Party of Nelson Mandela is in trouble


Fears rife that Leadership Conference may produce worrying fall-outs

By Richard Mammah


As far as the history of political organisation in sub-Saharan Africa goes, the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela takes a pre-eminent spot.

Currently however, that century-old organisation is faced with significant challenges that may not have been seen since the days of the leadership tussle about a decade ago between former President, Thabo Mbeki and his then estranged deputy and latter successor, Jacob Zuma.

Indeed, the South African ANC crisis, which this time has come to be defined once more as a leadership tussle is geting more convoluted ahead of the forthcoming December leadership conference that is scheduled to elect Jacob Zua’s successor.

In the contest proper, the leading candidates, incumbent Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa and immediate past Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma have now secured nominations from 3 provinces each. with another three to go! However, Ramaphosa has a head-count lead of 904 to Dlamini-Zuma’s 708 potential electoral votes!

Observers say that indeed the ANC has never been this polarised since it was founded in 1912 and that if this process is not well managed, it may lead to dire consequences for the party of Nelson Mandela going forward

As analysts surmise, a significant part of the challenge has to do with how party leaders grow within the system.

In South Africa, like in several other post-Independent states where liberation wars were waged, the combatants within the process came to assume a right of sorts to be the ones to move into the palaces being vacated by the imperialists and be the ones to dispense the resulting largesse of state in whichever way they desired.

This sense of entitlement denied one salient reality: that particular ‘struggle,’ no matter how enervating it turned out to be,  was now largely a historical backdrop and new situations were daily developing that required a broader, fresher template to manage.

This is what led for example to the recent and indeed continuing tragedy in Zimbabwe, whose new government has yet insisted on sharing the new spoils of office ‘within the fold,’ rather than seize on the momentum offered by the national coalition that had emerged to oust its long-serving ZANU-PF comrade, Robert Mugabe.

In South Africa also, it is this inclination to reward struggle veterans with positions in power that was used to pressure former President Nelson Mandela into supporting the incumbent, Jacob Zuma. And if the very visible disappointment of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to the scandal-prone performance of Zuma as President is anything to go by, it is indeed a course which the Madiba himself would have since apologised over and recanted.

Another part of the complication goes way beyond Mandela as a person. It has to do with the diverging political currents that are presently being played out in the ANC. At the one hand, it is a tussle between seemingly clean and dirty politics, and at another it is drumming up echoes of the same ‘land redistribution brouhaha’ that was a dominant issue at the formal end of the apartheid era and was also a major issue in the crisis that led to the exit of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Will South Africa be run as a country that ‘belongs to all of its peoples that dwell within it’ and in which schemes to facilitate gradualist, incremental but orderly wealth re-distribution is the best that can be offered its black majority at this point or should there be a more revolutionary nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy along with a more rapid wealth redistribution agenda?

And then there are the issues of the recent political advancement of opposition parties like the Democratic Alliance and the EFF, who are hoping to capitalise on the rift within the ANC to secure even broader political leverage going forward.

When last the ANC passed through this way, the result was the break-away Congress of the People, COPE. Given that the party itself did not, and has not yet made a dent in the larger ANC share of the political pie itself, the tendency would be for ANC cadres to continue hoping that even this cup will also pass. But that in the present circumstances may really be a tragic understatement. Egos aside, the inheritors of the party of Nelson Mandela have a crucial obligation on their hands: they need to put their house in order.


South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa






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