IT IS the strangest of times when we South Africans await with much trepidation, and no longer mere curiosity, the outcome of an ANC elective conference.
We all sit here, wondering whether the choices delegates will make will spew hellfires or torrential rains. We’re reduced to arguing among ourselves as to which one of the two would constitute a better outcome – one that would come with promises for a possible recovery for our country.
It’s even stranger because we increasingly go on as if there were no alternative political choices outside the ANC, ahead of the upcoming party conference.
Without admitting to it, we’ve become like Zimbabweans who have known only one party that came into power after the end of colonial rule and has remained there for almost four decades, with generations who remain totally incapable of imagining another party running the affairs of their land.
They have been conditioned to fear change, even when everyone knows their country needs it more than anything else. While many would have vowed that Zimbabwe would implode even further without Mugabe at the helm, his recent departure has shown that no man is indispensable in the affairs of any nation. Zimbabweans, like us, should also know that no one political party is indispensable in their affairs.
Many commentators and analysts – probably because they too are just human - have fallen into the dangerous habit of talking about the ANC as being so indispensable that South Africa would implode without it.
Listening to them speak on television and radio, and reading their learned analyses of the state of our nation in print and online, one gets the impression that it is a given that the ANC will win the 2019 general elections and continue running affairs alone for many more years.
A few will only very cautiously veer into imagining a South Africa run by a totally different set of people without imploding. Their attitude is defeatist.
Do not get me wrong; up to a certain point - one that still requires careful, unemotional analysis - the ANC has contributed marvellously to the journey of South Africa. It was by no means the only party that did so, of course, many others and individual South Africans of all backgrounds gave up much for us to survive our treacherous journey.
But the ANC has long passed its sell-by date as a leading moral force. We know this because that is what has been said ad nauseam by its spokespersons, its parliamentarians, its very problematic president, even the current crop of leaders who are busy vying for their turn to lead the party and, if the rest of us remain foolish, our beloved country after the 2019 general elections.
Putting party interests above all else
In their defence of President Jacob Zuma throughout all his problems, the ANC – through all of its structures – has consistently ignored our cries and chosen to put party interests first even at the cost of racial harmony and the socio-economic well-being of South Africa; both of which have been eroding directly because of his shambolic and, going by all revelations, criminal leadership.
For them, Zuma could not be removed because doing so would harm party unity; it has therefore been better (for the ANC) to leave Zuma where he remains because, irrespective of his credibly reported involvement as a possible kingpin in all manner of crimes against our country’s Constitution and socio-economic well-being, the ANC comes well ahead of South Africa.
More recently, especially following the takeover of Gauteng, Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and several other small municipalities by opposition coalitions, further rot has been uncovered in how public finances have been systematically mismanaged and, seemingly, grand theft and disregard of Public Finance Management Act regulations allowed in municipalities previously run by the ANC.
The reason people have been able to do these things for many years without a care in the world is simple; they believed that their party would always be in power and that no one would ever come close enough to see the rot and do something about it.
Too many easy victories for too many years
Corruption is not exclusive to the ANC, of course, but because this party has enjoyed too many easy victories for too many years - added to the fact that many politically connected criminals have been allowed to blatantly break our laws and get away with it - people in powerful public office have become too blasé, believing that they would remain untouchable forever.
For them, the principle of ‘equality before the law’ simply forms part of theory taught to law students and has no relevance to real life, even in the democracy we claim to be.
Revelations of grand corruption in the Nelson Mandela metro, contained in a recent book by Crispian Olver; more revelations about how hundreds of millions of rands were squandered through what appears to have been connivance with corrupt entities by a bunch of public officials who claimed to have been “surprised and caught unprepared” by the death of former president Nelson Mandela, using this an excuse to redirect funds budgeted for public infrastructure into “funeral services” that cannot be accounted for; and more revelations of bogus tenders in Gauteng and Tshwane over the years that directed massive public funds into bank accounts held by politically connected individuals and businesses – all of this indicates what happens when the same bunch of people remain in public office for too long with little scrutiny from outside.
Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense that the notorious Dudu Myeni gets given another position in government – especially one that will give her possible influence over South African Airways - after everything that has been revealed about her in recent years.
This is just one example of leadership through the middle finger.
It shouldn’t all be about the ANC
No one can claim not to have noticed that the main campaign themes by the people currently running for ANC leadership are inward-looking, all about what they will do to strengthen the party.
We know that the election is about party leadership, of course, but given the extraordinary rough patch that the ANC has thrown us into under the Zuma leadership, these party leadership contenders also owe us, South Africans outside the ANC, a clearer promise about what they will do to reverse the mess we’re in.
Will they initiate a transparent, radical removal of the cancer that has spread in their party and affected our country? Will they lead a reputationally recovered ANC to the 2019 elections or, like their Zanu-PF buddies, simply shed an old skin and rely on gullible voters and analysts to believe a possible lie that they would have been cleansed?
Despite its fast dwindling reputational fortunes, when the ANC sneezes South Africa still catches a cold, but this state of affairs has long ceased to be good for our country. Considering everything we now know, we would be suicidal to continue putting all our eggs in the ANC’s porous basket.
Let it elect its new leaders alright, but let us also start imagining a new future, a new beginning for our country that will not lie in the hands of a powerful ANC alone.
South Africa is in dire need of a new set of leaders who are not angry offshoots of the ANC, but passionate South Africans of all races, religions, sexual orientation and ethnicities, who believe in what we can still be if we recalibrate and return to the principles neatly enshrined in our founding documents.We cannot reasonably hope to create that seemingly illusive inclusive economy by relying on the same methods and people who have failed us, robbed us, laughed at us, and told us repeatedly that we should be patient while they ate and got fat at our expense.
- Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.