Mpumelelo Mkhabela

A new era in South African politics

2016-10-14 08:09

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema almost choked some political observers when he suggested that ANC members should join the EFF to form a new political entity.

Malema is envisaging a dawn of a new era in South African politics. It is an era that will most likely be defined by the party that will best represent the best of the ANC outside the ANC itself.

The values that the ANC has stood for over the years are proving too burdensome and nonsensical for the likes of Jacob Zuma to live by. Zuma hates those values with a passion. How he changed from being a selfless leader who served time on Robben Island to a shadow of his former self that he is today could be a subject of an intriguing PhD dissertation in political metamorphosis.

Zuma seemingly didn’t know that the ANC fought for a stronger public protector who would be different from the weak ombudsman general of the apartheid era. He had to be reminded by the Supreme Court of Appeal judges who read the ANC’s famous document Ready to Govern.

Zuma had to be reminded by the Constitutional Court judges that so many people had died for the kind of Constitution that we have and that it shouldn't be taken lightly, let alone be violated. His continued disdainful approach towards the public protector means he suffers from acute aversion towards the constitution.

Now the primacy of the Constitution - which was all along the basis on which the ANC governed - has been appropriated by the opposition parties. Collectively the opposition parties are projecting themselves – quite successfully in many instances – as the champions of the Constitution. The ANC, thanks to Zuma, is projecting itself as opposed to the Constitution.

Leaders of the opposition parties are portraying themselves as the advocates of the rule of law. The ANC, thanks to Zuma, is seen as following on the footsteps of former liberation movements who dumped the rule of law when it proved obstructive to efficient looting.

The ANC, thanks to Zuma, is cementing public perception that its lofty values of selflessness have long reached an expiry date. The opposition parties on the other hand are increasingly projecting themselves as servants of the people. Even the questionable ones are enjoying high moral ground.

It is in this context that Malema's comments should be understood: he is sending a message that ANC members need not be in the ANC to stand for the things historically associated with the ANC.

The race to win the hearts and minds of ANC members will intensify in the next few years because opposition parties know that the push to reduce the ANC support base to below 50% would require a huge exodus from the ANC.

But the political landscape will not only be about ensuring a massive exodus of ANC members. It will also be about the race by opposition parties to capture the ideological centre of our politics.

If truth be told, the ANC by and large has the better policies. But it has the worst leadership to execute or adjust the policies to the needs of modern statecraft. It has the best heritage in terms of leadership icons. But it is run by a leader who represents a dramatic regression. What makes matter worse is that those around him have proven incapable of calling him to order. They end up looking like him.

Opposition parties like the EFF and the DA are envious of the ANC's centre in the ideological spectrum. By vacating the ANC centre and building a strange anti-constitutional right-wing power base with the Guptas while simultaneously selling state through various forms of capture, Zuma has left a void.

Opposition parties have seen the gap and are salivating. Malema and the DA's Mmusi Maimane are not naïve when they style their politics in manner that shows appreciation of icons like Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders. It’s a calculated political strategy to claim the political centre from which the ANC.

Malema's invitation to ANC members is also an acknowledgement of the rich but leaderless centre. Malema and his party will eventually move from the extreme left towards centre-left. Their language will moderate over time and will never reach Robert Mugabe’s levels of rabid nationalism.  Maimane and his party will move from the centre-right towards the centre.

Given South Africa's socioeconomic conditions, no party will remove the ANC from power unless it dislodges it from the ideological centre. South Africans - black and white, rich and poor - don't like extremism from either left or right. That's why they chose an inclusive Constitution.

The party that will move faster towards the centre stands a good chance to dislodge the ANC from power. Unless the ANC fights back to safeguard itself and its heritage, not by deploying Des Van Rooyen and Kebbey Maphatsoe to physically defend Luthuli House. The ANC needs brave people with brains.

The battle for the centre is not as physical as the self-proclaimed unlicensed security guards of Luthuli House like Maphatsoe think. It is about crafting a clever political strategy. It’s an intellectual exercise.

- Follow Mpumelelo Mkhabela on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  jacob zuma  |  julius malema  |  mmusi maimane

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