I have no political affiliations and probably tend to wobble between being a bit liberal and mildly conservative in my personal approach to life and politics.
So I have never been an outright supporter of the ANC and its allies. But, after the elections in 1994, my feelings were that we should give the new government a fair chance to prove itself. They had, after all, won those elections quite resoundingly. Not that I had much choice in the matter – I was part of the social and political minorities of the day and would just have to ride out any ensuing discomfort.
So for me the jury was out for the remainder of the 1990’s - fair’s fair; solid results would require a little time to accumulate. Everyone deserves a honeymoon after the formalization of their nuptials.
Well, the jury is now in and a verdict is being pronounced; a long wait – eighteen years – but more than adequate to fairly assess the progress of the country under new management.
Unfortunately for the ANC the objective results are not so good.
Early on there had been much statesmanlike rhetoric about how South Africa would henceforth forge ahead in a spirit of economic and racial unity and understanding towards an African socialist Utopia unrivalled in the world. Inequalities and injustices would fade and peace would reign.
Cracks in the new dispensation had begun to appear even in the late 1990’s but the real evidence for the failure of the ANC as a competent governing force became openly evident from 2008.
Presidents Mandela and Mbeki were, I believe, motivated to genuinely deliver on the promises of their party but were often hampered by lack of governmental knowledge and experience as well as being hindered by the ANC’s inherited communist weaknesses of long-held vested political interests and an ideological terror of Stalinist-type strongman leadership.
Leadership by committee – viz: the NEC of the ANC – became the order of the day and continues under the current president, Jacob Zuma, to great cost to the country.
Zuma, however, differs significantly from his predecessors in that his rise to power (even if limited by the committee-style operations of the NEC) was prompted and fuelled by his (very) thinly-disguised lust for personal power.
Oh, the rhetoric remained pretty much the same but the deviations from the fancy words became more and more open and defiant until, in the last couple of years, it bordered on the arrogant.
The cult of Jacob Zuma was carefully cultivated as he increasingly adopted his own version of Zulu royalty - the bevies of bodyguards; his increasing remoteness from the ordinary populace (so that now he speaks more through his Presidential Spokesman than he does in person); the use of the royal “we” on those occasions when he does speak in person; his increasing harem of wives, concubines and girlfriends; his open and increasing use of state resources for his personal and household use, and so on. All this with nary a word about how he has accumulated his own personal fortune since his rise to power…
Similar examples could be given for those other loyal ANC members, senior and not so senior, who have pinned their colours to the Zuma mast and risen with his star.
All of this is tolerated by the real power in the country, the National Executive Committee of the ANC. Zuma is a useful distraction to the execution of the ANC’s true agenda of grabbing what they can while they can and the Devil take the hindmost in the scramble. Zuma can sing and dance, he can fornicate to his heart’s content, he can mug for the cameras, he can get embroiled in self-righteous court actions against those who mock his gauche lack of education and perceived buffoonery, and he can read out in his speeches the words of his unseen masters – so long as he toes the party line, does as he is told and, generally, keeps the focus of better-informed public and media attention away from the rather more clandestine activities of the NEC.
We are now beginning to see the ANC in a clearer light than was originally presented immediately pre- and post-1994.
The fancy words remain. The hackneyed Soviet-period terminologies and ideologies remain. The perceptions and remedies offered remain in their own little (long since discredited) time warp of somewhere around 1955. The old loyalties to forgotten Leninist revolutionaries and movements remain (and suitably modified now that the Russian Bear is no more, leaning increasingly to the frighteningly rapacious Chinese Dragon – itself now strangely capitalistic in its new communist persona – interesting how ideology can change under the expediency of furthering one’s position in power).
The actions belie the words of the last eighteen years.
The new elite continue to enrich themselves to the exclusion of and cost to the wider population.
Poverty, whilst minimally decreasing according recent data, remains a major issue for those who have yet to see a realization of the promises made by the ANC on job creation, adequate housing and equitable access to fundamental services and protection.
Education values and standards have fallen despite astronomical amounts being spent or allocated. Schools are in disrepair, educational materials are often lacking and teaching and administrative skills have failed to be formalized, codified and rewarded.
Aside from a couple of flagship projects (always a favourite in the old communist regimes, ‘proving’ the superiority of socialism/communism over ‘decadent’ Western capitalism), the transport system is showing signs of advanced and accelerating decay. Few, if any, new roads have been constructed since 1994; likewise with the rail system. Roads are patched rather than re-surfaced. Public transport is patchy, disjointed and uncoordinated.
Crime, always a problem in Africa, has persisted if not increased despite claims to the contrary by the ANC. A policy and funding paralysis has entrenched corruption and maladministration in curbing the growth and effects of crime. The judicial and correctional systems are staggering under the weight of caseloads and a lack of adequate resources.
I shall refrain from extending the list – you pretty much know it anyway.
The ANC leadership is far from being unintelligent. But one has to question their ethics and morality in their dogged reiteration of the same old tired terminologies and mindsets when, to even the most poorly educated of the South African population, there is a unstoppable (if, perhaps, slow) realization that, despite the promising start eighteen years ago, the ANC is either not delivering on its promises or is dragging its collective feet in making good on their earlier and continuing rhetoric.
The country is being stripped by many of those with the power and opportunity to pillage and plunder. The idea of every man for himself does not sit well with the fancy words and noble sentiments of the past. It is not just the financial losses in theft, corruption and gross inefficiencies that rub me raw. What of the willful theft of people’s dreams of materially better lives? What of people’s aspirations to educationally, socially and spiritually better themselves, to leave their children and grandchildren something of which they can be proud of in the future?
Does the ANC, both collectively and at the individual level of each of its members, feel no shame, no remorse, that it has squandered the unimaginable and unprecedented opportunity presented it in 1994 by dint of the efforts and sacrifices not only of its own people in years gone by but also of the wider world which gave so much in the way of resources and other support? Where is the moral compass of the ANC and its members? Or is it just plain lost in the red haze of ransack and rapine that is being visited upon this land? The ANC would appear not only to be feasting upon the fatted calf but also gnawing the bones to dust before deigning to toss the scraps to those who seek leadership and moral guidance from the ones elevated, in good faith and trust, to guide, lead and instruct.
The hubris of the ANC reflects its own self image of a royal dynasty, appointed and anointed by way of an idea of payback for those years spent in opposition to a political system they finally bested. Their very own language and general demeanour, when deep in the cups of smug self-satisfaction, mirrors their profound and unremitting sense of everlasting entitlement and omnipotence by proclaiming that only the Second Coming will see the ANC surrender power (which, from a communist organization steeped in atheistic history and association means never).
The ANC, it would seem, is failing to heed the lessons of history. The fates of many royal houses, many dictators and legion others who aspired to domination and self-aggrandizement were, more often than not, increasingly gruesome for each level of arrogance and disdain exhibited and exercised against their own people or those they were supposed to protect.
Witness the Romanovs; witness Mussolini; witness Saddam Hussein; and witness Gaddafi. There are many, many more.
Heaven forbid – we have enough troubles as it is without having to not only trying to deal with the ANC’s current excesses but also their possible legacy.