2017 – SA’s fork in the road

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

The end of 2016 was a time of mad­ness and hope in the gov­ern­ing party. On the mad­ness front, we saw the em­brace of wrong­ness by el­e­ments in the ANC. On the hope side, we saw sea­soned and sane mem­bers of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s stal­warts ini­ti­ate a process of self-correction.

Let’s start with the mad­ness. That rag-tag lot called the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Mil­i­tary Veter­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced that it would be con­fer­ring hon­ours on sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als who had ei­ther gen­er­ated or been mired in con­tro­versy last year. The re­cip­i­ents – SAA chair­per­son Dudu Myeni, SA Rev­enue Ser­vice com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane, for­mer Eskom boss Brian Molefe and the SABC’s great wrecker, Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng – dom­i­nated news head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons.

The MK as­so­ci­a­tion said they were to be awarded for their roles in trans­form­ing the in­dus­tries they worked in. But to South Africans, these names were top of mind for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

Myeni nearly drove SAA into the ground and was the point-per­son for its cap­ture by greedy plun­der­ers. Moy­ane has been one of those at the fore­front of the ef­forts to nail Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, a cam­paign that is meant to end with the cap­ture of Treasury. Af­ter an il­lus­trous life of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism and pub­lic ser­vice, Molefe be­came a run­ning boy for the Gupta fam­ily, mak­ing him key in their cap­ture of state en­ti­ties. And Mot­soe­neng ... well, ya neh. Be­sides the mil­lion things that are just wrong about him, he is also a fa­cil­i­ta­tor for the Gupta fam­ily.

The ANC Youth League was also show­er­ing these same in­di­vid­u­als with ac­co­lades and hold­ing them up as ex­am­ples of what the 105-year-old or­gan­i­sa­tion should be about. Youth league struc­tures in KwaZulu-Natal in­vited Mot­soe­neng to de­liver a lec­ture on eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and even put him for­ward as a can­di­date for a na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) po­si­tion and min­is­te­rial post. Mot­soe­neng was cheered wildly when he pro­claimed that “too much ed­u­ca­tion is dan­ger­ous. It’s like over­dos­ing on your medicine.”

In­di­ca­tions are that Moy­ane, Molefe and Myeni will also be in­vited to de­liver lec­tures and be lauded by the com­rades down in the sov­er­eign king­dom by the sea.

There was a time when Molefe in par­tic­u­lar de­served ac­claim. To a lesser ex­tent, the same can be said of Moy­ane, who has a solid strug­gle his­tory and a rea­son­able record in gov­ern­ment.

But those who see virtue in them to­day and say that they are on the “wrong” side of pub­lic per­cep­tion saw no rea­son to lift them shoul­der high while they were con­tribut­ing pos­i­tively. The other two have only con­trib­uted chaos, so there was never a time when they de­served to be hoisted. Now their no­to­ri­ety has given them stature and turned them into ex­am­plary cadres.

These wor­ship­pers of wrong can­not just be dis­missed as a fringe phe­nom­e­non. They are sig­nif­i­cant play­ers in the fac­tion of the ANC that is dom­i­nant and which is set­ting the agenda in this year of the party’s elec­toral con­fer­ence. On their side are pow­er­ful in­di­vid­u­als who con­trol vast power in the state.

To this fac­tion, any­thing goes. Pro­gres­sive ide­ol­ogy and po­lit­i­cal ideals, as well as prin­ci­ples and ra­tio­nal­ity, are for­eign con­cepts to this lot. They are about the spoils of po­lit­i­cal power. If rolling with pigs will achieve this, so be it.

On the hope­ful side, we wit­nessed a fight­back from those who still be­lieve in ideals and for whom the de­cline of the ANC equals the crum­bling of the cen­tre that has held post-1994 South Africa to­gether. Cen­tred on stal­warts, veter­ans and or­di­nary mem­bers, this seg­ment of the ANC was cowed into si­lence as things got pro­gres­sively worse. They fi­nally found their voices late last year as they re­alised just how far down the slope their party and the coun­try had gone. Why it took them so long to re­alise this is a great mys­tery, given the brazen­ness of the wrong­do­ers.

The fight­back cul­mi­nated in an un­prece­dented open re­bel­lion by NEC mem­bers late last year and a mil­i­tant stand by for­mer fighters and com­man­ders of MK. The mo­men­tum on this res­cue ef­fort is set to pick up steam in the next few weeks as South Africa’s ba­bal­aas wears off.

The term ‘make or break’ is one of the most overused clichés in sports, pol­i­tics, busi­ness, en­ter­tain­ment, academia and other hu­man en­deav­ours. How­ever, in the case of the ANC and South Africa, there is no way to de­scribe 2017 other than as a make-or-break year. It is the year in which pro-state cap­ture forces will go all out to con­sol­i­date their po­si­tion of su­pe­ri­or­ity.

This is the year in which the coun­try’s largest po­lit­i­cal force will have to choose whether to be an en­tity gut­ted of prin­ci­ple, moral­ity and in­tel­lect, or a pos­i­tive con­trib­u­tor to the growth of a good so­ci­ety.

If the ANC chooses to be­gin re­pair­ing its dam­aged tis­sue and in­ter­nal or­gans, it will not only be res­cu­ing it­self, but ar­rest­ing South Africa’s de­cline. If it chooses to ca­reer down the path it is on now, it will be sign­ing its own death war­rant. South African so­ci­ety has proven that mere legacy and an iconic brand are just not enough to sus­tain re­spect and loy­alty.

What we will ex­pe­ri­ence and wit­ness in 2017 is not quite the fa­bled bat­tle be­tween good and bad, be­cause that would be too sim­plis­tic a char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the pro­tag­o­nists. We will, how­ever, wit­ness that in­evitable moment when the trav­eller – in this case, South Africa – ar­rives at the fork in the road and a choice has to be made.

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