To all South Africans – black and white – supporting the ANC, as opposed to the DA or EFF, is perhaps the shortest route to a more successful South Africa…if only it was that simple though.
This stark reality dawned on me once again during a recent conversation with a respected business leader. It is a view that I recognized in some form a few years back, but it somehow took a back seat.
Let me explain in very simple terms. Suppose the DA or the EFF became the ruling party, in the near (unlikely but possible) or distant (more likely) future. Would this ever happen by a clear majority, or is the plausible outcome marginal? I would suppose the latter, at first. Third place would of course also draw a fairly large portion of voters. But let’s for a moment accept the DA achieves this stretch goal, albeit marginally. Would the ANC or the EFF for that matter allow them to rule undisturbed, or would they make it difficult, even ungovernable? You answer for yourself. Again, I put my money on the latter. The EFF is already doing this with less than 10%.
In reality therefore, should the DA win the eventual one, two or three decade political race, the sweet taste of victory may not last much longer than the victory party.
On top of this, should the country continue on its current trajectory, would it be a place that anyone would want to take over and lead, as a “sitting duck” government anyway – to lead a parliament that is paralyzed, that can hardly make decisions and pass new legislation; to manage an impatient, empowered electorate that has turned aggressive because of disillusionment of unfulfilled promises? South Africa is far too small and probably unable to absorb such dynamics while the follow up elections and invaluable years tick over.
Yes, our best option may very well be for the ANC to speedily find or “return” to its essence, what it actually stands for.
Perhaps the EFF exists because the ANC drifted from its essence, but if the ANC ‘returned home’ the EFF may effectively become irrelevant. Julius Malema is a talented, dynamic leader that unfortunately started the EFF ‘in anger’, and such ventures rarely endure, unless the context offers their opportunity on a plate. He once knew and agreed with what I am writing here when he convincingly told me personally that he would never leave the ANC, even if expelled. I believe however that the ANC and South Africa needs a top leader that is a blend between Malema’s courage, Kgalema Motlanthe’s wisdom, President Zuma’s streetwiseness and Mmusi Maimane’s charisma and eloquence – pipe dream, I know.
DA policies are sound but possibly perceived as too liberal for this microcosm of the world called South Africa. They are however proving that they can lead effectively and will continue to do even more of this, with the Herman Mashaba’s coming into the mix too. But even if their policies are comprehensive enough for the South African context, their route may take too long, and as explained, even when they arrive, the slow and uphill battle against the back drop of a South Africa that is a mere shadow of what it used to be will incline further.
The ‘ANC essence’ could serve South Africa best. Go to the core of what all these parties are fundamentally about and I am confident you may just arrive at the same answer, if you are open and truly objective of course. The well known 2001 document “Through the eye of the needle”, offers a hint of the ANC’s essence: “A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people; he should strive to be in touch with the people all the time, listen to their views and learn from them. He should be accessible and flexible; and not arrogate to himself the status of being the source of all wisdom…” It also states: “A leader should win the confidence of the people in her day-to-day work. Where the situation demands, she should be firm; and have the courage to explain and seek to convince others of the correctness of decisions taken by constitutional structures even if such decisions are unpopular. She should not seek to gain cheap popularity by avoiding difficult issues, making false promises or merely pandering to popular sentiment.”
There is a caveat here. If my proposition is correct, this also means that when the ANC moves away from its core, perceived to be serving the interests of one or a few, it immediately jumps to the other side of the continuum – it becomes the most dangerous and destructive party in South Africa. What can I say, life works in opposites.
So, South Africa, we may very well be facing a mission critical dilemma. The best party for us is and may for a very long time be the ANC. But it seems to have drifted away from its truest essence, which means we are moving into danger territory fast!
To save the situation, you may need to set aside the notion of the DA or EFF taking over, for now. As explained simplistically above, that road may not be the logical option you thought.
At least two things must happen as a matter of urgency. If President Zuma is not able to steer the ANC back to its essence in great haste, he should be handed an olive leaf; a way out of politics and a new and credible leader should take his place. Everything rises and falls on good or bad leadership. Put the right leader – perceived or real – at the top and the entire narrative in South Africa will change. The mood and attitude of South Africans will shift almost instantly. Conversations around dinner tables will reflect hope once again. This is how it works. It is the power of leadership!
But this “instant hope” is not sustainable. So the second urgent and necessary change would have to be for collective wisdom, balance, rigorous debate, strength and courage of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to return. Of course a great leader will see it and immediately move in this direction. However, collectively the NEC, which theoretically runs the country, must re-discover its inimitable, authentic value, which is that their unity and efficacy is what stops or should stop South Africa from becoming a dictatorship and failed state. Their respect for our country and its constitution, and the essence of the real ANC is what should differentiate South Africa from every other African state, or any country for that matter.
To take this further, when the NEC returns back to its former glory, it needs to allow the President of South Africa to lead and not be a ceremonial puppet of the ANC, to not just be a manager that follows orders. Having said this, if the next leader has earned his/her credibility, he/she will by default lead the country because he/she will lead the NEC effectively, on a foundation of trust, respect, open and rigorous debate that leads to united decision making in favour of South Africa as a whole.
NEC of the ANC – you will have to rise to the occasion, now, before it is too late! South Africa cannot absorb the current downward spiral. Ask yourself, are we on the route to success or dismal failure? I think the latter, which begs the question, If we continue on this route, when will you lose so much effective control that the next two parties and an impatient citizenry paralyzes you, even makes South Africa ungovernable? The scary thing is that we saw signs of this in 2015. I hope you have not left this too late.
In the context of all the above, who does one vote for, because there is also a belief that a vibrant opposition is crucial to the success of a nation. Competition in any form keeps one sharp, focused and sometimes humble. But is this still as true in the modern world?
Maybe the world has changed so dramatically and the electorate has become so influential that not only opposition parties but the masses, the voters, also hold government’s accountable in-between elections – consider the power of social media. Hence, we need not necessarily push for a situation like that of the USA where neither the Republicans nor the Democrats own the clear majority. In fact, when a party does not have a clear majority, the opposition makes it near impossible for them to rule, lead and produce change. Having an opposition party breathing down the neck of a ruling party, hoping that the latter will fail, criticising them around every corner, mostly for their own gain and not necessarily for the benefit of a country or its citizens, does no one any good.
As I said from the onset, supporting the ANC – as opposed to the DA or EFF – is probably the shortest route to a more successful South Africa, but it is also the quickest and shortest route to a dismal failure. Which will it be? NEC of the ANC, the ball may very well be in your court.
This article appeared in the
On 26 January 2016
Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform. Furthermore you can contact him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org.