The conditions that brought about the alliance’s existence are fundamentally different, but this difference has never been sufficiently scrutinised in the ANC and in the partners. In the strategic goal of creating a united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous country, the ANC is supposed to lead the whole of society and not only an alliance. The ANC was conceived as an organ of unification and the leadership of a united people – not factions in the form of a Tripartite Alliance. Our formidable leaders – Chief Albert Luthuli, OR Tambo and Nelson Mandela – were always politically conscious of this responsibility and never failed, in their actions and conduct, to make this connection. A weak and limping organisation, as is the ANC today, is not able to lead the nation.
How, then, can it lead a government? As Mandela said, many ruling parties turn into “mere conveyer belt[s] of government decisions”. No one needs to be convinced about the truth of this today. The ANC has indeed become the “conveyer belt of government decisions”. Go to any ANC national or policy conference, or even an national executive committee meeting, and observe how state bureaucrats contest for decisions. This aside, what is blatantly evident is that there is no leadership and, until we accept that we are the architects of our own misery, we will continue looking for scapegoats and pointing fingers at “enemies” outside the ANC.
With a new generation that has no experience of apartheid and racist rule, it is becoming more difficult to blame others for the wrongs of the ANC. South Africa needs committed and decisive leadership by example, not leadership that preaches one thing and does the opposite. For many years, in countless national and policy conferences, the members of the alliance have discussed their problems and challenges: education, health, the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, rural development and land reform, and the fight against crime and corruption. But, with no proper strategies for implementation (despite so-called strategy workshops), no plan is fulfilled. The recommended short-term solutions that go with the occupation of office are not implemented, or are easily changed by newly appointed ministers at national level and by members of the executive councils at provincial level. When promises turn out to be empty, the blame is laid on apartheid.
As long as the Tripartite Alliance exists, there can be no resolution. Each alliance partner has its own problems. Questions about the overarching objective of the alliance today lead only to more questions. Why have two parties in one to confuse the masses? Why is the SA Communist Party (SACP) not contesting elections alone? Why is the ANC still a liberation movement, and who does it intend to liberate? Why is the SACP speaking of building socialism through the ANC, and is the ANC not compromised by allowing a party that has embarked on the “road to building socialism” to have access to state power through it? How can nationbuilding take place under such circumstances?
The climate in the ANC discourages the asking of such questions. They, and many others, remain hanging in the air. Not only is it intellectually harmful and seriously dangerous to stifle critical thought and expression – it also stops discussions about nation-building. If truth be told, there is nothing revolutionary any longer in the Tripartite Alliance. Nothing but degeneration. If an organisation fails so dismally to argue the case of its mission. people stop taking it seriously.
As a result, the ANC has lost direction and become an assemblage of factions poised to defeat one another at every national conference. The defeated retire to lick their wounds and wait for the next elections. The winners make sure to build silos in which to protect themselves for the time they are in charge. They sing praises to themselves and “the leader”, and do their best to loot the state of its assets. Unmasked: Why the ANC Failed to Govern by Khulu Mbatha