Do peo­ple still be­lieve the mes­sage of the ANC?

The Herald (South Africa) - - Opinion & Analysis - ASEMAHLE GWALA

The ANC, the “par­lia­ment of the peo­ple” is un­doubt­edly in the belly of the beast, em­broiled in a cri­sis that is greater than any it has ex­pe­ri­enced since the class of 1994 first walked the hal­lowed pas­sages of the Union Build­ings.

The ANC’s abil­ity to pro­vide so­lu­tions to prob­lems that have echoed in each demo­cratic elec­tions has been sternly ques­tioned.

The chants of free­dom that once lit the eyes of past gen­er­a­tions bear less sig­nif­i­cance to the av­er­age youth, whose rev­o­lu­tion­ary in­stinct is rather in­voked by a tweet rather than a speech at a rally, and the dis­en­fran­chised mother who has been wait­ing for an RDP house since the turn of the 1990s.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion machin­ery of the ANC has un­doubt­edly moved with the times since the days of Ra­dio Free­dom to reach its wider con­stituency.

But the rel­e­vance of its mes­sage will al­ways cor­re­late with its le­git­i­macy in the eyes of those it promised to take to the prom­ise land.

We have wit­nessed in the past 24 years its “Wash­ing­ton Con­sen­sus”-lean­ing ne­olib­eral macroe­co­nomic frame­works that have pri­ori­tised plac­ing great em­pha­sis on pro­ce­dural democ­racy through elec­tions ev­ery five years, rather than an­swer­ing sub­stan­tive ques­tions that would seek to tackle the triple threat chal­lenges of un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity.

This trio present their ugly heads to those who lie out­side the pa­tron­age net­works of the rul­ing party, a net­work that runs as deep as Ex­tended Pub­lic Works Pro­grammes (EPWP) in des­o­lated vil­lages.

Thou­sands of South Africans have car­ried the green and gold mem­ber­ship card of the ANC in their life­times over a pro­tracted pe­riod of time that has spanned many gen­er­a­tions, from the first pres­i­dency of Pix­ley Isaka Seme to the elec­tion of the for­mer NUM leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, in the Nas­rec hall­ways.

Never in the his­tory of the ANC has its mem­ber­ship card wielded so­cial cap­i­tal as much as it does in the cur­rent epoch of its ex­is­tence.

Here we have seen it be­com­ing a pro­cure­ment con­tract ticket rather than a card that pays al­le­giance to the ethos and val­ues of great lead­ers such as Nel­son Man­dela and Oliver Tambo, those who fear­lessly in­fused rad­i­cal­ism in the DNA of the then prag­matic ANC of “gentle­men with clean hands”.

They led a del­e­ga­tion of the Youth League that met then ANC pres­i­dent Dr A B Xuma (the first black med­i­cal doc­tor).

They con­quered the fear of speak­ing out of turn by ex­plic­itly crit­i­cis­ing the ANC’s lack of suc­cess in ad­vanc­ing the course of the rev­o­lu­tion and in­flu­enced the fight against apartheid for the next decades un­til it was not sus­tain­able for the Na­tional Party.

As much as the same brav­ery is needed in the cur­rent mem­ber­ship base of the rul­ing party to con­front the chal­lenges that the coun­try is fac­ing, it is very un­likely to be forth­com­ing.

The rev­o­lu­tion­ary mes­sage of the ANC that nav­i­gated it through the most dif­fi­cult ter­rain has been eroded by “ten­den­cies” that would rather pri­ori­tise mem­ber­ship buy­ing to emerge in con­fer­ences than in­vest­ing in po­lit­i­cal work and com­mu­nity out­reach pro­grammes.

These would break the di­chotomy be­tween the party and its po­ten­tial vot­ers, and make its mes­sage res­onate more with the hearts of many or­di­nary South Africans.

Lead­ing up to the 2019 na­tional elec­tions the ANC will once again hit the streets of SA and vie for votes in one of the most highly con­tested elec­tions since 1994.

This is against the back­drop of los­ing ma­jor metropoli­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties just more than two years ago.

The mes­sage of the ANC that will be con­veyed through its man­i­festo will once again need to find rel­e­vance in the rank and file of South Africans.

How­ever, the man­i­festo alone will not be enough to sway many, as an en­counter with the lo­cal ward coun­cil­lor, for ex­am­ple, or ser­vice at a par­tic­u­lar depart­ment is more mem­o­rable than lis­ten­ing to Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa on the lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion and it might af­fect one’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing at the polls.

The re­cent strikes that we have seen in Buf­falo City and Stut­ter­heim are an in­di­ca­tion that the peo­ple are grow­ing im­pa­tient and are a mi­cro­cosm of what is hap­pen­ing in other parts of the coun­try.

The ANC for the first time in post-demo­cratic his­tory is co­erced to head to the elec­tions armed with not only slo­ga­neer­ing and its glo­ri­ous his­tory, but with sub­stan­tive in­put on how it will ad­dress its fail­ures and di­rect South Africans to a pros­per­ous fu­ture. ● Asemahle Gwala is the Sasco Claude Qa­vane deputy chair­per­son and a Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­ence stu­dent.


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