Dwin­dling ANC for­tunes could spawn strong mul­ti­party democ­racy

The Mercury - - OPINION - Ge­orge Devenish Devenish is Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UKZN and one of the schol­ars who as­sisted in draft­ing the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion in 1993.

THERE is con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence in our po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in South Africa to­day. This is es­sen­tially due to the con­tes­ta­tion for lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the ANC in the run-up to its elec­tion con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, cou­pled with the in­or­di­nate con­tro­versy caused by, among other things, state cap­ture and the ram­pant and en­demic cor­rup­tion that the Zuma pres­i­dency has spawned. Within the ANC there is un­prece­dented in­sta­bil­ity and a real dan­ger of some kind of po­lit­i­cal im­plo­sion.

Fur­ther­more, it must be borne in mind that our po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion has been chang­ing for some time.

To a greater or lesser ex­tent this is il­lus­trated by the fact that be­fore the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions on Au­gust 3 last year, South Africa could have been ac­cu­rately de­scribed as a dom­i­nant party state democ­racy. This fol­lowed the fact that the ANC had se­cured 63% in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions of 2011. In the 2016 elec­tion, its sup­port di­min­ished to 53.91%.

A paradig­matic change has oc­curred with its sup­port hav­ing dwin­dled to not merely less than 60%, but be­low 55%.

It is co­gently sub­mit­ted that the re­sults of these lo­cal elec­tions in­di­cate un­equiv­o­cally that a change in po­lit­i­cal par­a­digm has oc­curred. The re­sults il­lus­trate in no un­cer­tain terms that the days of ANC hege­mony in South African pol­i­tics are over, and that, what is emerg­ing, is a sys­tem of strong multi-party democ­racy.

This was ac­com­pa­nied by the loss of three im­por­tant met­ros and the need for coali­tion gov­ern­ments in these.

The emer­gence of a strong mul­ti­party sys­tem in place of ANC hege­mony in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is due in part to the growth of the DA and the EFF.

With the de­bil­i­tat­ing in­sta­bil­ity in the ANC as a re­sult of the po­lit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion for lead­er­ship po­si­tions at the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence, it is in­ter­est­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing to con­sider and de­lib­er­ate on the po­lit­i­cal prog­no­sis for our fu­ture.

In an in­ci­sive, bold and thought-pro­vok­ing study, Jakkie Cel­liers, an in­formed po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and founder of the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, in his book en­ti­tled Fate of the Na­tion 3 Sce­nar­ios for South Africa’s fu­ture, en­deav­ours to an­a­lyse our prob­lem­atic po­lit­i­cal scene and give a rea­soned prog­no­sis.

In this re­gard he cat­e­gorises and anal­y­ses three sce­nar­ios: First, the par­tial tri­umph of the so-called tra­di­tion­al­ists. This op­tion he des­ig­nates Bafana-Bafana, and the mere con­tin­u­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal set-up, based on pa­tron­age and cor­rup­tion, fa­cil­i­tated an ar­ti­fi­cial unity and by no split in the ANC and with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma elected as pres­i­dent of the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy at the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence or the other way around.

This would con­tinue to lead us as a na­tion and coun­try on a down­ward trend.

Sec­ond, the re­formist tra­di­tion with a vic­tory for con­sti­tu­tion­al­ists and Ramaphosa elected as pres­i­dent and the rout­ing of the tra­di­tion­al­ists and the Zuma fac­tion, de­feated by Ramaphosa. This, he in­di­cates, would be the most favourable for South Africa.

Third, the un­equiv­o­cal tri­umph of tra­di­tion­al­ists, with Dlamini Zuma elected pres­i­dent and the Ramaphosa fac­tion de­feated and com­pletely side­lined or alien­ated. This he des­ig­nates the di­vided na­tion sce­nario and views it as dis­as­trous for South Africa.

Ob­vi­ously, Cel­liers has pre­sented us with rea­soned spec­u­la­tion.

In a ra­dio in­ter­view Cel­liers in­di­cated that the present in­tense tur­moil in the ANC could bring about un­in­tended and very dif­fer­ent con­se­quences.

In an equally in­ter­est­ing book by The­uns Eloff called Turn­ing Point, the au­thor makes out a co­gent case for a Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Unity. This would bring to­gether the most com­pe­tent and hon­est politi­cians to start afresh and set us on the cor­rect path to po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and ur­gently ad­dress the prob­lems of en­demic cor­rup­tion, eco­nomic in­equal­ity and poverty. The vi­tal is­sue is how could this come about?

What is clear from the re­sults of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions last year and from the emer­gence of coali­tion gov­ern­ments in the ur­ban met­ros of Tsh­wane, Nel­son Man­dela Metropole and Joburg is that the party po­lit­i­cal scene is in the process of sig­nif­i­cant tran­si­tion and flux.

This is a ben­e­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment and fur­ther­more there is a real pos­si­bil­ity that in the gen­eral elec­tion of 2019, the ANC may not se­cure more than 50% of the na­tional vote and could lose Gaut­eng.

Our multi-party po­lit­i­cal sys­tem would then re­quire the for­ma­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ments at na­tional level and pos­si­bly in Gaut­eng as well.

This, it is sub­mit­ted, would be no magic so­lu­tion as coali­tion gov­ern­ments are by their very na­ture in­her­ently un­sta­ble, as the prob­lems with the ex­ist­ing coali­tion gov­ern­ment in the Nel­son Man­dela Metropole in­di­cates.

Nev­er­the­less, they can work and open up po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties for saga­cious and coura­geous lead­er­ship.

Fur­ther­more, with the emer­gence and op­er­a­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ments in the met­ros and other cog­nate is­sues such as the prob­a­ble frac­tur­ing of the tri­par­tite al­liance, as is tak­ing place at present, this could bring about a re­ori­en­ta­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties based on eco­nomic pol­icy rather than race, po­lit­i­cal al­le­giance and per­son­al­i­ties.

Such a state of af­fairs could in­deed re­sult in the op­tion of a Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Unity as pro­posed by Eloff, in­volv­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ists in Cel­liers’s sec­ond op­tion, dis­cussed above, and like-minded politi­cians in the DA that is likely to ob­tain con­sid­er­ably more elec­toral sup­port in 2019 at the cost of the ANC, and the other smaller op­po­si­tion par­ties, de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances and elec­tion re­sults.

South Africa and its peo­ple have in­fi­nite po­ten­tial and the present cri­sis of cred­i­bil­ity and con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ing ANC and the coun­try could be a pre­lude for great po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties.

What is re­quired is in­spired, com­pe­tent and bold po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship that will take our coun­try on a high road to po­lit­i­cal suc­cess and eco­nomic equal­ity for all its peo­ple.

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