In recent months and weeks, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mathews Phosa, Baleka Mbete and Jeff Radebe have entered the race for the presidency of the African National Congress (ANC). In other words, the 2017 national conference of the ANC has delivered the highest number of presidential candidates since the party was unbanned in February 1990.
For those who believe that the election of ANC leaders unopposed is a good thing because it is a sign of unity, this number of presidential candidates is a bad thing, since, to them, it represents fragmentation and is, therefore, not the antidote to factionalism they believe the ANC needs.
But we must not forget that, in 2012, Kgalema Motlanthe effectively ran as an independent candidate, knowing he was going to lose to President Jacob Zuma, to affirm the democratic principle of competitive leadership contests. Another thing Motlanthe did by running as an independent candidate was to reject factionalism. Is this what the candidates of 2017 are trying to do?
Except for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, none of the candidates seems to be linked to Zuma, the ANC Women’s League, the ANC Youth League and the so-called Premier League – that is, the dominant faction in the ruling party. While Dlamini-Zuma is perceived to be the President’s candidate, the rest are positioning themselves in contradistinction to what they believe the ANC has become under the leadership of Zuma. That they have no sense of irony about the extent to which they are culpable is a matter to which I will not pay much attention to in this column. All I will say is this: one of the functions of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC is to manage the strengths and weaknesses of the party leader. In this regard, the performance of the NEC has been abysmal. The leadership has, for too long, been content with being the image of the President, at what has been a great cost to both party and country. And now they want to ascend to the throne by distancing themselves from what they and the President co-created.
In my view, therefore, what the 2017 ANC presidential race lacks is a credible candidate. Therefore, the post of ANC president must be left vacant until such a candidate materialises. But I have a feeling that one of these candidates will be elected ANC president in December, and it is my view that nothing much will change about the country and the economy after that, even if the ANC loses power in 2019. The problem with our politics is much deeper than the crisis in the ANC. I firmly believe that what we call State capture is not going to end with the demise of the ANC. The day all emails, and I mean ALL emails, are liberated from that offshore server – you know the one I am talking about – we will know this to be true about the main political parties and their leaders. However, I will limit myself to the ANC for the purposes of my argument in this column. What is my argument?
For too many in the ruling party, the ANC has always been a means to an end. All you must do is to package your motives as a love for democracy and hatred for patronage and corruption, and you are on your way. For as long as I can remember, cabals have been feeding on the blood and soul of the ANC. This is a phenomenon that became more virulent when the ANC was in exile and underground. Different cabals were at war with one another then, and are at war with one another now. That is why I am so underwhelmed by some of the leading lights in the battle against kleptocracy. That is why I still contend that the battles between good and evil in the ANC and the State are battles between angels with horns and devils with halos and they both suffer from a God complex. That is why I believe that the outcome of the succession battle will not change much about the ANC or the country. If you do not believe me, just wait for the two-million emails that will land on the laps of investigative journalists a decade from now.
South Africa will be liberated by neither a secret nor an open ballot from the clutches of these cabals. The difference between these different sets of looters is that one has turned looting into fine dining, while the other chews with its mouth open. Neither Dlamini-Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Sisulu, Radebe, Phosa nor Mbete will change this to save South Africa’s future. When we say Zuma must go, we must extend what this means to all who gave us the Zuma moment. Some of these are now his opponents and friends of democracy. With friends like these . . .