Mpumelelo Mkhabela

The ANC’s new askaris

2016-08-26 07:25

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Tune into a credible radio. Read a decent newspaper. Watch authentic television. Read serious bloggers and social media commentators.

Listen to conversations in mini-bus taxis, at bus stations, cafeterias at work places and student dining halls. Follow the little chat in the lift as it passes the mezzanine to and from the parking lot. Eavesdrop on those queuing up for a dose of caffeine at a coffee dispenser.

Don’t forget to take interest in those engaged in rather sober discussions while leaning on the bar counters where purified waters are served. Also follow those who like to pollute the air in smoking rooms.

And chat to those whose fulltime occupation it is to keep their hands raised on suburban street corners, hoping that each car that passes carries with it the hope of a “piece” job.

In all these platforms and places, South Africans are showing one common denominator: they are hurting. They are in pain because our beautiful country is in a permanent crisis mode. Mostly self-manufactured.

What went wrong?

At the heart of it is the moral implosion of the ANC, the organisation into which millions of people invested their political emotions. Its leaders – bar a few who are habitually ignored – are destroying it.

Interestingly, the party is never short of advice on how to reverse the gloomy picture. The ANC’s veterans, die-hard supporters and opposition parties have all ventured a view or two on how its leadership should conduct itself.

Offering solutions

Not that the ANC and its leaders don’t know what needs to be done to fix the party. Some of the proposals from die-hard supporters, sympathisers and opposition parties have long been discussed within ANC meetings.

The ANC’s archives are awash with solutions. Its late heroes and heroines have prophesied about what has since afflicted the party. They didn’t just pontificate; they offered solutions. It is therefore not surprising that when the current ANC leadership pretends not to know what to do with the ubiquitous “smallanyana skeletons”, party members and supporters are quick to cite historic documents or speeches of former leaders which contain clues of a way out of the implosion.

The party’s internal discussion documents and resolutions conference after conference have referred to challenges the ANC might face and proposed solutions. The much-maligned and allegedly hostile media dishes out free advice on a daily basis.

Media commentators often rely on ANC documents to critique the conduct of the ANC. In addition, as a national governing party, the ANC should have access to the best brains in the country if it needed help with governance strategy or even to draw in new blood to lead it.

With all these in mind, the big question then arises, why is the governing party not doing the right thing? So far public opinion seems to suggest that the ANC has become too arrogant. It is increasingly taking voters for granted. It cares less about scandals and corruption. Its leaders are self-centred. And it is prepared to go to great lengths to sacrifice the rule of law and the Constitution for which so many of its activists fought and died.

A tragic answer

All the negative tendencies in the ANC, which are often cited as a demonstration of its moral decline that in turn contributes to electoral haemorrhaging, are the antithesis of its very existence.

The ANC has always projected itself as a humble servant of the people. So, why are some of its current leaders arrogant? The ANC fought for the rule of law and the Constitution. So, why has its leadership left it to the opposition parties and civil society groups to protect, defend and advance the Constitution? The ANC opposed the successive corrupt colonial and apartheid governments. So, why does it always look for loopholes to justify corruption in its ranks, even going to the extent of rewarding ethically challenged individuals with high positions?

The answer to these questions is tragic: a number of people who claim to be leaders have become modern askaris, fighting against the foundational values of the party. During the apartheid era, the regime infiltrated the liberation movement using torture and other coercive measures to force freedom fighters to turn against their comrades. Some cracked under intolerable pressure and betrayed their comrades by working with the apartheid security forces. They were known as askaris.

They were turned into the enemies of the very struggle for freedom, aiding or participating in the killing of their former comrades. The effects of the infiltration were to demoralise the liberation movement and delay the achievement of its goals.

The end of apartheid and the ushering of the new democratic dispensation didn’t end the phenomenon of the askari. Today’s askaris are sophisticated individuals who have made it their primary duty to destroy the values of the ANC to ensure their individual self-preservation and looting.

It should be remembered that the main motivation for the askari to turn against his comrade was self-preservation. This modus operandi has been transformed to suit the new political dispensation. The modern askaris don’t see any other way to improve their own lives except by sacrificing the lives of millions who depend on the ANC as a vehicle for social change.

Some of the modern askaris have been lured by the lifestyle of the leisure classes which display its wealth. But instead of working hard, the modern-day askaris within the ANC want short cuts. With access to state resources, the ANC is an easy vehicle for them to achieve their aims.

Remove the askiris

But, let me stress the point, they will not be able to achieve their nefarious aims without killing the ANC or transforming it into something antithetical to its foundational values.

At the level of the state – where the core values of the ANC find expression through rules and regulations adopted by the ANC itself over the years – the askaris are doing their best to neutralise and destroy the rules.

Where the values of the ANC as expressed in the Constitution are seen as a hindrance to looting, the Constitution automatically becomes the target for destruction. They have penetrated some of the most sensitive areas of the ANC and the state. Wherever they have set eye and foot, they leave destruction in their wake.

The challenge is not how to figure out who they are because they are well known. The challenge is for the ANC’s card-carrying members, general supporters and sympathisers to remove them from the party.

But their removal will not happen without turbulence. They have already sent signals that their removal will split the party, as if their continued occupation of leadership positions is of any benefit.

The askaris are generally daring. Only the equally daring leaders of sound mind can remove the askaris to save the century-old organisation that still carries the hopes of millions.

- Follow Mpumelelo Mkhabela on Twitter.

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