Liberation Loyalty No Longer Bridges Divide in ANC
For the first tie since 1994, the ANC is faced with deep internal divisions which it cannot resolve by resorting got the tried and trusted formula of liberation loyalty and unity in struggle.
A new, vibrant emerging democracy is taking on a life of its own. Growing demands for accountability and transparency are increasingly in conflict with blind liberation loyalty which seeks to evade the demands of the new society.
The faultline in the ruling party has been deepened and put under intense strain by the vitriolic showdown between the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, trying to perform his mandate in terms of the new democracy, and Deputy President Jacob Zuma and his most vocal supporters, who include ANC veteran Mac Maharaj and the Shaik brothers, among others.
It is a fundamental divide between those who want to put the interests of the new democracy and its independent institutions ahead of the old ties that bind ANC members through their common involvement in the liberation struggle. The argument goes that these same ties sometimes act as a brake on government efforts to root out corruption.
While the divisions are being acted out on two levels - through the institutions of the new democracy, as well as rivalry for political power - it is increasingly clear that the divide is between those who want to move ahead to a new society based on merit and common values, and those who want to maintain, indefinitely, the supremacy and patronage of the liberation struggle.
It is a faultline which cuts across all others in the ruling party - socialist/capitalist, internal/exile and elite/rank-and-file. But one cannot escape the conclusion that Ngcuka's supporters are weighted in favour of those who fought the liberation struggle fro inside the country and believe it is time for the exiles to subject themselves to the norms of a democratic society, despite the obvious disadvantage in having to return to the country without bank accounts, investments or pensions.
Likewise, Zuma's supporters are dominated by those who were in exile or in the underground and sympathise with the set of circumstances that led to Zuma's alleged indiscretions. The ANC rank-and-file do not seem too perturbed by the media focus on Zuma who they see as an accessible, loyal and caring leader.
Trying to straddle the divide - but paralysed by his concern over saying or doing anything which could be seen to be taking sides and, this, undermining the vital process - is President Thabo Mbeki whose legendary iron grip on the ruling party appears to be facing a major test.
The decision announced by justice minister Penuell Maduna this week to appoint a cabinet committee to resolve the claim, supported by Maharaj, that Ngcuka was an apartheid spy, is an act of desperation by a ruling party and leadership which is deeply traumatised by the Ngcuka-Zuma stand-off.
Maduna welcomed the indication from the French authorities that they would co-operate in the Scorpions investigation into Schabir Shaik, Zuma and the alleged R500 000 bribe. The successful outcome of the French connection could mean the re-opening of the case against Zuma and charges being brought.
Maduna, who vehemently denied that he had threatened to resign in a reported cabinet clash with Zuma over the allegations, made it clear that he would continue to speak his mind in the tradition of the ANC, and would not be silenced merely because Zuma was his senior.
Ngcuka said in an SABC interview this week that he had no personal axe to grind with the deputy president but, with Maharaj, it was different, and that he was suing him for the spy claim.
Against this backdrop, the surprise joint caucus in parliament this week between Tony Leon's DA and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP was an event which served to amplify both the absence of an effective and representative opposition and the division within government ranks.
Buthelezi, in carefully-crafted speech, noted the danger that, if the current domination of the ANC persisted for five or ten years, it could result in the consolidation of what was already "an embryonic one-party state".
With a play on words, Buthelezi said that the further consolidation of the DA-IFP's coalition for change might not be the cure, it could at least serve as a "prophylactic" to prevent the emergence of a one-party state.
Attempting to straddle his dual persona as government minister and would-be opposition leader, Buthelezi deftly acknowledged that "the ANC had performed very well in many respects and, in specific aspects of our political and social life, has produced miracles".
"But we must equally acknowledge that South Africa deserves something more and something better...in respect of federalism, HIV/Aids, unemployment, economic growth, crime and poverty." he said.
Leon was looking a bit grim at this point of Buthelezi's speech, but it was the DA leader who pointed out that the centre of political gravity was not focused on opposition politics right now. "The ruling party is fighting a bitter political battle against itself, using the constitution and the laws of this country as cannon fodder," said Leon.
As Buthelezi pointed out, the achievements during the first 10 years of democracy are a cause for celebration, but the ruling party may be much more hard-pressed to deliver the kind of changes that will be demanded in the next decade.
One of the failures of the first 10 years was to produce a representative and viable opposition. Perhaps the current crisis in the ruling party is the first stirrings which could lead to the emergence of such an opposition.
With acknowledgements to John Battersby and the Sunday Argus.