READING the papers, which is what I now do to find out what’s going on, it is more obvious than ever that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is in very deep doo-doo. It is beyond rescue and when it is finally toppled in an election it will take a very long time to recover. When it does recover, it will look a lot like those earnest Nordic socialist parties of the ’70s. Worthy, but boring — in other words, a viable ruling party again.
I used to think our politics would go like this: the ANC wins the general election in 2014 with around 60% of the vote, a frighteningly low number for it but a daunting number, nonetheless, for a fragmented opposition. By the general election of 2019, the number will have fallen to around 54% of the vote. By then there will already exist widespread panic in the party, with associated colourful material for the media and the chattering classes. The communists will blame capitalism still, the ANC will blame apartheid, and Cosatu will be looking for a new alliance to join or to form a party of its own.
In the meantime, not through much invention of its own, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will have done well at the next local government elections (in 2015), winning not only Cape Town, but Port Elizabeth and Tshwane also. They know how to run cities.
And by the 2024 general elections, I had the ANC below 50% of the national vote, needing the support (which it would buy — it is already run on the principle that everything and everyone has a price) of small parties in the National Assembly to form either a minority government or a coalition.
But with each passing day the future for the ANC looks worse. First, President Jacob Zuma appears set to win re-election as party leader in December. That makes him the lead candidate to run the country until 2019. From today, that’s almost another seven years of JZ at the helm and it is inconceivable he would be able to improve on his first-term performance. If anything, it will get worse.
Final terms make lame ducks of even the greatest leaders.
There is no covering up for Zuma. He runs, basically, a kleptocracy in which the taxpayer funds lifestyles (his included) rather than policies. He will be found out by the constituency he most treasures; the poor and helpless. They are poor, not stupid. Fairly soon the declining national finances will make it impossible to continue buying their affections.
He is and always has been a survivalist, with little interest in statecraft. Given more time in charge he will destroy even more of the national wealth. It is simply idiotic to expect a different result the second time around. But if that’s what the ANC wants.…
What is important now are the first efforts to unite the opposition into something that might in a few years be a viable alternative (for the 2019 election is my estimate). DA leader Helen Zille has started it and, naturally, run into a wall of sarcastic rebuttal from the black middle class (especially on Twitter), which is acutely embarrassed by Jacob Zuma but doesn’t know where to go politically.
I will help them: in seven years Helen Zille will be gone but she will have laid the groundwork for a big-enough opposition coalition that you will vote for and so remove the ANC, if not from office at least from its perch as the majority party. You will actively participate in the defeat of the party you acknowledge liberated you. How does that feel?
If you love the ANC (and there are still many reasons to really feel deeply sentimental about the party) you will rejoice at its defeat. For it is only, but only, in defeat that it will be forced to re-examine itself and the thieving, duplicitous, broken creature it has become. When it is able properly to do that it will, I guarantee, find it has sufficient reserves both of internal democracy and moral courage to recognise and rediscover the values that made it a great movement and the hope of a cruelly and interminably subjugated people in the first place.
The ANC is not the first "liberation" party to fall into the trap of becoming our beast it was created to destroy. And it won’t be the last. The only unique thing about it is that it is our beast. As a people, as South Africans, we must never shrink from confronting it when it strays. It is a duty.