The infamous struggle card often played by the ANC heavyweights is a lot more powerful than meets the untrained eye or the politically unconscious, if I’m not being too subtle. Let me substantiate my claims by pointing out what seems to be factions that exist in the ruling party.
From as early as the establishment of the PAC, to the Hani-Mbeki faction in Durban, the Mbeki-Zuma faction in Polokwane up to the Motlanthe-Zuma faction in Mangaung we have been treated to the theatricals of what is termed a “healthy” democracy- although the aftermath has ranged from assassinations to coups. At the last leadership conference of the ANC, a resolution was made to unify the party but all that has been nullified by the emergence of a new faction which may see Paul Mashatile and Jacob Zuma competing in the future.
All this is the nature of a highly encouraged competitive dynamic, but what if I put it to you that the true factions in the ANC are between the soldiers and civilians? The former are MK war veterans with military training and, sometimes, political education from the Soviet Union, while the latter are administrative staff and union leaders who mobilised mass gatherings in the country during the struggle against the beast of apartheid.
Bantu Holomisa is an internationally renowned army General with solid struggle credentials. He has toppled two governments and has played a major role in protecting the armed forces of the ANC, commanded by Chris Hani. Holomisa is obeyed by even the most authoritarian leaders of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, who was a commander of intelligence forces in Angola- a rank below that of a general. Holomisa has, espoused by a thunderous laughter, recently stabbed fun at Blade Nzimande, who, by ANC standards, is a mere civilian with no military background. This was done by Holomisa deviating from his report to parliament and saying to Nzimande “I helped you. I helped you. You did not even have a [driver’s] licence before 1994. You got it from the Bantustan in the Transkei. Tell me I’m lying.” Nzimande has taken bigger blows from Tony Yengeni, a respected and influential soldier, who yelled “who the f@#!k do you think you are?” during a NEC meeting. The hostility against ‘civilians’ is further demonstrated on the likes of the former leadership cluster of the ANCYL which entailed Julius Malema. Malema has taken his fair share of criticising the leadership of the ANC. He has been quoted saying “since Jacob Zuma took over leadership of South African state, we have seen introduction of dictatorship and extremely intolerant forms of leadership. Because of his inability to persuade and politically convince those who disagree with him, he has resorted to usage of force in his leadership style.” Malema was then expelled from the ANC for ‘sowing divisions and causing disrepute’.
It is interesting to note that Ronnie Kasrils, the former Minister of Intelligence Services under the ANC government, led a “Vote no” campaign before the 2014 national elections which lambasted the leadership of the ANC and encouraged the general public to vote against the ruling party. The typical ANC approach would be to ‘discipline’ this behaviour through hearings, but Kasrils is no ordinary ANC member. He was amongst the first to be trained in guerrilla warfare in Angola and Eastern Europe, a fortified soldier. Zuma responded quite gooey and romantically in saying “something has gone wrong with Ronnie. Perhaps at some point I will engage with him, but not to the media. He has had every opportunity to raise matters with the ANC. Why did he not engage with us? He wasn't like that before. I don't know what went wrong with him.”
Words such as “engage”, “install”, “deploy”, “discipline”, “command”, “mandate” are robust and authoritative terms deeply rooted in the daily conversations of the military personnel and no one uses them better than the ruling party. It should also be noted that the ANC, post 1994, has been led by a chain of leaders with a military background. Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, it has been displayed that true power and influence in the ANC lies in the war veterans. I find myself questioning the authenticity of these elective conferences, but, perhaps the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, a “civilian” is an indicator that the ANC’s reserves of “soldiers” have dried up.