No dif­fer­ence in ANC fac­tions

All camps within the ANC have been cap­tured and are trapped in the racist, cap­i­tal­ist and pa­tri­ar­chal eco­nomic sys­tem, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

OVER the last year, many South African cit­i­zens and ob­servers of po­lit­i­cal developments have been baf­fled and con­fused by di­vi­sions and con­flict in the ANC.

What seemed to deepen the con­fu­sion was lack of un­der­stand­ing of what was at the root of this con­flict that re­sulted in an in­ter­nal fight to the death that saw com­rades turn against each other.

But as the ANC pre­pares for its 105 an­niver­sary in Soweto on January 8, what seemed uncer­tain and con­fus­ing is sure no longer.

Many who be­lieved the ANC was a solid, united and ho­mo­ge­neous or­gan­i­sa­tion have come to ap­pre­ci­ate that dis­unity and con­flict has al­ways plagued the party.

It was trans­mo­gri­fied into a “broad church” that ac­com­mo­dated con­tra­dic­tory po­lit­i­cal schools of thought with cap­i­tal­ists, moral­ists and com­mu­nists all be­long­ing to the party.

The dif­fer­ence and dis­agree­ments were ide­o­log­i­cal and based on prin­ci­ple. But this is seen as a relic of the past now.

For an in­creas­ing num­ber of ob­servers and sober ac­tivists, the dif­fer­ence that di­vides or sep­a­rates what is per­ceived to be dif­fer­ent camps or fac­tions is the same.

What this means is that all camps or fac­tions have been cap­tured and are trapped in the racist, cap­i­tal­ist and pa­tri­ar­chal eco­nomic sys­tem.

Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing aware that what is cer­tain is that what the dif­fer­ent camps or fac­tions are fight­ing for is con­trol over state re­sources for them­selves, fu­elled by a de­sire to suc­ceed in the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem’s terms.

It is about be­ing the dom­i­nant force in the es­tab­lish­ment that is based on cap­i­tal­ist greed, self­ish­ness and putting personal in­ter­est above all else.

There are very few peo­ple in ei­ther camp that de­sire to rad­i­cally trans­form the eco­nomic sys­tem or sub­sti­tute it with an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem.

They are all about mak­ing it good in the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

Even the com­mu­nists and church lead­ers have stepped for­ward to fight for their eco­nomic well-be­ing in the cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic sys­tem It seems there is no al­ter­na­tive. But how did the ANC get it­self into this bind?

It is in­ter­est­ing to trace this to the days be­fore the ANC was even un­banned to re­turn to a some­what free South Africa.

Sad as it is to ad­mit, the ANC has al­ways been rid­dled by in­ter­nal strife and di­vi­sion.

Per­haps there was never a time when it was so solidly united to be ho­mo­ge­neous.

Over the last few years these di­vi­sions have be­come more ap­par­ent in what has been dubbed “the strug­gle for the soul of the ANC”.

As a re­sult, the iden­tity of the true ANC – if ever such ex­isted – is elu­sive.

In­deed, the ANC has be­come so para­dox­i­cal that its iden­tity is con­fused.

It has be­come dif­fi­cult to know which fac­tion is the true cus­to­dian of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s spirit.

But what peo­ple for­get to re­mem­ber is that when the “ex­iled ANC” re­turned – sep­a­rate from the ANC in Robben Is­land or one that was un­der­ground in the guise of the UDF, for in­stance – it was frag­mented and di­vided against it­self.

It could not agree on any­thing or speak with a co­her­ent voice.

For ex­am­ple, there was lack of clar­ity or agree­ment on whether an im­pris­oned Nel­son Man­dela should en­gage in talks with the apartheid regime.

Even be­fore that, there was no una­nim­ity on pur­suit of a non-vi­o­lent agenda or armed strug­gle.

Worse, as the in­ter­nal up­heavals in­ten­si­fied in the mid-1980s, the ANC could not agree on the route to a new fu­ture. Was it go­ing to pur­sue a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment or push harder with the armed strug­gle?

There have al­ways been two camps or fac­tions in the ANC ap­proach.

First, there was the heir ap­par­ent fac­tion led by the eru­dite and cos­mopoli­tan Thabo Mbeki. He was the leader of the sheep group that be­lieved in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

This was ri­valled and com­peted with the goats group as­so­ci­ated with Chris Hani and Joe Slovo, who were hos­tile and re­sented the idea of talks. They be­lieved in push­ing the armed strug­gle to the end.

The fright­en­ing re­al­i­sa­tion is that, with hind­sight, both ap­proaches were ter­ri­fy­ing and me­nac­ing po­lit­i­cal choices.

The Mbeki sheep route would not and could not de­liver re­turn of the land, re­dis­tri­bu­tion of the wealth or erad­i­cate stereo­types and prej­u­dice. It was a step in the right di­rec­tion but would need to be set­tled on the apartheid regimes terms.

Its de­trac­tors be­lieved no gen­uine lib­er­a­tion can be achieved through big talk.

On the other hand, the Hani-Slovo goats ap­proach of fight­ing to the death would leave the coun­try a waste­land.

There are no win­ners in war and the apartheid regime had the mil­i­tary might that could be un­leashed mer­ci­lessly against black peo­ple.

Per­haps what needs to be ac­knowl­edged is that the sheep and goats have been de­feated by be­ing sucked into the sys­tem. Both camps or fac­tions are com­mit­ted to work­ing within the sys­tem.

In fact, they have be­come part of a sys­tem and his­tory they fought against.

The new cul­ture finds that for­mer free­dom fight­ers all worm­ing their way into the belly of the beastly cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

What this has pro­duced are overnight multi-mil­lion­aires who are not sat­is­fied with what they have ac­cu­mu­lated for them­selves, their fam­i­lies and friends. The haves want more.

Grad­u­ally, the di­vi­sions that have al­ways plagued the ANC have come home to roost. Much as they may have dis­agreed, they now pur­su­ing the same vi­sion and mis­sion to make the best of the bad.

Now there is no clear im­age of what the ANC rep­re­sents in terms of an a new or al­ter­na­tive vi­sion to im­prove the qual­ity of life for the African ma­jor­ity.

In­stead, it is now ev­ery camp or fac­tion for it­self and an ex­ploita­tive and un­just eco­nomic sys­tem for us all.

The orig­i­nal and true im­age of the ANC – a na­tion­al­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion that rep­re­sented in­dige­nous African in­ter­ests – can no longer be cap­tured in a word, im­age or phrase.

Over the cen­tury it has evolved to be all things to all men.

Worse, what the ANC stands for now can­not be ex­plained or ar­tic­u­lated in a rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory or vi­sion that de­fines it out­side the cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic sys­tem. It is com­pletely in­te­grated into the un­just and un­equal es­tab­lish­ment.

Thus, what­ever ideas ei­ther fac­tion pro­vides, it is to lead the African ma­jor­ity to the cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic slaugh­ter­house that does not dis­crim­i­nate be­tween sheep and goats.

The masses are trapped be­cause the ANC is trapped in be­ing a pil­lar of the eco­nomic sta­tus quo. Its duty is to make the coun­try work by pro­tect­ing and pre­serv­ing the ra­pa­cious eco­nomic sys­tem.

Any at­tempt to make sense of the so-called in­ter­nal di­vi­sions boil down to who serves the in­ter­ests of black or white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal bet­ter.

The ANC now func­tions in a pre­dictable way that its lead­ing po­lit­i­cal strate­gist and thinker, Joel Net­shiten­zhe said it would. He used the phrase “phuma ngin­gene”, which lit­er­ally means “leave of­fice now as it is our turn to eat”.

Ev­ery­body wants the same piece of cap­i­tal­ist gain for them­selves, friends and fam­ily. It does not seem there is any­body who de­sires to rad­i­cally shake up the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem nor sub­sti­tute it with an al­ter­na­tive.

All camps and fac­tions are quick to whoop up emo­tions against the ill-de­fined white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal. But no­body will do any­thing about it.

Much as the ANC is por­trayed as torn into dif­fer­ent fac­tions, they are es­sen­tially the same. They all com­mit­ted to pre­serv­ing and pro­tect­ing the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem as long as they get what they can.

In­stead, they give the gullible masses smokes and mir­rors of cap­tur­ing the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion through ideas, models, be­liefs and sto­ries that por­tray one side as the bet­ter or lesser of two evils.

Es­sen­tially the dif­fer­ence is the same as they are scram­bling for the same re­sources and con­trol over cap­i­tal­ist crumbs, thus there is no ex­pla­na­tion of what the ANC stands for that will make sense.

The un­der­stand­ing of com­mon folks is that a true lib­er­a­tion move­ment will do some­thing about the re­turn of the land, re­dis­tri­bu­tion of the wealth and erad­i­ca­tion of racism, among other things. But this mass ex­pec­ta­tion can never be ful­filled.

Truth of the mat­ter is that both fac­tions are trapped in the belly of the beast.

Fur­ther­more, any­one who claims one fac­tion is bet­ter than the other is sim­ply ped­dling shal­low po­lit­i­cal think­ing.

Pre­vi­ously, it would be easy to draw a dis­tinc­tion be­tween a Thabo Mbeki and Chris Hani in terms of ide­ol­ogy or po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion.

But with Hani dead and the frag­men­ta­tion of the ANC, every­one has been co-opted and in­te­grated into the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. This was made easy dur­ing the reign of Mbeki who made sure the ANC is locked into and deeply en­trenched in the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

It does not help to per­pet­u­ate the nar­ra­tive of in­ter­nal di­vi­sions with­out point­ing out that the dif­fer­ent fac­tions are fight­ing over the same crumbs.

Un­for­tu­nately, the big­gest stum­bling blocks to na­tion build­ing and so­cial co­he­sion are eco­nomic in­jus­tice and spa­tial di­vi­sions cre­ated by land dis­pos­ses­sion in 1913.

Sadly, these can­not be re­solved with­out clear­ing up the po­lit­i­cal con­fu­sion in the ANC.

This is the mother of all lib­er­a­tion move­ments in the con­ti­nent that has been at the fore­front of po­lit­i­cal strat­egy for over 100 years.

As long as South Africa buys into the nar­ra­tive of a deeply di­vided ANC with­out a crit­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of the links with the un­just eco­nomic sys­tem, there is no hope for the mat­u­ra­tion of crit­i­cal think­ing.

What is clear today is that the ANC or its elite pro­mote, pro­tect and pre­serve cap­i­tal­ism and its val­ues be­cause of what they can get for them­selves.

Noth­ing can de­stroy and threaten cap­i­tal­ism as long as the ANC keeps it alive to feed it­self off its crumbs. Sandile Memela is a writer, cul­tural critic and pub­lic ser­vant. He writes in his personal ca­pac­ity.

ON ALERT: Po­lice pa­trol Diep­sloot as res­i­dents protest against pos­si­ble forced re­moval to Brits in the North West. The big­gest stum­bling blocks to na­tion build­ing and so­cial co­he­sion and eco­nomic in­jus­tice and spa­tial di­vi­sions, says the writer.

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