Escaping the clutches of doom

2017-12-10 06:09
Picture: Felix Dlangamandla / Foto24

Picture: Felix Dlangamandla / Foto24

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It will take a lot more than merely crafting new policies or shuffling the leadership deck if the ANC is to successfully wrestle itself, and South Africa’s faltering economy, from the clutches of doom.

A question that lingers feverishly around dinner tables, watering holes and places of worship lately is: Can the ANC salvage itself and help turn our fortunes around?

The answer is: Yes, but…

Let me explain.

Former ANC presidents Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela’s generation had a collective sense of purpose.

Their primary mission was to usher in political freedom and socioeconomic stability.

Not only did that generation of leaders exude unquenchable optimism about the future, but they also had a profound appreciation of how political power is entrusted, to be discharged and held to account.

Based purely on metrics such as economic growth and general feelgood index, that cohort of leaders succeeded.

Sadly, public enthusiasm for the ANC, based largely on past achievements and veneration of its former leaders, has ebbed.

There is thus a need for the current ANC crop of leaders to find its own collective sense of purpose and pursue it with vigour beyond the dreams and vagaries of avarice, if it is to endure.

A recurring theme from ANC conferences since its unbanning depicts an organisation struggling to implement its policies.

Policies such as RDP, Gear and Asgisa have been jettisoned before they could be fully implemented.

The National Development Plan (NDP), adopted five years ago, faces a similar fate.

Catchwords like “a better life for all”, “second phase of transition” and the latest bluster “radical economic transformation”, seem to surface during conferences and elections, only to be forgotten soon thereafter.

The electoral travails that confronted the ANC in 2016 continue to rattle it.

The ANC needs all the political acumen and courage it can marshal as it enjoins, not only its disenchanted supporters, but other sections of society, to find meaning and expression through it.

In order to reclaim the lustre, credo and collective sense of purpose that defined the Tambo and Mandela era, the ANC must first abandon its hubris and delusions of omnipotence.

Incipient hubris includes blaming “white monopoly capital”, the apartheid regime, media, or “third forces” when the ANC government fails to deliver on its mandate.

Corrosive behaviour

More corrosive behaviour includes leaders flouting rules because they don’t believe the rules apply to them, indulging in frequent self-aggrandisement, treating others with arrogance, and failing to model exemplary behaviour while insisting that others do so.

If the ANC is sincere about seeking redemption, it can’t remain impervious to calls by its veterans, stalwarts and members beseeching it to eradicate endemic organisational disorders besetting it.

Apropos, the following reflections merit consideration:

- Abandon the absurdity of democratic centralism as a leadership tenet in government;

- Abandon ambitious policies or programmes whose long-term viability cannot be assured, for example, free housing;

- Declare education a basic need and provide free public higher education to needy, qualifying applicants for, say, 20 years;

- Introduce compulsory national public service for beneficiaries in lieu of repayment of fees. This could help tackle the high youth unemployment rate;

- Abandon the cadre deployment recruitment policy in public sector appointments;

- Reduce the size of Cabinet, the inflated public sector wage bill and eradicate fruitless or wasteful spending; and

- Appoint economic, social health and anticorruption czars. A transversal approach and ability to go outside the formal channels and confines of bureaucracy is needed to ensure policy coordination, coherence and implementation; and find creative solutions for ad hoc, big issue decision making regarding issues such as the SA Social Security Agency, the National Health Insurance and the NDP.

These reflections, considered alongside the ANC veterans’ proposals, recommendations from Parliament’s High-Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, and Cyril Ramaphosa’s “new deal” could present the “real deal” the ANC needs.

Most ANC members and leaders have good intentions and a desire to save their irrepressible, ailing party.

But lest we forget, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

In his message congratulating Jacob Zuma after he was elected ANC president in Polokwane in 2007, President Nelson Mandela proclaimed: “Our experience of comrade Zuma is of a person and leader who is inclusive in his approach. A unifier and one who values reconciliation and collective leadership.”

Mandela’s intentions for Zuma, and by extension the ANC, which was beset by internecine polemics at the time, remain unimpeachable.

An inept, venal leader

I don’t want to be the one caught raining on the parade of the intuition of Mandela, but in this case it is necessary.

My experience of Zuma is of an inept, venal leader who has ravaged this nation and Mandela’s
legacy.

It is evident that Zuma’s notion of being inclusive in running the affairs of the state is to ensnare his family, friends and acolytes in state capture.

Further, Zuma’s innate contempt of collective leadership, is evidenced by his unilateral upending of the ANC government’s numerous policies, including on Western Sahara and the SABC’s digital migration.

The ANC and South Africa have never been more polarised than under Zuma. So, the less said about Zuma being a unifier and a reconciler, the better.

Strange things have happened since Polokwane. Stranger things are expected to occur during the next ANC shindig.

Only a political neophyte would trust that rationality will guide proceedings at Nasrec, or bet against ferocious doling out of the dough in attempts to swing votes one way or the other.

It is, however, plausible that some delegates could accept the largesse but still vote with their conscience.

But alas, conscience is anathema within the ANC!

The problem with vote buying is that it engenders greed and vice, traits the ANC should be eradicating.

With less than a week to go, the race is still too close to call, despite projections that Ramaphosa leads in branch nominations. This is, however, not an accurate indicator of delegates’ support.

In order to close the deal, Ramaphosa’s campaign must rid itself of any complacency, consolidate their support and ratchet up lobbying, especially undecided delegates.

Should Ramaphosa succeed, this could hand a lifeline to the ANC.

Candidate “unity”, championed by ANC Mpumalanga chairperson David Mabuza, who is linked to the campaign of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, seems to be conceived by a group of greedy individuals that seek to repulse those opposed to state capture.

As we know, greedy people can always be bought at some price or another, and their behaviour is predictable: selfish.

Mabuza’s rhetoric about seeking to unify the ANC seems to be a ruse for a cynical strategy to corral sufficient votes to guarantee venal characters success.

Encouragingly for Ramaphosa, it appears that Mpumalanga delegates are not homogeneously beholden to Mabuza’s scheme, which dilutes Mabuza’s influence.

Mabuza further runs the risk of overplaying his hand with his grandstanding and incorrigible threats to contenders.

Lest we forget, Mabuza has a big cloud hanging over his head.

Never mind the ANC’s “eye of the needle”, it is claimed that Mabuza wouldn’t make it through the eye of the tollgate gantries.

Mabuza is, to put it mildly, an antithesis of the norms and character ANC leaders must espouse.

It is therefore unlikely that Ramaphosa, whose campaign is premised on integrity, will be persuaded by Mabuza’s coercions and seemingly exaggerated influence.

Nevertheless, should Dlamini-Zuma emerge victorious, this could be damaging for not only the ANC in the interregnum leading to 2019, but the economy too as the markets would probably respond negatively.

In a BBC interview, a crestfallen then president Kgalema Motlanthe counselled: “[Perhaps] it would be good for the ANC to lose the next elections because those elements who are in it for the largesse will quit it. And only then would the possibility arise for salvaging whatever is left of it.”

For Motlanthe’s foreboding remark to realise, patience will be just as important for the ANC as salvaging itself.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?

- Khaas is chairperson of Corporate SA, a strategic advisory and consultancy firm, and a former ANC branch secretary.

Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas

Read more on:    anc  |  nhi  |  sassa  |  ndp

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