Is it pride before the fall?

2016-09-11 00:12
Mondli Makhanya

Mondli Makhanya

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Not long ago it would have been considered irrational to talk of the ANC losing power in 2019; no one would have taken it seriously.

The most realistic scenarios among ANC members and supporters, as well as foes and neutral parties, were that its support base would decline considerably in the 2016 municipal polls and the 2019 general elections.

This would set up an exciting race in the 2021 local government polls and a nail-biting national contest in 2024.

The latter was the crucial date – the earliest possible time that power could change hands.

No longer.

Now an earlier loss of power for the former liberation movement has become a distinct reality.

Even those within the party have started to accept this if strong preventive measures are not taken.

The reasons for the forecast of impending doom for the ANC are multiple, but some are key – resulting from self-inflicted wounds.

These include, firstly, the tendency by the ANC to rip itself apart every time it goes into an elective conference.

After the 2007 conference in Polokwane, members literally and figuratively bliksemmed one another.

The Polokwane victors eventually forced the vanquished to behave or get out.

A chunk of the vanquished left for other pastures. The victors then, again, turned on each other.

The lead-up to the 2012 Mangaung conference was marked by unprecedented conflict in the ranks.

From branch to provincial to national level, all-out war was being waged.

This period coincided with the upsurge in membership buying – a practice whereby individuals “own” branches by buying bulk membership.

The rot had set in, alienating many citizens.

Just as in 2007, the battle of Mangaung was followed by a destructive triumphalism among the victors.

The vanquished either retreated into inactivity or found other political homes, with the newly minted Economic Freedom Fighters now providing an ideologically acceptable destination.

Thus, another chunk was removed.

There were other practical factors that led to the ANC’s loss of support, moving from a trot to a gallop.

These included demographic changes which saw younger voters come in who had less emotional attachment to the party’s legacy; dysfunctional relationships at leadership level; dissatisfaction with service delivery; and a creaking organisation machinery.

But by far the biggest reason the ANC is likely to lose the 2019 elections is that it is led by men and women who walk around with earplugs and blindfolds.

In the build-up to the 2014 polls, the ANC refused to hear the cacophony of voices expressing outrage at the R246 million expenditure on Nkandla, a monument to corruption.

Despite the fact that the outrage was coming from all classes and races of the republic, the party hierarchy simply dismissed it as the concern of a small elite.

After voters registered their anger about Nkandla by punishing the ANC in urban areas, the party boasted that the 62% it received nationally was proof that the majority did not care about Nkandla.

And so the ANC spent its time and energy between 2014 and 2016 protecting the Nkandla homeowner from accountability.

In April – just months before this year’s polls – the party was slapped with a Constitutional Court ruling over the matter.

As painful as the slap was, it was a lifeline, a chance for the ANC to redeem itself.

Instead, it resorted to an insulting attempt at bamboozling the public.

A lame apology by the primary offender was followed by lame reprimands for ministers involved in the saga.

Then came roaring applause from the ANC in praise of the primary offender for his “humbling apology”, and the inexplicable statement that “the ANC is convinced that there was no intention on the part of the president and ANC MPs to deliberately act inconsistently with the Constitution”.

If it was not so serious, the nation would have been in hoots of laughter.

But this statement, and others from ANC component bodies accepting the apology and praising the primary offender for his humility, fuelled more ire.

Then came the ANC’s smoke-and-mirrors reaction to concrete proof that the Guptas were the de facto government of South Africa.

As evidence piled up and loyal party veterans spoke out, the mandarins refused to remove their blindfolds and earplugs lest they saw and heard the truth.

The Gupta state capture scandal, the destabilisation of Treasury and the numerous other germs infecting our body politic have failed to shake these men and women.

One would have thought that the loss of major metros and the decline in support in the August elections would have jolted them.

But no. The ANC’s deliberate obfuscation was most evident this past Monday, when a young batch of loyal members tried to tell leaders that the party needed to rescue itself from itself.

Instead of listening, goons were organised to fend them off Luthuli House.

The rhetoric of violence was used to try to stop these ANC members from telling party leaders that the ANC was sick and needed strong medicine.

The fact is, the ANC is in advanced stages of cancer; only painful chemotherapy can help it.

For now it seems nobody in a decision-making capacity is willing to take this leap.

That is why the ANC will (most likely) lose the 2019 elections.

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