Within the ANC, there have been leaders who are known for not wanting to press hard during debates about the state of the party, organisational renewal and, at times, internal conflict due factionalism – and one leader in particular.
Instead this leader avoids confrontation and any risk of getting wounded by an unyielding opponent in a power struggle for the soul of the party.
In particular, and having seen what happens to dissenting voices, this leader seeks refuge in lying low and proceeds to enact minor reforms because he dreads confronting his comrades’ corrupt tendencies, corruption itself, and the parasitism that is eating away the party.
Most of all, this leader is terrified of what any attempt to address these issues will provoke.
The arguments in this article are attentive to the matter of parasitism, a practice where an individual or group in power exploits the resources meant to serve the people they are leading – crowning this parasitic practice by using the stolen wealth to create sinecures, maintain power and disburse the stolen resources to family and friends.
Wednesday (May 5) saw the ANC temporarily suspend the membership of its Secretary-General (SG) Ace Magashule with four important conditions that effectively prohibit him from:
- Mobilising support through the structures of the organisation,
- Representing the party on any forum,
- Making public pronouncements on matters affecting the party, and
- Carrying out his duties as SG.
This is a significant development for the ANC and in particular President Cyril Ramaphosa, who up until this moment has been perceived as embodying the leader mentioned at the onset of this column.
The step-aside rule must be understood as an action by a leader who, not wanting to directly confront the biggest problem afflicting the party – corruption, would rather opt for minor reforms enacted through resolutions taken by the collective.
For the disillusioned observer, the turmoil within the ANC might make for interesting developments, but the developments do not reveal anything new, nor do they signal a party that is undertaking organisational reform.
Quite the opposite – the ANC’s senior leaders are thoroughly frightened by the idea of party reform that would go against corruption, parasitism, cadre deployment and using leadership positions to self-enrich.
Further, this stance of fighting corruption within the organisation contradicts the modern political tradition of holding leaders accountable, be it at party or government level.
Over the years, it has become evident that successive leadership of the ANC would never risk punishing intransigent members who brought the party into disrepute. In fact, some became elevated to ever higher positions.
The rise of former president Jacob Zuma illustrates the capacity of ANC members to commit themselves to individuals of great ambition who serve a particular purpose despite a cloud of allegations hanging above them.
They tie themselves and are unyielding in their support for a particular leader. This in turn emboldens the latter to equally refuse to yield an inch against any disciplinary processes.
Magashule’s alleged refusal to accept his suspension is a case in point, so is the supposed letter written by him that rejects his suspension and proceeds to suspend Cyril Ramaphosa as the president of the ANC.
Rebellious behaviour has always been a feature in the ANC, but over the years it has become common by leaders who occupy senior positions within the party. This is made possible by a feature that I have repeatedly emphasised in my columns – that of an ailing party that lacks the mechanism and capacity to contain the ambitions of dangerous men and women.
In a sense, it is the ANC’s own body politic that has made rebelling against its decisions a habit and given credibility to individuals and factions who undermine its rules.
It must be seen as poetic justice by former president Thabo Mbeki and his unwavering supporters, who for years were accused by their comrades of dividing the party and possibly being the catalyst to its disintegration.
It turns out it is those comrades, many of whom are now National Executive Committee and National Working Committee members, who will undoubtedly be responsible for breaking up the ANC with their resolutions, reforms and factional battles for power.
There is no doubt that the suspended (for now) Magashule will go toe-to-toe against individuals he deems responsible for his suspension.
Make no mistake, he has powerful support in the form of influential leaders behind the scene as well as a few branches and even regions.
If a lesson can be drawn from this reflection, it is that the ANC is the sick man that refuses to get help and would rather remain sick and continue to decline – for the greater suffering of South Africa.
While the step-aside rule and current suspension of Magashule does not suggest a party changing for the better, it points to a snake that at this point is eating itself.