ANC is collapsing like a house of cards

2009-11-28 11:35

THE ANC is more and more resembling a wounded, desperate beast

licking its wounds and occasionally feeding on its own flesh.

Ask Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or any other practitioner of political

populism and they’ll tell you it is a form of politics that can bring you power

and popularity but that it is also a very unstable foundation of authority and

very seldom brings unity and discipline to a political movement.

The ANC has now become a bit of a free-for-all. The leftists, the

workerists, the communists and the nationalists are pushing and pulling in

different directions all the time while the true centrists are huddled in a

corner, too bewildered by the new gangster style of politics to say a word. It’s

everyone for himself and the devil will catch the losers.

The first clear sign of this state of affairs came when the former

director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Billy Masetlha, launched a

public attack on the “Left” in the ANC, warning them of dire consequences if

they continued with their palace coup.

Soon after, the youth league started prodding the secretary-general

of the ANC and chairperson of the SACP, Gwede Mantashe, to take a back seat. At

the same time the plans to groom the former youth league supremo and prime

populist, Fikile Mbalula, as Mantashe’s successor started gaining


An ugly public spat then broke out between the youth league and the

Young Communist League (YCL) about a suggestion that former president Thabo

Mbeki should be prosecuted because of his Aids policies.

Julius Malema’s response was that if Mbeki was prosecuted it could

lead to the prosecutions of Robert Mugabe and eventually Jacob Zuma himself. The

YCL’s Buti Manemela then called Malema a petty bourgeois capitalist.

Then came the entertaining, though nasty, catfight between Malema

and the SACP’s deputy leader, Jeremy Cronin, with Cronin referring sarcastically

to Malema’s obsession with bling and Malema calling Cronin a white


And then on Thursday two of the ANC’s and the cabinet’s

heavyweights got into a slogging match on the front pages of the newspapers:

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo


Sexwale started it with a few choice remarks about the wasting of

money and bad building practices before he took over Sisulu’s former ministry,

and then Sisulu let rip with her own accusations against his supposed

incompetence, saying he had never even launched a single initiative of his


These kinds of public insults, infighting and personal abuse had

never happened in the ANC in its almost 100 years of existence.

A Luthuli House insider told me this week that ANC president Jacob

Zuma was becoming “a bit punch-drunk” and “depressed”. He said: “JZ is the great

listener, the champion of the peacemakers, and yet he finds himself powerless at

the head of a movement tearing itself apart. His head whips from left to right

like someone watching a ping-pong match.”

Another source, a former Luthuli House insider now trying to retire

from politics, told me: “When I read about the infighting in the ANC I hear

Thabo Mbeki smiling.”

Perhaps Zuma is taking tips from the greatest survivor on the

continent, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. When Mugabe started coming under

threat from inside and outside his own party he made sure he kept the top

generals of the police and army on his side and appointed his own loyalists in

senior and strategic positions.

Let’s look at some of Zuma’s recent appointments.

Bheki Cele, virtually the head of the Zuma cheering commando, is

police commissioner against all advice.

Mo Shaik, Zuma’s old intelligence comrade and brother of Zuma

benefactor Schabir, is head of the secret service. Sandile Ngcobo, rather than

the obvious choice, Dikgang Moseneke, is chief justice. Lawrence Mushwana,

failed former public protector, is head of the Human Rights Commission.

And now he has appointed Menzi Simelane as the powerful national

director of public prosecutions. This is an unforgivable and grave mistake, and

probably unconstitutional.

A person in this position should have a record and image of

credibility, integrity and political independence. This is even more true after

the history of the national prosecutions authority, the withdrawal of charges

against Zuma himself and the pressure not to prosecute the former commissioner

of police.

Simelane has no credibility. He was found by an independent inquiry

to have a serious lack of integrity and no political independence.

In fact, after these judgments on his character it was widely

expected he would be barred from all public positions. Instead, Zuma gave him

this powerful job.

This sorry state of affairs in the ruling party is enough to make

even its staunchest supporters start looking elsewhere for a political home. And

all they will see is Cope and the DA.

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