Jacob Zuma is now bigger than the ANC

2014-04-01 12:25

The ANC, throughout its history, has always maintained that there is no individual that is bigger than the ANC. This means that the ANC could afford to let go of leaders that are no longer fit for purpose. It means that no individual should ever feel that he or she is indispensable. This is an important doctrine for any movement, so that the movement never finds itself hamstrung by one person or a cabal of a few members.

In order for individuals not to be bigger than the movement, the ANC had to ensure that it had functioning mechanisms of accountability, robust and frank dialogue, as well as a steady compass of morality and integrity. These seem to be absent from the party today and Zuma escapes and evades accounting to the organisation he leads. He has become more than a leader, he is a ruler in the ANC and therefore I contend that Zuma has become bigger than the ANC.

While Nelson Mandela - given his idolised stature - may have felt justified to believe that he was bigger than the ANC, his moral conscience made him repulse at the thought of that possibility. This made him to self-regulate and ensure that in order for the good name of the organisation to be upheld he too also needed to remain a member that serves the party not the other way around. Zuma has personalised the ANC not only by using it to weed out his political enemies but also using the party to defend his indiscretions. Of course, every party ought to stand by its leaders, but there is a fine line between doing that for progressive objectives and doing it for narrow self-interests of those that are in a faction that agrees with the seating president.

Whilst it remains true that organistions can outlive individuals, it is also true that individuals are responsible for the demise of organisations. Zuma has presided over a weakening ANC. The ANC has weakened intellectually, politically and morally. It has become a party for wealth accumulation instead of a tool to politically educate society and govern it with distinct integrity. Hangers on of history want us to believe that there remains nobility in the doings of the present day ANC comparable to those of selfless service during the dark days of struggle.

There are members of the ANC that have noble intentions, that want to see the country governed properly, that want to see the ANC regain its moral and credibility standing in society. These members are shut out and marginalised because the current ruling elite of the party is an antithesis of that. The broad membership of the ANC does not have control over this state of affairs, even if they may be delusional to believe otherwise.

It is the leadership that controls the outlook of the organisation. Unfortunately, the current leadership behaves like a gang, at the mercy of a vicious gang leader who crucifies any body that breaks rank with him. In order for one to survive in the core leadership team they must appear as kneeling before the leader and pleading allegiance daily with a salute never to sellout the leader no matter how wrong his actions might be.

A closer examination of the ANC under Zuma's presidency reveals that there have been two major breakaway parties (COPE and the EFF). It is under Zuma that the ANC has experienced dwindling electoral support in the 2009 National Elections (from 69.69% in 2004 to 65.90%) and 2011 Local Gov. Elections (from about 67% in 2006 to about 62%). If history is anything to go by, no political party has lost electoral support at the polls and later recovered the lost ground in the post-1994 era - instead it keeps losing that support. Another worrisome development is the intraparty violence that has taken place in the form of political killings inside the ANC. We have seen comrades being gunned down in an attempt to cover up corruption and further factional gains within the party.

Mpumalanga came to be seen as a mafia province where any whistleblower faced the possibility of the barrel of the gun. In the North West a Mayor (Wolmarans) was sentenced to 20-years in prison for the life of Phakoe who was a whistleblower on corruption taking place in the Rustenburg municipality. A sense of fear and terror has engulfed the movement, forcing the upright and principled members of the party to retreat into silence even when injustice stares at them.

This terror has turned once courageous men and women (who fought in the gallant struggle against apartheid) into cowards who are silent before they speak out. The concept of truth to power no longer exists, as thus the movement has started to eat itself up. If Zuma was serious about restoring people’s faith in the ANC, he would have long pushed for an investigative commission to find these elements responsible for such killings. Unfortunately he is unable to institute such a commission as it would compromise and implicate some of his most trusted political lieutenants.

The only positive to have happened under Zuma in the ANC is that the membership of the party has increased to beyond 1 000 000 members. Yet the tragedy of this positive is that majority of this membership increase (which mainly happened in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Free State) was embarked on to serve factional interests and not the good of the organisation. It was done to inflate voting numbers of a particular faction that would employ any cunning strategy at its disposal to retain power. This tendency of factionalism has embedded itself on the organisation to a point whereby it is becoming difficult for principled members to participate genuinely.

At every point in time, members are reminded that if they wish to remain relevant within the movement they must not speak out against a particular faction – even if that is the correct thing to do. In the presence of such dire factionalism, it means that the ANC cannot honestly self-critique and correct itself from within. In the absence of such self-critique and correcting, the movement continues to legitimise the errant behavior of its president and furthermore, it is forced to defend its president.

Failure to defend Zuma – currently – in the ANC is tantamount to being counterrevolutionary. Zuma now matters more than the good name of the organisation. Old men and women, with families and communities that they hail from, stand in front of the nation with straight faces knowingly defending Zuma’s wrongs.

These people, in their interest to defend Zuma even hurl insults to institutions that are important for the functioning of our democracy, such as the Public Protector, the Media and the Courts. If their wishes were to come true, all institutions in South Africa would serve Zuma and not the greater good of the country. To them, Zuma is beyond reproach, he is infallible and perhaps some are beginning to believe he is immortal too.

Those who criticise Zuma are seen as leading an attack on the ANC, yet this is far from the truth. An attack on the ANC becomes warranted when the party fails to rid itself of this president that is not worth the seat he occupies. If the ANC wants us to believe that Zuma is the best they can offer South Africa, then surely the ANC is wallowing in its own lies. There are many people far better than Zuma in the party. Yet, the ANC insists on Zuma because the man has engineered the political environment in such a way that he is indispensable. This means Zuma is bigger than the ANC at this present moment.

Some of the great leaders (such as Langalibalele Dube, AB Xuma, OR Tambo) the ANC has had, left footprints in the organisation. These are seen and celebrated within the ANC and in the communities that these leaders hailed from. The misfortune is that Zuma and his current leadership group are doing a great job in erasing those footprints. What they are doing is to transform the organisational culture of the ANC to serve tendencies of factionalism, corruption, cronyism.

Yes, a genuine member of the ANC reading this would disagree because he or she still goes to a branch meeting and they have passionate discussions about their community and development. Yet, the invariable truth is such that, what matters are the doings and articulations of the national leadership. It matters not what branches are doing if they cannot offer a national leadership that is reflective of the good work happening at a branch level. Branches do not govern South Africa.

This failure of the ANC ‘leadership’ and its broader membership to hold Zuma accountable means that the movement is failing to govern itself properly and therefore cannot be expected to govern South Africa properly. Especially, insofar as building an accountable state is concerned.

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