Today's ANC: A Volatile Mix of Arrogance and Authoritarianism

2012-03-11 19:01

Much has been written in recent days on the ruling party’s desire to change the constitution. This together with the attacks on the media and the judiciary bode ill for our democratic freedoms so painfully won on the streets of apartheid South Africa as well around the tables of Kempton Park.

At the roots of this authoritarianism lies the arrogance of the ANC: the arrogance that proposes that the ANC will rule until the second coming of Jesus; the arrogance that proposes that Jesus himself would have been a member of the ruling party.

In the first instance, this arrogance is seen in the fact that the ANC does not see itself as a political party like other political parties representing a particular constituency, but rather as a revolutionary movement representing all South Africans. Stemming from this erroneous position, the ANC sees all those who oppose them as “counter-revolutionary”.

The ANC is the custodian of the mythical National Democratic Revolution. Those who expose the ANC’s ineptitude in governance and corruption within the “revolutionary movement’s” ranks are all reactionaries.

Second, this arrogance stems from the notion that the ANC represents morality by virtue of its anti-apartheid struggle credentials. In this, today’s ANC represents Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. Despite the terror Mugabe and his goons have unleashed on Zimbabwe’s hapless citizens, they are periodically reminded that it was ZANU-PF who delivered them from the clutches of Ian Smith’s racist regime.

In this year of the ANC’s centenary anniversary, South Africans are constantly reminded of the ANC’s anti-apartheid leadership. Indeed, the ruling party is fixated on past glories as opposed to current failures of leadership.

In the ANC’s hands, history itself is used to burnish the revolutionary liberation movement’s credentials. Other formations opposed to apartheid such as the Black Sash, the End Conscription Campaign, academics or the media are ignored.

It is only the ANC worthy of being a liberation movement.

This one-sided history of the ANC also ignores the ANC’s own excesses whilst in exile – think here of the Quattro prison camp and the horrors it inflicted on fellow ANC members.

In order to stem the tide of growing authoritarianism, South Africans need to challenge this arrogance by first recapturing their own history – recognizing that whilst the ANC, in large part, was sitting comfortably in exile, ordinary South Africans took to the streets and brought the apartheid regime to an end.

It was ordinary school children who took to the streets of Soweto in 1976 and not an ANC central committee decision to start the Soweto Uprisings. In recovering our own revolutionary history, ordinary South Africans will feel empowered enough to take on the Leviathan.

Second, the best way to challenge authoritarian political leadership is by teaching them humility – always an effective antidote to institutionalized arrogance.

How does one teach humility to the ANC government? COSATU has already shown us the way with its mass protests against the e-tolling system.

We need to once more capture the streets - parliament and government will follow.

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