For the first time, recently, political commentators are starting to seriously suggest the demise of the ANC as the ruling party. The reasons they cite are varied, but often focus on the revelations of greed and malfeasance that have become the modus operandi of many of the ANC’s bigwigs and their hangers-on.
Many South Africans are coming to view the ANC’s leading hierarchy ~ certainly members thereof ~ as evil. Not just politically, but evil in the moral sense, particularly after it became clear that emergency measures put in place to provide equipment and supplies necessary in the fight against the Covid pandemic became nothing more than a stream of largesse available for looting.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, the ANC’s bigwigs cemented their venality in the public eye when a suggestion by President Ramaphosa that, perhaps, ANC bigwigs’ family members should be prohibited from doing business with the state was roundly, soundly and very quickly shot down in flames. Because even the most dim-witted member of the ANC hierarchy can see that to prevent family members from accessing the state’s tender gravy train would severely curtail their earnings.
The problem with the ANC is, of course, fundamental. It isn’t, and never was, a political party in the true sense of the word. It was founded as a liberation movement, and cobbled together a host of organisations of disparate political, moral and philosophical views in the noble pursuit of political reform and racial equality. It is, by its own admission, “a broad church”.
Post-1994, this state of affairs continued, with its “tripartite alliance” which brings into this broad church organised labour in the form of Cosatu and the last vestiges of communism, in the form of the SA Communist Party. How anybody aiming to run a modern avowedly capitalist country with this bunch in the tent only Alice in Wonderland could answer.
And that is the problem. The ANC is great on idealism: “Let’s make healthcare more affordable for all our citizens by introducing a National Health Insurance scheme…” but hopeless at thinking through to the nuts and bolts of their ideas, (like who will pay for it?), or the consequences (like the thousands of doctors and nurses who will up sticks and leave for less onerous, better paying positions overseas).
You can see the same pattern in policy after policy, and decision after decision.
So, if the ANC finally does start to disintegrate, who takes over? The answer, at this stage, is nobody. No current political party, either to the left or to the right of the ANC is anywhere near big enough to take over governance of the country. The odd metropole or municipality, maybe, or maybe even a province or two. But the whole country? Not yet, anyway. So South Africa will enter a period of coalition government with all the messiness, horse-trading and political cynicism that this implies.
And that is not a bad thing. For even if coalition politics is messy and not particularly efficient it inevitably leads to cleaner government ~ less corruption, in other words ~ because each party in the coalition spends a lot of time and effort looking at ways to trip up and unseat their coalition partners.
But it’s not just the disarray and greed of its leaders that will cause the ANC to implode. History tells us this, too. If one looks at other countries that have undergone cataclysmic liberation struggles similar to ours, it takes about 30 years for the newly elected government to rule, and then fall apart. So, given that the ANC has held the reins for the past 26 years we have only four or so more to go for history to be proven right, again.
And so things will continue to fall apart as we become like the frog in the pot on the stove. We aren’t really noticing the day-by-day little infringements on our rights as citizens and inconveniences to our families, our lives and our staff that will, when the water is truly boiling, eventually kill us.
We’re probably not headed as far down the chute as Zimbabwe or Venezuela because the aforementioned demise of the ANC and the coming era of coalition politics may provide something of a brake to our fall. But we’ve sure as hell seen the last of the sunshine from the democratic miracle that we experienced post-1994 and those commentators who are now warning that unless the government acts immediately to arrest the rot are Pollyannas.
That bird flew the coop a while back. The ANC is simply incapable of changing course and morphing into a party of probity. Thus, darkness looms, sad to say. But it’s the darkness before the dawn.