Will the once glorious African liberation movement fade into obscurity as have so many others before it, asks Tebogo Khaas
Great liberation movements, just like iconic brands, tend to get insulated and are vulnerable to decline over time.
The hubris born of success can become their Achilles heel. The ANC is no exception.
As it grasps for salvation after recently suffering electoral decline, it is worth noting that patterns of political history may not bode well for the ANC, unless it urgently pulls itself back from the precipice.
In a 2012 report prepared for the Brenthurst Foundation titled From Liberation Movement to Government, author Christopher Clapham submits that “throughout Africa, and indeed in much of the world, there are movements that have fought long and hard, with great heroism and often at great cost, in order to achieve the liberation of their people and their territories from oppressive regimes”.
He goes on to posit:
“Virtually all liberation struggles have experienced considerable difficulties in actually making the transition from a liberation movement to government.”
Since being unbanned, Africa’s oldest liberation movement triumphed over fellow liberation movements, such as the Pan Africanist Congress and Azanian People’s Organisation, in the battle for mass political appeal.
However, it appears that the once seemingly invincible ANC is losing its way and has ostensibly yielded some of its political resonance to its nemeses, the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Despite its strong electoral performances throughout the rural hinterland, it was ironic that voters could not entrust the ANC with running a municipality in its leader’s own back yard of Nkandla.
If this does not serve an indictment on President Jacob Zuma by his rural neighbours and send ominous signs on the future electoral prospects of the ANC, then nothing will.
In his book, How The Mighty Fall, bestselling author Jim Collins explores what he describes as the five stages of decline, namely: hubris born of success; undisciplined pursuit of more; denial of risk and peril; grasping for salvation; and capitulation to irrelevance or death.
It is beyond debate that the ANC is in decline. However, by understanding and addressing its status and extent of decline, the ANC can substantially mitigate and reverse ominous signs of its imminent tipping into the precipice.
With its admitted arrogance, pervasive avarice and denial of risk and peril, the ANC arguably battles stage four in its decline and is manifestly grasping for salvation.
The success or otherwise of its quest for salvation will determine whether the ANC survives, thrives or capitulates to irrelevance and dies, just as Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) did.
Lest we forget, in its heyday, former Zambian president Kaunda’s UNIP once commanded 89% of election votes but registered less than 1% of votes for its last elections when it finally threw in the white handkerchief.
Following the recent local government elections, some ANC leaders and pundits, clearly in denial, argued that the governing party had done extremely well in winning an overwhelming number of municipalities, compared with all other parties combined.
It may well be that, in terms of the absolute number of municipalities controlled, the ANC indeed amassed more municipalities than all other political parties combined. However, that’s beside the point.
The crux is, prior to these elections, the ANC controlled 85% of the R228 billion combined budget of the eight metros, while the DA controlled a mere 15%.
In losing Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, and failing to secure an outright majority in Johannesburg, the ANC stands to lose control of a combined metros budget of R130 billion.
This translates to a potential loss of control of 80% of the combined metros’ budget nationwide.
Lingering hopes of clinging to key metros, particularly Joburg and Tshwane, by the ANC were eviscerated on Wednesday when the EFF, the de facto kingmakers, the DA and a plethora of other political parties announced their rejection of any cooperation with the ANC.
In practical terms, this amounts to the potential loss of considerable political and economic power by the ANC which, in turn, could result in diminished means to dispense patronage or pursue its political programmes unencumbered.
The ANC is distracted from focusing on the exigent needs, including transitioning itself from a liberation movement to a modern political party operating within the confines of a constitutional democracy in the 21st century.
While the recent fractious – and sometimes deadly – contestations for nomination for ANC ward councillors have subsided, the ANC will be seized with preparations for its next elective conference.
No doubt the road towards the governing party’s next conference is itself poised to be tumultuous.
The politics of slates, an otherwise euphemism for crude internal practices of foisting preferred individuals into elected positions with no regard to their suitability or probity, is already besieging the ANC with more than a year to go before the conference.
However, the burdens of leadership dictate that ANC leaders must make bold and, if necessary, unpopular decisions, even if it means alienating themselves from self-serving members, including errant deployees running parastatals such as SAA, the SABC and Denel.
The ANC can ill-afford to continue burying its head in the sand or kicking the can down the road.
The real ANC needs to provide leadership on vexing socioeconomic issues such as e-tolls in Gauteng; university funding and fees; and state capture, to mention just a few.
Whereas some were still hopeful that the ANC national executive committee would make far-reaching announcements after its “introspection” this past weekend, a regurgitation of previous half-hearted declarations does not pass as a genuine attempt to meet the reasonable desires of its weary supporters.
To allege that the ANC of Zuma is ailing; obstinate; in the grasp of the ruthless; amenable to serious violations of the Constitution of the republic by the executive; and either unable or unwilling to meet exigent leadership demands is an averment of the obvious.
What is not so obvious, though, is what the majority of upright ANC leaders, ordinary members and elders are prepared to risk to salvage the ANC from tipping into the precipice.
For what it’s worth, Collins reflects on salvation thus: “Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do yourself than on what the world does to you.”
The ANC knows what needs to be done at this epoch. But does it have the political will and moral rectitude to do it?
Only time will tell...
Khaas is secretary of ANC Ward 117 in Johannesburg. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas
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