The ugly side of politics

A group led by Lehlohonolo Masoga disrupts an ANC Youth League conference in Makhado, Limpopo, in 2010. Picture: Leon Sadiki
A group led by Lehlohonolo Masoga disrupts an ANC Youth League conference in Makhado, Limpopo, in 2010. Picture: Leon Sadiki

The prevailing differences within the ANC are caused by power-mongering and jostling for positions which become heightened in the run-up to conferences held at local, regional, provincial and national levels.

Political contestation is not necessarily wrong but, unfortunately, ANC members internalise and personalise the process, which results in the bruising straining of relations among members with catastrophic repercussions.

Recent history has vividly attested to this fact through the 2007 Polokwane conference when Jacob Zuma won the party presidency from Thabo Mbeki. This conference was a perfect political precursor to the haemorrhaging of the ANC. This contestation cascaded down from the delegates at the conference to ordinary members on the ground.

It was during this watershed conference that the use of money to buy delegates was executed with mastery not seen before in the history of the ANC as a liberation movement in government.

The monetisation of conference processes became a political normality and, consequently, financial muscle became the political king. This culture consequently became entrenched in the ANC organisational anatomy as expressed through the subsequent conferences in Mangaung (2012) and Nasrec (2017).

This political culture is now expressing itself in the regional and provincial conferences in which ANC members literally engage in physical confrontation to express their preferred comrades for different positions in the party.

It is therefore against this background that a serious series of questions should be posed. What is it that the ANC should do to navigate these troubled waters? How can it extricate itself from this political quagmire? Are ANC members politically intelligent enough to understand that contestation is not a personal matter that should create acrimony and animosity as a result of conference preferences? The preferences are pitting comrades against comrades to an extent that people are not allowed to speak to other members even on non-political issues – those who do are labelled as traitors and a brutal reign of terror will be unleashed on to them with far-reaching repercussions.

Perhaps the ANC’s political school should include in its curriculum a course that will deal extensively with capacitating the party cadreship with the values and ethos of servanthood leadership as opposed to political careerism.

ANC members should understand that not all of them will be eligible for deployment in the government administrative machinery.

New cadre of state employees

For the country to prosper as a state, we need to have a highly committed, qualified and productive workforce that does not expect little favours from the powers that be. This new cadre of employees must have the interests of the country and its people at heart, nothing less.

This good value system should be the credo of all South Africans and should be zealously instilled in the youth in the same way the spirit of fighting for freedom was instilled during the struggle for liberation.

The cadreship should know that for the ANC government to deliver quality services to the people, only a suitably qualified and experienced workforce will be appointed. It cannot be correct to have people running government departments who have been favourably parachuted but whose technical competence is suspect and who are always found wanting in the execution of their duties due to incapacity, lack of experience and the nonexistence of appropriate educational qualifications.

The developmental nature of the South African state demands that we should have capable technocrats to implement policies that will take the country to greater heights. We cannot allow the country to be mismanaged and misgoverned as it happened in the reign of the National Party regime which stupidly elevated one group of people at the expense of the majority.

School of Government

This policy has caused serious divisions among the people to an extent that it has become very distressing to work in government. Even people in possession of qualifications and who are highly experienced in their professions are mistaken for being political appointees thus creating an impression that they got those positions because of political connections.

Cadre deployment is not necessarily a bad political idea but it should guard against promoting mediocrity at the expense of quality.

It is therefore prudent that the ANC government has decided to establish a School of Government for public servants which will ensure proper and relevant education and training for people working in the government to enhance effective, efficient and professional public management of state institutions. We need to go back to the basics and recognise the importance of education.

The state should be seriously professional, ensuring people must be appointed in positions meritoriously.

It is unfortunately during elective conferences that ANC cadres are promised positions in government if they vote in a particular manner and to vote for certain individuals to be in the top positions in branches, regions, provinces and nationally.

The fact that some people get positions of authority and influence due to their political connections is ruining the reputation of the country and consequently leading the youth to view education as unimportant because it does not guarantee them jobs in the broader labour market and in government in particular.

The demon called political interference

It should be unequivocally stated that politicians are meddling in administrative affairs – a conduct that should be condemned in the strongest possible terms because it messes up things, causes confusion and unleashes untold torment and misery to technocrats assigned to implement service delivery imperatives to communities.

This annoying meddling is nothing other than political interference which has become endemic and demonic in the state machinery. Technocrats responsible for the running of state departments are being bullied by politicians who demand that certain decisions be taken by hook or crook thereby causing a serious strain on effective and efficient administrative decision-making.

Political interference has caused much damage to state departments resulting in many catastrophes that we have witnessed, including the dreaded state capture now being probed by the Zondo commission.

Accounting officers in the echelons of power are being bullied and bulldozed through political interference causing them to run helter-skelter like headless chickens. Fearful of losing their lucrative jobs, many of these accounting officers sheepishly and timidly bend and bow to political interference and implement wrong decisions that are inconsistent and incongruent with policies.

It is very sad and worrying that very few of these accounting officers have stood their ground and defied interference.

We must be afraid

If this crazy demon is allowed to reign supreme uncontained, the ANC-led government will find it difficult to have capable, experienced and qualified people to be appointed as accounting officers, chief executives, municipal managers and in other senior positions of high responsibility.

The ANC’s deployment committees should have Solomonic wisdom to navigate this responsibility. Possessing this power and influence, the committee is therefore the de facto employer in the country’s body politic. This scenario is informed by the fact that whether we like it or not, politics controls economics in this country and arguably, in many, if not all parts of the world.

Benzi Ka-Soko is a political analyst

Latest issue

July 2020

Latest issue
All the news from City Press.
Read now
Voting Booth
South African truck drivers have threatened to not return to work and instead allow foreign nationals to be at the forefront of the trucking industry should employers continue with their preferential hiring tendencies/ if things don’t change.
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Agree. Put SA first
48% - 83 votes
Foreigners have rights
18% - 32 votes
It smacks of Xenophobia
34% - 59 votes