ANC’s ‘sleeping on the job’ underscores party’s demise

The ANC is facing tough contest from the MK party. Khaya Ngwenya/ Independent Newspapers

The ANC is facing tough contest from the MK party. Khaya Ngwenya/ Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 31, 2024


Prof. Sipho Seepe

The phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” aptly describes the ANC’s failed gambit in which it asked the Electoral Court to declare that “the registration of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) as a political party to be ultra vires, unlawful and invalid.” Further, the ANC “acknowledges that it failed to bring the application within the prescribed time. It is for that reason that it seeks condonation for its delay in bringing the application.” In simple terms, the ANC wants the Electoral Court to condone the fact that it was sleeping on the job.

The Electoral Court did not fall for the ANC’s pack of lies. It concluded that the “ANC’s explanation is irrational because it does not come close to justifying its delay in bringing the application late”.

There is no doubt the ANC is its own worst enemy. In the current matter the Electoral Court repeatedly pointed out that the party has itself to blame for dropping the ball. Several reasons account for this.

First, the ANC has come to embrace its lies. Having repeatedly proclaimed itself as the leader of society, it never gave much consideration to the formation of the MK Party. The MK Party was just another upstart. It only went on an overdrive of concern following former president Jacob Zuma’s announcement that he would campaign for the new formation. To expect the ANC to be honest would have been too much to ask for a party that has mastered the art of lying.

Telling lies has become habitual and it starts right at the top. For columnist Barney Mthombothi, this is probably a case of chickens coming home to roost.

In his column “Ramaphosa’s falsehoods are hurting his cause” (Sunday Times, 13/12/2020) Mthombothi proclaimed: “Apart from his well-earned reputation as a coward, Ramaphosa is cultivating another unfortunate trait. He’s telling too many falsehoods… Most of them seem unprovoked and unnecessary. And these fibs are not only corroding his credibility.”

Lying has become Ramaphosa’s trademark. Ramaphosa’s lies have spread and infected the party. Mthombothi’s admonitions have come full circle.

Second, the ANC believed the repeated claim by mainstream media that Ramaphosa is more popular than the ANC itself. Ramaphosa is only popular in the party by him being its president. He enjoys popularity outside among unrepentant racists who count on him to steer the ANC from its historical mission. It comes as no surprise that the political posture of the ANC of Ramaphosa has become indistinguishable from that of the DA. This dynamic plays itself in the private sector where union leaders are strategically co-opted to serve on the boards of companies. In their borrowed roles they become modern-day security guards of white capital. They are not co-opted to advance the interests of their workers, but facilitate the super-exploitation of members they claim to represent.

Third, the ANC was blindsided by an echo chamber of false prophets masquerading as journalists who hastily wrote the MK Party off. This is the same grouping that swore Zuma was politically finished. In both instances, they now find themselves having to revise their prematurely written obituaries.

The ANC should know better than to pay too much attention to Zuma haters. Those not imprisoned by their ingrained hatred of Zuma are the first to admit that the MK Party is proving to be a force to reckon with. The leader of the Patriotic Alliance, Gayton McKenzie, is one such individual. Addressing a Daily Maverick roundtable, McKenzie was forthright: “Zuma is the wrecking ball of this coming elections… Anybody who is not worried about Jacob Zuma has not been paying attention or they are simply playing to the gallery. Zuma keeps people busy... At home, they are strategising on how they can stop him. He’s filling up places wherever he goes. So, I am not going to sit here and say he is not a threat.”

McKenzie is not alone. To the chagrin of “clever blacks”, Jonny Steinberg, a respected author and teacher at Yale University’s Council on African Studies, is of the view that Zuma is the most talented political player in South Africa. Not even former president Thabo Mbeki comes close. “He alone has mined down to the tectonic plates deep under South Africa’s social formation and shifted them to produce a politics that brings him power. Nobody else has come anywhere close to doing that. He is in a league of his own,” opines Steinberg.

Regarding the MK Party, Steinberg continues: “Throughout January, I spoke to several senior ANC people in Johannesburg who were hardly concerned about the newly formed Umkhonto we Sizwe Party. It was only when by-election results from KwaZulu-Natal started coming in that people looked up in shock.”

Fourth, bereft of ideas, the ANC of Ramaphosa has dusted off from the shelf the failed “nine wasted years” strategy in which Zuma is blamed for all its current woes. In this regard, columnist Mthombothi is again on the money.

“Slowly the ANC’s election strategy is beginning to emerge. It’s very simple. It will revolve around one man: Jacob Zuma... Caught up in a miasma of looting, crime, corruption, incompetence, load-shedding, and many policies and practices that have brought nothing but poverty to the populace, they'll try to make the best of a bad situation. And Zuma will be a convenient scapegoat...The ANC will go to the country carrying happy news that the source of their problems, the bogeyman is finally gone.”

Indeed, the ANC is so desperate that it has now invoked the same strategy that it accused the DA of using. The strategy was famously, brilliantly articulated by Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology. “If the rand is weak, blame Zuma. If there’s a cloud on Table Mountain, blame Zuma. If Lindiwe Mazibuko is arrested by fashion police, blame Zuma.”

In dismissing the ANC’s application, the Electoral Court used the opportunity to provide the ANC with a lesson on constitutional democracy and the role of the IEC in it. Referring to section 15 of the Electoral Commission Act, which speaks to the registration of political parties, the Electoral Court said: “At the heart of section 15 are the political rights enshrined in section 19 of the Constitution. With that purpose in mind, section 15 is aimed at ensuring that every citizen can form and register a political party. That, therefore, means the said section should be interpreted in a way, which facilitates the formation and registration of political parties as against hamstringing it.”

Finally, what is patently clear is that the ruling party has become desperate. In its desperation, it will resort to all manner of subterfuge to remain in power. In this Game of Thrones, everything is fair game. This includes abuse of state organs. We were forewarned. We should heed the counsel of Lord Acton who opined that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, there has never been a time when vigilance is sought more than it is now.

*Prof. Seepe is an independent political analyst

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL