Max du Preez

Would the ANC hand over power?

2015-09-15 07:38

Max du Preez

Let’s be clear what it would mean if the answer was no, they probably won’t. Refusing to accept the results of a free and fair election constitutes a coup d’état: tearing up the constitution, disbanding Parliament and provincial legislatures, closing down the judicial system, the takeover by party functionaries of the police and army, and, inevitably, detaining thousands of people without trial.

A coup would immediately isolate South Africa from the rest of Africa and the world. It will most definitely bring about a catastrophic collapse of the economy, sharply increased poverty and hunger and serious instability, if not outright civil war.

Do you still think the people whose faces you know in the Cabinet and Luthuli House would contemplate something like this? Or that the millions of ordinary South Africans that support the ANC would tolerate this?

The earliest something like this could happen, is 2024 - as things stand, there doesn’t seem to be much chance that the ANC could lose the 2019 general election.

The ANC and the entire political scene in South Africa will change substantially in the nine years until then.

The era of coalition politics will start after next year’s local elections. A realignment of political forces is hugely overdue.

Capable of a coup?

An ANC electoral defeat will not come like a blot from the blue. The party will know after the 2019 election whether there was a chance of a defeat five years later. Surely that would wake up the party leaders and get them to devise new strategies.

The question whether the ANC is capable of a coup is related to the views of President Jacob Zuma and his inner circle’s management style, abuse of power, creeping authoritarianism and clear disdain for the Constitution. Nobody asked this question when Thabo Mbeki or Kgalema Motlanthe were president.

It is true that Zuma has ensconced himself and surrounded himself with loyalists to a degree that makes him appear untouchable.

It is true that Zuma can dish out gifts and favours to buy people’s loyalty and that he probably has dossiers with dirt on many of those not so loyal to him. He has also been very successful in playing the ethnic Zulu card.

But if, as is expected, the ANC were to lose the local elections in the major metros of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth, if the DA could push their share of the vote to over 30% and the EFF to over 10%, many comrades’ loyalty to Zuma would fade quickly.

People close to Zuma say he wants to be re-elected ANC president at the 2017 elective conference and stay on as president, even after 2019. The man Zuma had put in place as new ANC Youth League President Collin Maine said this week that his organisation would support such plans.

This is not entirely impossible, but I would say highly improbable.

Sure, Zuma was successful in getting his sycophants to head up the Youth League and the Woman’s League, but this does not mean all members of these organisations would blindly support him.

People like to state that Zuma “got away with Nkandla”. He didn’t.

SA an open society

This scandal has plagued him for nine years now and the biggest drama is still ahead. That is the power of public opinion in our society. And the fact that the ANC’s members in parliament loudly defend him on this score, doesn’t mean they really believe in what they’re doing.

Zuma is one of the most important reasons why the ANC has split three times since he became president of the party: Cope, the EFF and the Numsa group of Zwelenzima Vavi and Irvin Jim. The ANC doesn’t want any further breakaways.

It does look as if Zuma is modelling himself on Vladimir Putin and Robert Mugabe, but South Africa isn’t Russia or Zimbabwe.

South Africa is an open society. Its citizens appreciate their freedoms and are aware of the power they have.

So, we should stop worrying about the likelihood or not of an ANC coup some time in the future.

We should rather worry about - and do something about - the independence of our judiciary and the freedom and independence of our media.

We should channel our energy towards fighting corruption and nepotism and towards our battle against inequality and unemployment.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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