The ANC's last easy victory

2019-05-06 05:24
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at Ellis Park
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at Ellis Park in Johannesburg for the ANC's final rally before the election on May 8. (Marco Longari/AFP)

The ANC no longer owns a hegemony over what voters think and want. The DA and EFF have both successfully managed to speak to a new generation of voters who are not steeped in the ANC's struggle history and lexicon, writes Adriaan Basson.

The ANC will win Wednesday's national election, but this will be the last "easy victory" for South Africa's liberation party.

The party is scrambling to hold onto its majority in Parliament that is slipping away after years of corruption and mismanagement of state resources and the neglect of basic government services like education, health and social security.

Add to that a limping economy, caused by internal weakness and global turbulence, investor apathy and the inability of the ANC state to create sustainable jobs on a massive scale, President Cyril Ramaphosa finds himself in a perfect storm. He took over the reins of Nelson Mandela's racehorse at a time when the party resembles an ageing donkey.

The ANC will win the May 8 election and Ramaphosa will be our president for five years. But 2024 will be a very different story.

Many liberation movements in Africa don't reach the 30-year mark before they are deposed at the ballot box by opposition parties – often from within – or through coups. Glorious liberation leaders who led their countries to independence often end up in exile in countries in eastern Europe or in jail.

The reason for this is simple: there is a very big difference between leading a revolution and leading a state. The best MK soldier may not necessarily be a great director-general of the department of defence.

It is a lesson the ANC is learning the hard way and the party will feel the wrath of the electorate on Wednesday when thousands of voters take their crosses elsewhere or stay away because of the presence of names like Nomvula Mokonyane, Fikile Mbalula and Bathabile Dlamini on the party list.

Is this the best the ANC has to offer South Africa 25 years after liberation? How is it possible that the ANC still allows a fraudster like Tony Yengeni to campaign for the party and expect people to trust Ramaphosa when he says crooks will be locked up?

Yes, the names of good, competent, non-corrupt leaders like Aaron Motsoaledi, Thoko Didiza, Pravin Gordhan and Naledi Pandor also appear on the list, but the ANC will die if the party doesn't renew before the next election in 2024.

The ANC has unfortunately become a vehicle for incompetent, often corrupt people who are unemployable outside of being public representatives. This is costing the party dearly.

Ironically, some of the ANC's finest cadres in the struggle are not active in politics and have created lives for themselves outside of Luthuli House. It will be one of Ramaphosa's biggest challenges to bring them back into the fold, as well as nurture a new, young generation of comrades who have greater ambition than bringing Beyoncé to South Africa.

Imagine a Cabinet with the names of Cheryl Carolus, Thuli Madonsela, Murphy Morobe and Joel Netshitenzhe in them. Is this completely unthinkable?

The ANC no longer owns a hegemony over what voters think and want. The DA and EFF have both successfully managed to speak to a new generation of voters who are not steeped in the ANC's struggle history and lexicon.

Listening to Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema addressing their supporters over the weekend, it is clear that they know which issues are omnipresent in the lives of their supporters and they have a plan, albeit imperfect, to do things better than the ANC.

Of course, the ANC has done a lot over the past 25 years. Millions of black people now have houses, running water, electricity and access to healthcare and education. But that is not enough to secure a future for the liberation party.

Ramaphosa has plotted a path to renewal and has done exceptionally well in his first year as president to restore order and stability at Eskom, Transnet, the NPA and the SSA.

Every move he makes after May 8 will determine whether this was the ANC's last electoral victory or if a renewed ANC can buck the trend set by our brothers and sisters to the north.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

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