Could the end be nigh?

2012-06-02 10:29

There have been many prophecies about “the second coming”.

Remember last year when American broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that “the rapture” would occur on May 21?

And then there’s our very own soothsayer, President Jacob Zuma, who claimed in 2009 that “the ANC will rule until Jesus comes”.

Well, the good news may be that we have 12 years to stock up on Blue Label (or Klipdrift if you’re on a tight budget) because a new date for the rapture has been predicted: 2024.

At least according to Dr Oscar van Heerden, former ANC Youth League member and current secretary of the party’s Gauteng branch, who recently chaired a panel titled The ANC 100 Years On at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Van Heerden suggested that if the ruling party continued along its current trajectory – serving the elite rather than the people of South Africa, and recruiting cadres who mostly cared about personal financial gain and access to power – it would lose its parliamentary majority on that date.

Of course the DA is hoping the rapture will happen a little sooner, say in about 2014, or at the latest 2019.

But it is clear from Van Heerden’s comments that some are bracing themselves for the possible beginning of the end for the ANC as the ruling party.

Fellow panellist, SACP member and former minister of intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils acknowledged that although the ANC was being returned to power with ever-decreasing electoral majorities, this would not deal the final blow.

It would rather be the “fissuring” of the party into different groupings that would end its political dominance.

Van Heerden said he based his forecast on the history of the demise of one of Africa’s oldest liberation parties, the United National Independence Party (Unip).

Kenneth Kaunda’s Unip governed post-independence Zambia in a “one-party participatory democracy” for 27 years before losing its majority to former trade unionist Frederick Chiluba’s Movement for Multiparty Democracy in 1991.

The third panellist was Fiona Forde, journalist and author of An Inconvenient Youth – Julius Malema and the “New” ANC, who asked Van Heerden whether “good” ANC members were aware that the party was in decline and that it was increasingly viewed as “out of touch”.

Van Heerden’s reply was an unequivocal “yes”.

Kasrils suggested that the ANC was suffering from the “Thermidorian effect”, a reference to the French Revolution when power shifted from the “visionary” original leadership to a more conservative, self-serving, radical stewardship, swinging the pendulum back to a “prerevolutionary” state.

“Today the ANC, more than representing a broad church, is rather a rowdy shebeen,” Kasrils quipped, adding that it was in the interests of the country that a “healthy ANC” survived whether in government or as an opposition party.

“An ANC that splinters into warring factions will not be good for democracy or the country,” he warned.

The possible implosion of the ANC, Van Heerden suggested, was because of the quantity of cadres drawn to the party – not their quality.

Kasrils intimated that a change in the electoral system – from proportional representation to a constituency-based system – might in future inspire elected leaders to be more responsive to voters.

“I certainly know that a constituency-based system would have resulted in myself and a few other MPs working harder than we did,” he said with his characteristic Kasrils chuckle and a twinkle in his eye.

Forde said that South Africans preferred a multiparty democracy, but the question no one asked was whether the ruling party would be prepared to surrender power through the ballot.

It certainly fought back bitterly after losing the City Of Cape Town to a multiparty government in 2006 and made at least six attempts to topple the governing coalition.

It was philosopher Karl Popper who suggested there was only one test of a true democracy: whether a government could be changed without bloodshed “when a majority wishes such change”.

Ugly scenes of violence between Cosatu and the DA during the march in Johannesburg recently reveal a climate of political intolerance that serves as a warning for the future.

Would the ANC let go of power without a fight and without taking us all down with it?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, some in the ANC are hoping to find a few “new brooms”, while others are building bunkers – perhaps to sit out the second coming.

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