There's A Cloud on the ANC's Horizon Here
Nine years ago, political analysts and observers alike predicted that it would take another two or three decades before the ANC ceased to be a strong and powerful political movement.
The observations were based on the overwhelming majority the ANC achieved in the first general election. The majority was increased in the 1999 election, which saw Thabo Mbeki becoming the second president of a democratic South Africa.
So powerful and dominant has the ANC been that it has dwarfed opposition parties such as the New National Party and Democratic Alliance. Opposition parties have merged or sought some kind of co-operation mechanisms, all designed to take on the giant that the ANC has been on the South African political landscape.
Recently, the DA and Inkatha Freedom Party struck an election pact, tailor-made to take on the ANC in the next election, which is less than 10 months away.
While questions have been asked whether the DA/IFP alliance will succeed in reducing the dominance of the ANC, it would seem that a new powerful force - a new enemy - has emerged. It is none other than the ANC itself.
The ANC is slowly proving to be its own biggest enemy.
The controversy raging at the moment around whether or not Bulelani Ngcuka, the national director of public prosecutions, was an apartheid spy, represents a single biggest challenge that the ANC faces.
The allegations could well divide the ANC and weaken it considerably as it prepares for the 2004 elections.
So, instead of flooding the media and the public with election manifestoes or stories of how the ANC has delivered in the past nine years, the ANC has been forced to deal with allegations that one of its senior members was an apartheid spy.
In order to deal with the allegation properly, the ANC would have to look beyond Ngcuka. It would have to step back and review a decision taken at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The decision was that the names of those ANC cadres who worked for the apartheid system would be withheld. The reasons were simple: the publication of such names would not only embarrass the organisation, but it would lead to a number of senior ANC officials being viewed with suspicion.
Politically, being labelled a spy is the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone. The ANC has chosen to box clever on the issue. At a meeting of the organisation's national executive committee meeting at the weekend, a decision was taken that the ANC would not launch its own investigation but that it would watch, with a keen eye, developments in the ministerial committee looking into the issue.
So, the ANC has, for now, elected to stay out of the controversy. This is an intelligent view, because the ANC would not have been able to look into the allegations against Ngcuka in isolation.
It would have to reopen the discussion about who in the ANC sold out to the apartheid government. It would also have to look at the conduct of senior ANC members who have admitted that they played a part in putting the allegations against Ngcuka into the public arena.
How did the ANC get here? It can thank its own members.
The spy allegations were first leaked by ANC members and then printed in a Sunday newspaper two weeks ago. The claims were later repeated by former transport minister and national executive committee member Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, a diplomat and special adviser to the foreign minister and brother of Durban businessman Schabir Shaik, whom the Scorpions is prosecuting in connection with alleged arms deal corruption and fraud.
So, ANC members, in pursuit of an agenda known to themselves, have, six months away from the elections, spotlighted allegations that could well divide the ANC. They have, by placing the allegations in the public arena, brought the organisation into disrepute.
The question the ANC would have to answer is whether or not these members acted within the rules and regulations of the ANC or whether they would need to be disciplined for failing to first raise this sensitive issue within the structures of the ANC.
A few years ago, Bantu Holomisa, then a national executive committee member and former deputy minister, faced a disciplinary committee and was eventually fired from the ANC for, among other things, failing to raise his allegations of bribery against fellow ANC member Stella Sigcau, the public enterprises minister, within the structures of the party.
If it is to be fair, the ANC must show consistency and act against Maharaj for bringing the ANC into disrepute. Failure to do this would fuel speculation that the ANC is biased in its application of its constitution.
With acknowledgements to Jovial Rantao and The Star.