Who broke the ANC?

2014-11-02 15:00

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Imagine it is June 2024. The ANC has narrowly won the latest election – its victory was cast at just more than 52% of the vote on the lowest voter turnout in 30 years of democracy.

At Luthuli House, country and party President Cyril Ramaphosa presides over a meeting where the mood is dark and brooding. National executive committee members snipe at each other. Fingers of blame are pointed. Factions group. Splits loom.

An ascendant opposition – ­crafted from the former DA, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the United Front (formed from metal workers’ union Numsa) – has triumphed at 44.6% of the vote.

The elephant is not in the room. Former president Jacob Zuma is comfortable at his home in Nkandla – for which he ended up paying not a cent.

Reports say he is doing well and often has old Russian oligarchs and Indian entrepreneurs around for weekends of merriment. He married three more times.

There is common cause in the ANC now that ­Zuma’s 10-year administration marked the lowest point in the ANC’s history.

The room looks expectantly at Gwede Mantashe. He gruffly tells the assembled comrades the ANC is bigger than ever before at 3?million members, up from 1.3?million 10 years ago.

But he is shouted down, the ­popular view being that he made the ANC smaller than it has ever been in its 120-year existence.

Under Mantashe, the party was allowed to run the state, but his inability to deploy effectively or to know when to stop harmed the country.

His crude ideological stance on the economy and on power harmed the ANC.

Former chairperson Baleka Mbete sits tight-lipped as the NEC turns its guns on her. She now serves as mayor of Matsulu, a tiny district in Mpumalanga, and a political exile for the woman who wanted to be president.

The ANC believes she, too, harmed the party by allowing a smoke screen to be drawn across the Nkandla scandal, the beginning of the end for the party’s electoral fortunes.

She misused her two hats, says David Makhura, until recently Gauteng’s premier and now likely to be appointed to Ramaphosa’s presidency.

Mbete was Speaker of Parliament and party chairperson when the ANC went through one of the most shameful epochs in its proud history.

ANC chief whip at the time, Stone Sizani, had joined the opposition and is named as among those who signalled the ANC’s decline by his egotistical actions.

Nkandla, a declining public fiscus and the displacement of technical skills by deployed cadres hollowed out the state. By 2018, fiscal space was throttled and the ability of the state to pay 18 million grants was gone.

Protests followed. The radical opposition filled the gap.

There is a case before the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) about vote-tampering. The opposition believes it won.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, now retired to his KwaZulu-Natal farm, had warned repeatedly that the state was getting too big to last. His pleas fell on deaf ears from his early warnings in 2014.

Parliamentary Speaker Cedric Frolick turns on Mantashe, too – this political chameleon who quickly aligned to the ascendant Ramaphosa faction and was speaking its language of renewal and rectitude.

In 2014, he had been the chair of an ad hoc parliamentary committee which killed any action against overspending at the president’s home in Nkandla.

Soon, Ramaphosa calls a time-out as the meeting is getting nowhere. He feels like going buffalo farming, but his game have been killed by poachers and his mining interests have turned to dust as the industry has declined to almost nothing.

But he feels compelled to try to clean up the mess his comrades made in 2014.

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