Mpumelelo Mkhabela

The ANC's self-serving contest

2016-09-30 11:46

A few years ago ANC leaders quarrelled about where political power should be located.

It was strange because the majority of voters had given the ANC power to govern the country.

But its leaders had confusing and conflicting views on how to allocate power among themselves.

Views of the voters were never sought in this debate. It was a self-serving contest.

The debate intensified shortly before and immediately after the party's elective conference in 2007.

Various factions advocated for arrangements that would suit and benefit them.

There were those who argued that the tripartite alliance affiliates - the ANC, SACP and Cosatu - jointly held the power to govern the country. This group saw the alliance as a power-sharing entity of sorts.

Some said Luthuli House, the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg, was the strategic centre of political power.

This group believed that the ANC was not in a power-sharing arrangement with its allies who campaign for it during elections.

So, they argued, power couldn't be shared with Cosatu House, the federation's headquarters which also houses the SACP.

Others argued that power had to be removed from the Union Buildings, the seat of government, where it had been concentrated since 1999.

Those who argued against the Union Buildings power base also backed Jacob Zuma's presidential ambitions in Polokwane.

The Zumarites believed that President Thabo Mbeki had centralised power in government at the expense of Luthuli House.

Shortly after the 2007 Polokwane conference where Zuma triumphed, his emboldened disciples argued against what they termed two centres of power.

They were referring to a possible rivalry between Zuma, the new chief at Luthuli House, and Mbeki who still held the reins in government but had no leadership position in the ANC.

They could not accept that even after they had taken control of the party from Mbeki, he had constitutional power to run government.

The Zumarites began to agitate for Mbeki's removal from government a few months before his constitutional term expired.

In hindsight, South Africans can see that Mbeki's removal was a pre-emptive strike by those who were scared of donning the orange overalls at Kgosi Mampuru prison.

Since Mbeki's removal, the debate about who holds political power has since died down. Yet, the question has never been more pressing: who actually is governing South Africa?

Cosatu House is in disarray. The landlord Cosatu and its free rider tenant the SACP have little or no say in the strategic direction of the country. They have become loudhailers who defend Nkandla swimming pools and other scandals.

On a few occasions they would mouth some inaudible protests against corruption while mindful not to step out of line lest they found themselves without cabinet posts and perks.

A grumpy Cosatu leader recently complained that the federation was no longer sure who was its real alliance partner because there were numerous factions in the ANC.

Frustrated by its failure to have a say on how Zuma leads  (or misleads) government, the SACP woke up from the Nkandla slumber. It recently complained against Zuma's failure to stop the unnecessary harassment of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by the Hawks.

For its part, Luthuli House is increasingly barking in the dark. It is not sure whether it is a governing or an opposition party.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and her poodles on the SABC board habitually ignore the party's concerns on a range of issues.

Backed by Zuma, Muthambi has been Hlaudi Motsoeneng's pillar of strength. That the ANC has resorted to speaking out on matters that it could easily solve by ensuring its leader in government uses his power to fix the wrongs is a sign that the political centre is not holding.

By failing to discipline people like Muthambi using the president, its chief deployee in government, the ANC is powerless.

The ANC is unable to do anything about its leader who has proven beyond doubt that he is struggling to run the executive.

That the executive has no unifying leader is there for all to see. This is paralysing the entire state machinery. Leaders in government think they can do as they like. What would we be as a country without a solid judiciary?

The ruinous Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane speaks as he likes on matters outside his cabinet portfolio. No consequences.

So, who holds political power in South Africa?  No one can say for sure despite the fact that voters put the ANC into power.

The ANC gave its electoral power to one individual, Zuma. Zuma used the power to create a personal fiefdom within the ANC and the state.

Once surrounded by strong contingent of personal supporters, who care less about the future of the ANC, he violated the constitution of the Republic by mortgaging a chunk his presidential powers to Saxonwold and Dubai.

It is no longer a secret that Saxonwold and Dubai are the new two centres of power.

This is the outcome of the most sophisticated electoral fraud - a governing party has lost its power without losing an election.

- Follow Mpumelelo Mkhabela on Twitter.

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