Can the ANC redeem its fading glory?

2014-01-15 05:07

The South African ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) has been enjoying more than 60% of voters’ support at virtually every election since 1994, the year that marked the beginning of democratic rule in the country.

This support, it seems, is ebbing away. It is not too soon to ask what efforts the ANC is making to redeem its fading glory at a time when the youth are losing patience. How could these efforts, if any, affect the SA political landscape generally?

For more than a century, the ANC has survived as the only major political party to champion the cause of the underdog. In that capacity, it has relentlessly preached the message of freedom and of an inclusive non-racial society where people, regardless of their origin and creed, can enjoy an equal opportunity in social, economic and political life.

Its adoption in Kliptown of the Freedom Charter on 26 June 1955, which clearly stipulates that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people” provided it with a basis for the equality and freedom struggle that later culminated into the advent of democracy rule in 1994.

Losing patience

Ever since then, the ANC has appealed to people from all walks of life especially the older generation most of whom are still struggling to put behind the trauma of apartheid. It is to this group of the population in particular that it owes much of its support till today.

While this population group, with a better understanding of the past,  is willing to continue to hang onto, and wait for, the ANC to deliver on the long awaited  promises of equality and freedom, the younger generation, more politically active and progressive, is fast losing patience. For instance, a recent survey by Ipsos that portrays 10% of ANC support loss mainly from the youth shows the party is not living to everybody’s expectation.

Indeed, twenty years after the end of apartheid, SA has undergone a huge transformation especially in areas of education, housing and other service deliveries. Yet despite this transformation, the vast majority of the population, especially the youth, seems to be living a deferred dream as many of them continue to be plagued by a high rate of unemployment of about 50%.

Malaise

The reluctance of the ANC leadership to undertake swift economic reforms and its inability or rather unwillingness to tackle allegations of widespread mismanagement within its rank is further undercutting its effort to maintain its credibility.

The creation of Dr.Mamphela Ramphele’s AgangSA to restore “the promise of freedom” and to “champion zero tolerance to corruption, through transparency and accountability” might be seen as a direct response to ANC’s leadership perceived complacent laissez-faire attitude.

Perhaps the recent breakaway of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) now very critical of the party, and the swift emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) seen by many political analysts as a rank outsider, are further signs of this growing popular malaise.

This malaise, we must admit, has put the ANC leadership on the edge to the extent that it is now trying desperately to defend and preserve its hitherto political dominance. The recent ANC’s meeting in Mpumalanga that was meticulously choreographed to better keep its rank and file under control is a testament that the party is, more than ever before, on a defensive. It might also be an indication that, unlike the past elections, the ANC can no longer take South Africans for granted. Even attempts to silence the party’s critics have not yielded the expected results.  And this raises several questions.

Is the ANC reaching the end of the road? Does the disintegration of the ANC signal indeed a political opening for smaller political parties that have long been suppressed by its weight? And finally, will the ANC be able to make the wise and mature decision to stop its hemorrhage without resorting to polarizing political discourses that could threaten the unity of the nation? Time will tell.

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