Seis­mic shifts are com­ing

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

It can­not be right that ev­ery time the ANC goes to an elec­tive con­fer­ence, it sheds a piece of it­self, for­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe once re­marked shortly af­ter the party’s na­tional con­fer­ence in 2012. What both­ered Mot­lanthe was the emer­gence of a trend that had be­gun in the months that fol­lowed the 2007 Polok­wane con­fer­ence when se­nior mem­bers led a walk­out that gave birth to the Congress of the Peo­ple. In 2013, this was fol­lowed by ex­pelled ANC Youth League lead­er­ship form­ing the Eco­nomic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and tak­ing a good por­tion of the ANC’s mem­ber­ship and sup­port base with them.

In ad­di­tion, those on the los­ing side were purged or side­lined, even if they re­mained ANC mem­bers. This ren­dered them as good as nonex­is­tent in the party.

The 2008 split, led by Mb­haz­ima Shilowa and Mo­sioua Lekota, made it ac­cept­able for a ma­jor break­away and ob­vi­ously hurt more than Bantu Holomisa’s pi­o­neer­ing split in 1997. By the time Julius Malema and his team lured thou­sands of ANC mem­bers, mostly young, out of the ANC, it was ce­ment­ing a trend.

For Malema it was a massive psy­cho­log­i­cal jump, as he had de­clared that he would never aban­don his ANC home, re­gard­less of the out­come of the dis­ci­plinary charges that had been brought against him and his ex­ec­u­tive team.

“What­ever hap­pens, we are ready for that,” he had pro­claimed on the eve of the judg­ment by the Na­tional Dis­ci­plinary Com­mit­tee (NDC). “Peo­ple should know that, if we are fired to­mor­row, our blood will re­main black, green and gold ... As a dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, you must ac­cept the de­ci­sion. No­body will ever chal­lenge the de­ci­sion of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

He would later make a des­per­ate plea to the del­e­gates at­tend­ing the 2012 Man­gaung con­fer­ence for the NDC’s de­ci­sion to be over­turned. In a let­ter writ­ten by him­self, the youth league’s na­tional spokesper­son Floyd Shivambu and sec­re­tary-gen­eral Sindiso Ma­gaqa, pledged that they re­mained “loyal sup­port­ers and mem­bers of the ANC will­ing to be guided un­der its prin­ci­ples, Con­sti­tu­tion, val­ues and vi­sion to achieve all Freedom Char­ter ob­jec­tives”.

It is now doc­u­mented his­tory that the ANC’s lead­ers did not even bother to ta­ble the let­ter to del­e­gates. The party’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Gwede Man­tashe, blithely dis­missed it with the statement that it had ar­rived too late to be added to the pro­gramme. Thus was the fate of Malema sealed. Thus the ANC shed a bit more of it­self. And thus was born the EFF.

When cur­rent Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi ap­pealed to the party to make peace with the youth league be­cause he could see for him­self the im­pact that the nascent party was mak­ing on the ground, he was mauled by his com­rades, who be­lieved that Malema was all noise.

How they must re­gret it now. The EFF went on to bite a chew­able chunk of the ANC’s flesh in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion. In fact, the party’s show­ing in Gaut­eng nearly de­prived the ANC of an out­right ma­jor­ity and the abil­ity to gov­ern the province on its own. It de­liv­ered a deadly blow in 2016 when it played a de­ci­sive role in the ANC’s loss of three big met­ros and the plac­ing of th­ese in the hands of the DA.

Whether or not you agree with the EFF’s poli­cies, tac­tics or Malema’s weight-loss regime, you will agree that it has been the most in­flu­en­tial fac­tor in re­design­ing the post-1994 po­lit­i­cal land­scape. Its pres­ence has shaken up not only the ANC, but the op­po­si­tion, busi­ness and the civil so­ci­ety sec­tor. The EFF may not be in power any­where, but its power is felt ev­ery­where.

The loss of the met­ros and the re­sul­tant re­al­i­sa­tion by peo­ple out­side the Western Cape that the sky does not come crash­ing down if you are not gov­erned by the ANC will be a big fac­tor in the out­come of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion.

But long be­fore 2019, the ANC will have to worry about the trend that Mot­lanthe warned about. Right now, the run-up to the De­cem­ber na­tional con­fer­ence is turn­ing out to be an ugly af­fair. The cam­paign is char­ac­terised by ha­tred in­stead of ri­valry. In fact, you will find greater tol­er­ance and ac­com­mo­da­tion of the op­po­si­tion par­ties than there are among ANC col­leagues and com­rades.

It is dif­fi­cult to see how the dif­fer­ent camps – par­tic­u­larly the two that seem dom­i­nant at the mo­ment – will live with one another af­ter De­cem­ber. Such are the lev­els of an­i­mos­ity that the re­al­ity of a split or sev­eral smaller splin­ter­ings is be­ing dis­cussed widely in the ANC. It has now moved from be­ing a mat­ter of spec­u­la­tion to be­ing a real fear.

Loom­ing over the ANC is also ag­i­ta­tion from mem­bers of the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) to con­test the elec­tion by it­self. The out­come of the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence will be a ma­jor de­ter­mi­nant of whether or not this goes ahead. It will be hard-go­ing for the SACP to build its own brand and raise funds for a party with this par­tic­u­lar C-word in its ab­bre­vi­a­tion. But it will bite some solid flesh from the ANC, fur­ther wors­en­ing its woes.

What­ever hap­pens in De­cem­ber, one thing we should pre­pare for is a mega-re­draw­ing of the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

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