ANC 'trying to hijack the state'

2008-03-11 00:00

John Kane-Berman made a perceptive observation recently that as a result of the Polokwane Conference, the African National Congress as a political party is in effect attempting to elevate itself above the state and the government, which is thereby rendered subservient to the dictates of this party.

This idea of the dominance of a political party over the state is classical Marxist-Leninist theory on which the erstwhile Soviet Union and its Eastern block allies, respectively, operated after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and during the period of the Cold War.

This was clearly spelt out by the new secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, who reported at a meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) in January that it "confirmed the principle that the ANC is the strategic political centre that directs and guides its deployees in various centres".

These cadre deployees have in the past, inter alia, involved all its members of Parliament. The true significance of Polokwane is that now the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, who is no longer the president of the ANC, is deemed to be a mere deployed cadre of the ANC and is obliged to do the bidding of the NEC. This also applies to members of his Cabinet and deputy ministers. If this is indeed the position, then as far as realpolitik is concerned, there has been a seismic shift of political power from the president and his cabinet, designated as the executive authority in South Africa, to the NEC, headed by the president of the ANC.

The ANC in the post-Polokwane era desires to in effect rule and govern South Africa through the NEC, which is comprised of 87 party-elected members. This corresponds to a politburo in Marxist-Leninist terminology. These members of the NEC were elected exclusively by the signed-up membership of the ANC, which is about 650 000 people. This is in manifest conflict with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, which in Section 2 proclaims its supremacy and declares further that "law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid, and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled".

Section 85 of the Constitution vests executive authority in the president, who must exercise this authority with other members of the Cabinet. Section 92 declares that the president, deputy president and ministers are accountable "collectively and individually to Parliament". By declaring the NEC as the only centre of power and as the highest decision maker in the land, the ANC is attempting to usurp the authority of a democratically elected Parliament and its executive president. This is a grave assault on the Constitution and multi-party democracy, enshrined in it as set out in Section 1 of the Constitution. The Constitution will thereby be rendered ineffective and de facto power will be concentrated in the NEC, which will operate like a Marxist-Leninist politburo.

The doctrine of separation of powers, the system of checks and balances and political accountability are central to the theory and practice of constitutionalism, on which our Constitution is premised. These are clearly under sustained attack by the ANC and its post-Polokwane leadership, which is impatient with any kind of constitutional constraint on it and wishes to marshal untrammelled power in itself. It is also clearly reflected in its uncalled for and unsubstantiated criticism of both the judiciary and the media.

A clear political pattern is emerging in that institutions and bodies that pose any kind of formidable obstacle to the exercise of unbridled power in the body politic of South Africa are attacked and undermined by politicians in the ANC.

South Africans, having achieved and created a democratic system of government at a sublimely great cost, need to protect robustly this system of government.

* Professor George Devenish is a Democratic Alliance councillor with the Ethekweni Municipality. He writes in his personal capacity.

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