The ANC is its own worst enemy

Jacob Zuma outside the Durban Magistrates’ Court, where he appeared on charges of corruption and money laundering. Photo: Tebogo Letsie
Jacob Zuma outside the Durban Magistrates’ Court, where he appeared on charges of corruption and money laundering. Photo: Tebogo Letsie

There is a saying in isiZulu: “Uzenzile akakhalelwa, kukhalelwa uzumekile.” In the Queen’s language, it can be interpreted thus: “Those who knowingly cause themselves tragedies cannot expect sympathy from others, only those who were asleep or ignorant can.”

For some time now, opinion makers, such as political analysts, certain academics and newspaper editors have said the ANC is its own worst enemy. The ANC has been in the political game for over a century and so it cannot be said it is like Alice in Wonderland, which is to say taken by surprise, with regard to the troubles it has been facing in recent history. So it can expect no sympathy from the rest of us.

Whether one agrees or not with this statement depends on which side of populism one is standing. What clearly is no exaggeration is that, in this country, opposition political parties do not have to work very hard to gain political points from the ruling ANC. It gives out those points, cheaply, to opposition parties on a silver platter.

I have tried to make sense of the leadership’s directive to ANC members not to rally around former president Jacob Zuma as he faces criminal charges in a Durban court. I can’t. There are three reasons why that position makes no sense.

Firstly, politically, it amounts to cutting your nose to spite your face. When South Africans go to elections next year, there will most certainly still be a huge number of people, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, who feel greatly aggrieved by that stance, and who will remember it when the glorious movement wants their votes. The end result of such a situation is that opposition parties in KwaZulu-Natal, especially the Inkatha Freedom Party and National Freedom Party, could find themselves the beneficiaries of those disgruntled voters. In short, we could see the vote for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal greatly reduced.

Those with long memories will remember that quite a number of people, many of them not necessarily ANC members, voted for the party, as many of them believed that Zuma was the victim of a political and government conspiracy in the run-up to the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007.

But urging members to withdraw their support for Zuma makes a lot of sense if you are among those who stand to gain something (such as a position in the new administration, or if you are still hurting inside because you did not get what you expected to get under Zuma’s administration) from Zuma’s troubles. There are huge amounts of bile coming from the mouths in that quarter.

Newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is very much aware of this, since he has concerns of his own. He knows the support from the ANC Youth League, the ANC Women’s League and certain provinces is hanging by a thread. To compound that situation, even within the top six, there are gaping divisions.

Secondly, the directive to forbid members to support Zuma at court is nonsensical since, in this country, all of us, including a former president, are innocent until a court pronounces otherwise. It is as nonsensical as claiming that, all of a sudden, Zuma is fomenting ethnic violence in KwaZulu-Natal following his recall. Those who are not blinded by their hate of the man, or who can still control their need to ingratiate themselves with the new administration, know that Zuma played no small part in ending that violence in that part of the country.

Third and last, to say people should not wear ANC colours in court is just pure malice and vindictiveness, since, firstly, Zuma has not shown any inclinations that he wants to form a breakaway faction/opposition party; and secondly, he is still, by all accounts, a member of his party in good standing.

While I hold no brief for Zuma, I have always held the view that it is both illogical and irrational for anyone to expect him not to defend himself when he is being abused, vilified and made the scapegoat of some of the blunders of the ANC.

Indeed, I go along with those who urge Zuma to start to tell his own story, to expose some of those who are also guilty of some of the charges he is facing. In short, silence is most definitely not golden in this situation.

- Ka Mzolo is a Gauteng-based social and media commentator

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