How to lose your moral suasion

2012-10-06 09:44

For one hundred years now, the ANC has leveraged off a form of capital: moral suasion.

From its formation in a tiny Free State church, it was built on the idea of justice and being on the side of light.

Its leaders mustered the forces of right against the might of colonial and apartheid forces.

The movement, and later the party, has always fought for justice and has been ahead of its time as a shaping force of what a new society might look like across times.

It was the ANC that most successfully organised across the boundaries that humans can construct as moats – be they along ethnic, tribal or racial lines.

It has been a party ahead of its time and often ahead of history.

We need to look no further than our Constitution, which the party helped shape by acting as the lead intellectual force during its drafting process.

Even when the ANC eschewed peaceful resistance for the armed struggle, its rationale was always shaped by democratic and just opinion.

It leveraged off moral capital by persuading and attracting into its ranks people from across society and from across the globe drawn to its lofty vision.

But look at the party now. Its defence of “Nkandlagate”, the splurge of R200 million on an upgrade to the presidential manor, is its final loss of moral authority.

It is yet another bookmark in the tome of how the party succumbed to life lived large and blamed it on the Ministerial Handbook.

And defending the splurge has come with an arguably higher price tag. In a country with one of the highest rates of inequality and devastating poverty, the spending is unjustifiable.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi’s allegation on Friday that the same spending has been made for all previous presidents is simply not true.

By casting a dragnet over information and using old apartheid laws like the Protection of Information Act and the National Key Points Act to do so, the party has accelerated its loss of moral standing.

The Marikana massacre and the events that followed also reveal an ANC that is no longer interested in grassroots development. Instead, other forces in society, such as churches and civil society organisations, had to step in to provide moral impetus to end the crisis.

And the ANC government is fumbling to get a handle on both protests and wildcat strikes, revealing again how it has lost its edge to serve society from the bottom up.

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