EFF’s loss did noth­ing for ANC’s rep­u­ta­tion

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Makhosini Nkosi voices@city­press.co.za

The “fail­ure” by Julius Malema and his Red Berets to get the ANC to sup­port their mo­tion to have the Con­sti­tu­tion amended so that land could be ex­pro­pri­ated with­out com­pen­sa­tion was a wel­come loss. But it was worse than a hol­low vic­tory for the ANC, and one it will prob­a­bly re­gret later.

Re­mem­ber that, re­cently, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in­ti­mated that the party may have the Con­sti­tu­tion amended to al­low for land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion. Re­cent his­tory has taught us that for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ments that face a pos­si­ble loss of po­lit­i­cal power of­ten re­sort to play­ing the land card to gal­vanise pop­u­lar sup­port.

The Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) and its strate­gists saw this as a weapon the ANC could use more ef­fec­tively than it ever could, and fig­ured out a way to dele­git­imise the ANC and wrest back the moral high ground, at least when it comes to land.

The ANC, which is per­ma­nently lethar­gic – its lead­ers have big­ger fish to fry ahead of the De­cem­ber elec­toral con­fer­ence – sur­ren­dered the fight to the EFF. By op­pos­ing the mo­tion, it se­verely weak­ened Zuma at best, and, at worst, pro­jected the party as out of touch and not quite se­ri­ous about rad­i­cal land re­form.

Yes, the EFF out­foxed the ANC in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day.

How does the EFF find it so easy to run rings around the ANC the way it does? The EFF is on top of its game with its young and hun­gry po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tors in Malema, Floyd Shivambu, Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi and oth­ers.

The ANC does have sim­i­lar tal­ent, but they are “de­ployed” in gov­ern­ment and other places, where their po­lit­i­cal voices are muted.

ANC lead­ers, who mostly serve in Par­lia­ment and the ex­ec­u­tive, are ab­sorbed in the game of Sur­vivor as they fight hard for the pow­er­ful po­si­tions that will be con­tested at the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence. What makes mat­ters worse is that they have to in­flu­ence the mem­ber­ship in per­son, which is a costly and time-con­sum­ing ex­er­cise be­cause they are not al­lowed to openly cam­paign. Thanks to their pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the con­fer­ence, Par­lia­ment and ex­ec­u­tive du­ties suf­fer.

This leads to the real prob­lem fac­ing the ANC: it is stuck in a po­lit­i­cal strat­egy formed in 1997, when it had no real chal­lengers and min­i­mal in­ter­nal is­sues. It was the year that saw for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki and Zuma elected un­op­posed as party pres­i­dent and deputy pres­i­dent, re­spec­tively. It was the year in which for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela gladly sur­ren­dered power to a younger man who was not his first choice.

The ANC is a to­tally dif­fer­ent an­i­mal now. It needs to start adapt­ing to the 21st-cen­tury way of do­ing pol­i­tics or pre­pare for its even­tual demise. The ANC needs to mod­ernise.

Cry­ing vic­tim to the bo­gey­man that is “white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal” is more a poor re­flec­tion of its own per­for­mance as a rul­ing party than it is the in­tran­si­gence of those who con­trol the econ­omy.

Af­ter its dis­mal show­ing in last year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, the party promised to be­come more in­tro­spec­tive. In­stead of go­ing back to its sup­port­ers and vot­ers, the ANC has been very busy speak­ing to it­self. Branches and re­gions are party ma­chin­ery, not its tar­get au­di­ence.

This lapse has cost the ANC a golden op­por­tu­nity to re­boot it­self by be­ing in­formed by its sup­port base. With a de­nial­ist Zuma down­play­ing the losses, the party is bound to re­peat the loss and even do worse in two years’ time.

To mod­ernise it­self, the party must go back to ba­sics. Its main tasks are to gov­ern the coun­try and lead so­ci­ety. To be ef­fec­tive in that re­gard, the ANC doesn’t need the kind of bloated struc­ture it has – it needs a lean and mean force. At Luthuli House, it needs only a gen­eral sec­re­tary or CEO, over­seen by the party pres­i­dent or chair­per­son and a na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee with fewer mem­bers. Func­tionar­ies must be pro­fes­sion­als se­lected from the best its mem­ber­ship has to of­fer.

Elec­tions that should mat­ter are na­tional, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal gov­ern­ment con­tests, not party po­si­tions. The ANC must al­low its sup­port base to nominate its can­di­dates for such elec­tions. Noth­ing en­er­gises the sup­port base quite like be­ing in­volved in such im­por­tant con­tests, and that also keeps the base en­gaged. En­gaged sup­port­ers en­er­gise their fam­i­lies and friends to go out and vote for their party when it mat­ters.

An anal­y­sis of so­cial-me­dia in­sights sug­gests that ANC sup­port­ers want to have a say in po­lit­i­cal mat­ters per­tain­ing to the ANC. They long for the days when the ANC was a congress of the peo­ple and not a congress of “mem­bers in good stand­ing”. How­ever, the party isn’t hear­ing these voices be­cause it is atro­cious when it comes to pub­lic en­gage­ment.

This has also led to the pop­u­lar be­lief that it has be­come ar­ro­gant.

When lead­ers only need to im­press the vot­ers and not the party bosses to earn and keep their jobs, they will do bet­ter for the party and the coun­try. That will en­cour­age ex­cel­lence and the party will al­ways field the best among its mem­ber­ship and not the most con­niv­ing.

As we de­fer the dream, 2017 will be bumpier, and the likes of the EFF and the DA are rub­bing their hands with glee. Nkosi is an in­de­pen­dent strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions

and pub­lic en­gage­ment spe­cial­ist

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