The ANC – Modernization Deficit

2016-09-14 16:10

The ANC has been slow to modernize itself into a party in government. Its structures mirror those of the old Soviet Union in the main. This feeds into its model, which is at the root of its repeating troubles. Restructuring mistakes were made in early 1990s. The same mistakes saw the ANC experiencing its first major case of corruption where one if its stars and popular leader ended in cuffs.

When Dr Alan Boesak had to leave his post in Geneva for prison, perhaps this is when the opportunity to modernize was lost. Although Boesak’s case did not involve public funds, the accusations were of misuse of funds donated by singer Paul Simon. Boesak in he main had used the funds to settle back from prison and exile of ANC leaders including Govan Mbeki and others. This was not what the funder had intended. It is no wonder then that president Thabo Mbeki pardoned Boesak of any criminality.

The ANC failed to recognize the need to properly settle its members from prisons, exile and internally displaced back into society and the demobilization compensation for MK, APLA and others came late and did not go far enough. Modernizing the party does not mean dolling up of funds around but recognizing human requirements against the responsibilities they were being assigned. The so-called black tax for ordinary black people, it gets tripled if one was an ANC activist.

During the drafting of the interim constitution pre 1994 elections, Nedbank Chairman Chris Liebenberg warned that the ANC proposed public salaries were too low and would not fit the personal expenses the new roles demanded from the incoming government and public representatives. The ANC refused to heed his warnings.

What was also not attended to is what happens to family members of public representatives? What happens to those ANC leaders who do not want to be public servants but remain influential ANC leaders? The leverage these individuals had to pursue private business needed proper discussion. Once again, the ANC has not discussed what happens to public servants who leave posts to pursue private business within the areas of expertise developed whilst in government. What also happens should a super wealthy cabinet be appointed.

We have had many DGs move to the business sector, which immediately is followed by some major deal that involves the state. This talk to insider information. We have seen ministers assets showing vast ownership of public shares in listed companies they govern. Ministers of Finance, Nene, and Manuel have been major beneficiaries of jobs in banking and financial services after their public life. Pravin Gordhan holds shares in all major banks and other institutions under him including companies involved in alleged illegal spying he is mentioned in.

President Jacob Zuma’s son has an alleged dubious relationship with a capitalist family, the Guptas. President Thabo Mbeki’s wife, Ms Zanele Mbeki developed a banking institution and got involved in various government linked matters of business and today she is a likely billionaire.

The ANC has not developed ideas on cooling off period or restraint of trade policies from its leaders. There is no code of conduct for conducting business from within. There is no model for making key leaders life expenses catered for by the party. There is no register of personal interests for all NEC, PEC, REC and BEC members.

Those who complain over president Zuma are not coming up with ideas on how to fix the model, fix policy but appear fixated on an individual. The same people forget that they are the ones who benefitted from recent privatization of state assets during Mbeki terms. They are the ones who agreed to privatization and benefitted from its implementations. This extends to other aspects too including mining and others.

Whether it is Investec doing a BEE deal and asking the presidency to assist, or ABSA being bought by Barclays, or Standard Bank or other. Whether it’s ending up being chairman of Old Mutual, or Anglo owned businesses. You will see key names including those who are today prominent in asking for Zuma to go due to his son Duduzani being a member of the Gupta Empire.

The ANC requires to be modernized in toto. It must confront certain discomforts. It must modernize whilst keeping its good parts like the closeness to the people in communities. It must embrace the digitizing world to disseminate information. The current model is not working and creates a distant between people and the party.

The opposition parties combined have a ceiling of 30% electoral support. They breach this 30% due to ANC and not because they are doing well. The ANC has tested 70% before with 69% electoral victory once. Judging from the local elections results, people would rather not vote than vote any other but the ANC. However, the people want a responsive ANC.

It generally accepted that the ANC is the premier representative of the majority of South Africans socio-economic aspirations. I use the word freedoms in plural to underscore the plurality and complexity of the struggle against oppression from the times of colonial rule up to apartheid. ANC supporters and members see the relationship between themselves and the ANC like that between lovers, there is deep affection and love.

When the ANC makes mistakes, it hurts its members like a lover’s quarrel would. Some members get bitter, angry and retaliatory. Some choose to make peace and make up. Indeed others can be like Julius Malema who exhibits traits of a scorned lover and hell hath no fury as such. Such is the love of the ANC by the people. People remember that it is through the ANC and others takings risks that they eventually got to be freed.

Modernizing the party should also refocus it to its reality that “dubaism” (a process of building malls and fancy amenities to pacify the masses) will not work in the sea of poverty and hunger. It only makes people angrier.


Bo Mbindwane is on twitter @mbindwane

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