Time to end the romanticism of the liberation movement

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African National Congress (ANC) flag .Picture: Gallo Images/ Thapelo Maphakela
African National Congress (ANC) flag .Picture: Gallo Images/ Thapelo Maphakela

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When Babalo Madikizela announced that he would resign from the Eastern Cape cabinet after losing in the ANC provincial conference, he was just confirming what most people expected – that he would have been purged anyway under the guise of performance evaluation.

Madikizela said he would quit as public works MEC shortly after he lost the chairperson to incumbent Oscar Mabuyane.

And by jumping ship before he was thrown overboard, he exposed the lie that the winner of ANC conferences always preach unity in their victory speeches. He showed that this “unity” and “renewal” talk was a farce entrenched in the DNA of the ANC. This is because the winners always obliterate the losing opponents after the supposedly democratic process and treat them as arch enemies. That is how this fake unity, renewal and rebuilding process works practically in the ANC.

READ: ANC president Ramaphosa pleased with ‘phenomenal’ Eastern Cape delegates

Even before Madikizela made his announcement, the triumphant faction was already calling for the premier to begin a performance evaluation of his cabinet, to “strengthen” its performance. That was in fact just code for purging opponents such as Madikizela.

Interestingly, the governing party was the main architect of the proportional representation electoral system, which ensures that even minor parties with divergent views have a voice in the country’s governance.

But when it comes to its own internal electoral processes, the ANC factions adopt the UK’s Westminster practice of “winner takes all”, because it provides the sweetest revenge on comrades on the losing side.

This vicious circle, which sees the victors penalise the losers, is replicated every electoral cycle – at the branch, regional, provincial and national levels. At its pettiest, some leaders even lose their “blue lights” privileges and end up stuck in traffic with ordinary citizens.

READ: Mabuyane’s victory a boost for Ramaphosa’s re-election bid

This has an effect on the ANC’s electoral fortunes. In every election, the ANC’s electoral support has been declining significantly. This was most evident in its loss of most of the metros and some significant municipalities in last November’s local elections.

It is clear then that the victory of individuals and factions neither translates into the electoral fortunes of the ANC in elections nor does it translate in to the improved quality of life of the citizens. It does not improve the economy or transform our grossly unequal society.

The ANC factional machinations, with a singular focus on leadership positions and an obsession with power are guaranteed to see a further slide of the once glorious movement of Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and other departed great leaders.


Unless genuine leaders with moral rectitude stand up united, the party is headed for the dustbin of history. Sadly, it appears the ANC is on this irrevocable path of self-destruction, despite constant denials. Perhaps rightly so. A political party that has failed in its historical mission as people’s liberator which has descended into self-serving leaders deserves to be consigned to oblivion.

Democracy is not about a party governing until Jesus Christ comes. It is about giving way to those who can best serve the people’s aspirations.

This can be done by building strong and non-corruptible institutions and to prudently utilise the state’s fiscal and natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

Fulfilling these tasks is what is required of the leaders to earn the trust, honour and privilege to lead society and the country.

At the end of the day, the Eastern Cape provincial conference is emblematic of what the ANC conferences have become. Not only do the defeated contestants become casualties, the citizens are victims too. They get trampled in these fights and have to endure the collapse of basic services resulting in potholed roads, ill-equipped clinics, hospitals and schools, almost non-existent municipal services, a sky-high crime rate and the ever-rising unemployment and poverty rates.

READ: ANC Eastern Cape is a showdown between Madikizela and Mabuyane

While these ills beset the country, the ANC leaders falsely boast about their ability to unite, with no demonstrable evidence of them doing that. The so-called unity of comrades has no benefit whatsoever for the citizens of this country.

Unless the ANC truly reinvents itself while it still has power, the citizens will remain the casualties of its bruising internal battles.

It is therefore the people’s electoral power that must show the party the exit door and usher in a new chapter in post-apartheid South Africa. The poor and unemployed, the majority of whom are the youth, cannot be forever beholden to the liberation movement’s romanticism.

Makhubalo is an active citizen


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