportunistic political groups such as Agang SA, COPE, EFF, AMCU and new political alliances to be formed after the forthcoming elections in 2014 up to 2019. This, however, creates confusion among the broad majority. Not to be informed is dangerous in these globally uncertain times.

Many respected ANC stalwarts, also long-serving members of the African National Congress in exile, unanimously agree, “For the ANC to get out of those traps which it had been manoeuvred into in 1994, it would have to abolish the ‘proportional representation system’ and replace it with a ‘constituent assembly system’, based on ‘one person, one vote’. It is most important that communities will be able to elect their representatives into parliament. This is the system the ANC had fought for.”

The above-mentioned senior cadres further expressed their concern about the leaders’ fear of moving back into their own, former system. However, they have indeed no choice any longer and will have to move fast, even if at the expense of all small political groups.

The broad majority of the population has to participate directly in re-shaping its democracy and in that context, re-build their lives. The ‘party-boss system’ has proved to be useless and redundant. It is the tried and tested basic existence of the ANC of working with and for the masses of the country. A very dangerous development is to keep the masses uninformed and therefore, marginalised. This makes the general population vulnerable to right-wing propaganda, which works hard at misleading and destabilising the country.

The more the ANC retreats into a defence mode, the more vulnerable it becomes. Its enemies will abuse every opportunity to penetrate and destroy the movement. It is historical fact that the original principals of the African National Congress brought the huge following of the masses with them.

“A ‘party boss’ style would kill the ANC, as the mood of the people would be ignored. The elite would rule in isolation. It denies the people the freedom they actually own,” senior ANC NEC and NWC members warned. The masses will follow the ANC again, once they are included in the national debate and can participate in the voting for a ‘constituent assembly’ on a ‘one person, one vote system’. 

In fact, ‘proportional representation’ has created gatekeepers in the ANC as was demonstrated in the Limpopo Province. The ANC’s policy to grow new cadres cannot work for as long as it is exposed to ‘proportional representation’. It certainly stifles broad debate. It also makes people to become position and resource focused, the base for corruption.

This analytical observation and research serves as a concerned and hopefully, responsible article, trying to avoid a vacuum for the rightwing to become the ‘white knights in shining armour’, propagating to ‘come to the rescue of the poor masses’, but in reality bringing imperialist separatism through the backdoor. The structures of ‘grand apartheid’ in a different frock would certainly return.

• Udo W Froese is a non-institutionalised, independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Twitter Handle: @theotherafrika

Visit my Blog: theotherafrika.wordpress.com

March 2014
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