ANC’s decline is not one man’s fault

2016-11-06 06:18
President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

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There is an isiZulu idiom: "Umbeki wenkosi akabusi nayo" (Those who have played a part in installing the king generally do not rule with him).

Those who have been observing politics in South Africa since the ANC’s ascent to power in 1994, together with its allies – labour federation Cosatu, under then secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, and the SA Communist Party, under Blade Nzimande – will have noted the controversy that surrounded the election of Jacob Zuma to the presidency in 2009.

Many of those who supported his rise to the top are now no longer by his side.

One can postulate that the disappearance of some of his allies has either had something to do with him, or they voluntarily distanced themselves because he failed to live up to their high expectations of him.

Zuma is in his second term and many of his comrades – some of whom swore allegiance to him, to the point of dying for him – now want nothing to do with him.

As I write this, there are calls for the president to step down.

Their oft-repeated pleas direct Zuma to “do the honourable thing” or “fall on his sword”.

This smacks of scapegoating to me.

Someone still has to convince me how a large, 104-year-old democratic organisation such as the ANC can claim to have been misled by one individual to make all the mistakes it has since 1994.

Clearly, a host of individuals and structures – such as the national executive committee, the youth and women’s leagues, and national working committee – are shirking their responsibilities.

To this list of shirkers we have to add veterans such as former Rivonia Trialists Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and others.

And still others who have not helped the situation are a former ANC president here and a former general secretary there.

How does it benefit the ANC for Kathrada, through his foundation, to join a chorus of critics when we have not heard first how he tried to help the movement?

Then there are the former Umkhonto weSizwe generals who have held director-general positions in government yet now also castigate the ANC leadership.

Where were their voices against Zuma’s presidency during the time they formed part of his Cabinet?

While I do not defend Zuma, it must be emphasised that if we are to get to the bottom of allegations of corruption plaguing the ANC, we must stop blaming individuals or turning people into scapegoats purely to satisfy our own lack of conviction.

Those serious about getting to the nub of the governing party’s problems are advised to take counsel from the revolutionary Frantz Fanon.

In his iconic book The Wretched of the Earth, an analysis of colonialism and decolonisation, Fanon writes that once independence is achieved, national liberation movements tend to disintegrate.

Nothing is left but a shell of the movement’s identity: its name, emblem and motto.

“The living party, which ought to make possible the free exchange of ideas – which have been elaborated according to the real needs of the mass of the people – has been transformed into a trade union of individual interests,” he says.

Fanon goes on to say that after independence, liberation movements are no longer equipped to meet people’s needs and are less able to entrench their power.

“There is no longer any party life, for the branches which were set up during the colonial period are today completely demobilised.”

These observations have proved true for the ANC which, post-liberation, has become South Africa’s governing party – and a shadow of its former glorious self.

While its demise cannot be attributed to one man, it does not absolve Zuma. He takes the lion’s share of blame for the shameful state of the party and, by extension, the nation.

Again, I turn to Fanon for his eloquence:

“The leader – who has behind him a lifetime of political action and devoted patriotism – constitutes a screen between the people and the rapacious bourgeoisie since he stands surety for the ventures of that caste and closes his eyes to their insolence, their mediocrity and their fundamental immorality.”

Ka Mzolo is a media and social commentator

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  cabinet
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