2017 – SA’s fork in the road
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.