Dikeledi Molatoli | In the clutches of an abusive partner, the ANC

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ANC workers protesting over non-payment of salaries outside ANC headquarters at Luthuli House. Photo: File
ANC workers protesting over non-payment of salaries outside ANC headquarters at Luthuli House. Photo: File


Many South Africans have had mixed reactions to the outcome of the local government election results, which led to coalition governments in many hung municipalities across the country. The ANC’s loss in major metros in Gauteng, Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane was especially noteworthy.

Some have asked themselves whether this loss was similar to the psychological conflict experienced by someone in an abusive relationship or marriage.

Questions have arisen from many who entered into a marriage with the ANC when they stood in very long queues on April 27 1994 and pledged their love and loyalty by ushering in the first ANC-led democratic government.

READ: DA completes clean sweep against ANC in Gauteng

There are some who were in exile or born in exile to parents who were members of the liberation movements – who returned in the early 90s or 1994 – as well as those born of parents who were in prison or killed by the apartheid system.

Many of these individuals are today no longer feeling the love and euphoria that characterised April 27 1994 and the celebrations that followed.

Instead, while there have been happy days since the first years of the honeymoon and promises of a better life than the one offered by previous lovers, the marriage has been nothing but misery and a nightmare – loveless and riddled with mistrust.

READ: ANC readies for new role in Joburg opposition benches

Over the years, the abused have been asking themselves questions such as:

Is this the beginning of the end of this relationship? What happened to all the love we declared to each other in the beginning? Why is my partner taking me for granted and no longer appreciating me the way they did before? Should I walk away now or give them another chance? I have afforded them so many chances but I do not see any change; is it worth staying on at all?

ANC loyalists who claim to have been pained by the corruption, mismanagement and malfeasance of the party are asking whether they can afford to walk away from the party that brought them liberation.

Simply walking away is a tough option.

READ: ANC loses power in major metros as opposition parties turn on them

But the issue is, the attitude of “better the devil you know” has seen many people trapped in abusive relationships, as has the fear of the unknown. Many either end up losing their minds over time, getting depressed and never recovering, or ultimately losing their lives and being killed by their abusive spouses.

In Sisonke Msimang’s memoir, Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home, she answers all these questions that a typical ANC member and supporter would ask themselves. Msimang is the daughter of ANC stalwart Mavuso Msimang.

READ: Black feminist writers in South Africa raise their voices in a new book

She writes about her disappointments in the way the ANC has run the country, including the Marikana massacre, and how the ANC government dealt with the deaths of the miners: turning its back on the mourning widows of dead men from distant rural villages.

Perhaps it is best to let Msimang speak in her own words:

Living in the wake of Marikana is like living in a haunted house. There are ghosts everywhere and they seem to be gathering force. They are no longer mournful either. No, this time the dead are angry and their spirits are shrieking.

“It is tempting to see Julius Malema as the product of their fury. For years, the young man from Seshego has been in the public eye. A badly behaved misogynist, a tiny tyrant, his rise seems to represent everything that is rotten in the ANC: the flaunting of wealth from questionable sources, the culture of moral impunity and a growing intolerance for debate and dialogue. If I were more spiritually inclined, I might put forward the idea that Malema’s turning, his decision to leave the ANC and become the man of the people again, was the work of the spirits.”

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Msimang boldly expresses the sentiments of what many who still feel emotionally and psychologically attached to the ANC feel, but she breaks ranks; she frees herself from this emotionally toxic attachment.

“I admire Malema in spite of myself. While I am vocal at home about my disgust for the ANC, I have not yet nailed my colours to the mast. The ANC is not just a party, it is home. I have not attended an ANC meeting for years, and I stopped paying my monthly dues a long time ago, but still, I consider the ANC to be in my blood. My great-grand-uncles Richard and Selby were founding members. My father was in MK. I was born in exile. I am ANC through and through.”

She concludes by saying:

I am a citizen of a country I love – and that perhaps is a function of having been raised by people who believe in the principles of equity and justice. The fact of my citizenship ... obliges me to take my responsibility to democracy seriously. If Julius, who said he would kill and die for Zuma – can break ranks and leave home, so can I. In fact, I must.

So must we all.

Thank you, Sisonke Msimang, for freeing us from abuse.

Molatoli is a social justice and community activist.


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