The ANC's website is down... why it's no laughing matter

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Halden Krog
Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Halden Krog

The shutdown of the ANC website due to non-payment of a service provider has turned the governing party into a subject of derision. Deservingly, its opponents would say.

A visit to returns the message: "This website is suspended due to non-payment to the service provider." Former DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille shared her loudest laughter with her followers when she tweeted: "Lolest. Please click on this link and see what comes up…"

It obviously feels good to see your opponent in dire straits. In a way, Zille and many others are justified having fun at the expense of a party they would wish to replace in government. But jokes aside, the financial health of the ANC is not entirely a laughing matter. It should be of national concern.

Although the ANC has been extremely weak in recent years, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jacob Zuma and all those who supported his actions, it nevertheless remains a governing party. Its power, through its control of government, stretches from municipalities, provinces and national departments to state-owned enterprises.

The risk of a governing party with such influence falling into financial trouble is as massive as the vast power it wields across state organs. The risk is that the governing party can be blackmailed by corrupt elements. Financial troubles make it vulnerable to questionable people who might seek business licenses or tenders from state institutions with the promise to donate part of their fortunes to the party.

When that happens, the negative effect is felt by all, including members of the opposition. Lest we forget, the Guptas donated millions of rands to the ANC while Zweli Mkhize was the party's treasurer-general. We know it was recycled money siphoned from the state as proceeds of state capture.

For as long as the ANC remains in power, its financial problems should be a matter of national concern because they could have a negative impact on governance. They are a matter of national concern not because we, ordinary citizens or voters, can or should do anything to rescue the party.

Many people are struggling to make ends meet. And some blame the ANC for the country's economic woes. From this perspective, the nonpayment message on the ANC website is a metaphor of the state of not only the ANC, but government and the country as a whole.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and other ANC leaders must appreciate the risk that the financial predicament of their organisation pose to the entire governance system of the country. While Ramaphosa is on a campaign against corruption, the financial trouble of his organisation makes it difficult for it to break clean from corrupt influencers, including wolves in sheep's skin.

It's not clear whether the ANC's financial problems are as a result of poor internal financial management, drying up of donor support as the party was increasingly seen to be veering off its values or the failure of its members and supporters to support their party financially.

It could be the combination of the three factors. If the problem is poor financial management, it raises questions about the party's ability to enforce financial management where it governs. Ironically, the very sound financial management system was conceived and legislated under the ANC.

If the problem is about drying up of donor support, it raises questions about the ANC's ability to fundraise from the private sector. Under the ANC government, capital has made a killing. It would be intriguing that even as they made huge profits, they wouldn't even pay for lights at Luthuli House.

Or could it be the fact that Zuma drove the wealth creators of the country away from the ANC in order to accommodate the rent seekers? Admittedly, Zuma could not make up who were the true patriots between people who created wealth, jobs and paid taxes, and those who bled the state coffers dry through corruption.

Or could it be that the wealth creators never came close to the ANC and therefore never appreciated its value as a party of transformation, stability, growth and democracy? Or is the party too corrupt and has it become a source of political risks that business would not support it?

Only the ANC has answers to all these questions. The sooner it explains itself the better. For reasons explained above, the ANC's financial position is not an entirely private matter. Whether we like it or not and whether we support the ANC or not, its financial health – or lack thereof – has a bearing on the state of governance because it is a governing party.

The DA's financial position is also not an entirely private matter because it governs the Western Cape and several municipalities. If the financial state of parties that run government or some spheres of government were entirely a private matter, we should all be joining Zille in laughing out loud.

- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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