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The ANC looks like a schizophrenic alchemist

Power that lies fallow creates the perception of weakness.
‘Is the president the decision-maker or does he have to defer to his party’s top six officials?’ asks the author. Image: GCIS

Will the real leader stand up? Who is in charge, Mr President?

The South African ruling elite is thoroughly frightened of losing power. ‘The highest decision-making body of the party’ and ‘democratic centralism’ are among the phrases we’ve become familiar with. The authority this body exerts in terms of the ANC’s approach, its resolutions, and ultimately its decisions on which policy positions to advance as the governing party, is considerable.

It is this irrevocable commitment to party policy positions that has made the ANC look like a schizophrenic alchemist who doesn’t know how to make true his gold promise.

Policy positions blowing in the wind

Evidence of this is seen in the varied policy positions on reforms, such as those related to the economy, mining, land, and the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb).

I will devote some time to the first three in later columns.

For now, my attention is on the uncertainty and, to an extent, the inaction that has come to characterise Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency. Unsurprisingly, claims that his power within the ANC is waning are gaining ground.

Granted, on account of the presidential power chair he occupies, Ramaphosa very much appears to be a man with power.

But is he in charge? And how has he used that power to establish his authority? Is the president the decision-maker or does he have to defer to his party’s top six officials?

Ultimately, who decides on key issues about the future of South Africa?

At the same time, I wonder if his lack of decisive leadership is an outcome of the ANC’s democratic-centralism approach that determines the party’s policy position, resolutions and decisions.

Tito Mboweni demonstrates how this cannot be the case, for while he is very much a disciplined cadre of the party, his actions as finance minister illustrate how a party position on certain subjects doesn’t automatically become a government position.

Consider that the ANC’s position on Eskom is to save the ailing company. In contrast Mboweni deems such an endeavour costly and unaffordable and sees restructuring (which may include selling) as a way out.

Contradictory statements

The current contradictory statements emerging from a different faction in the party, the tweets by some NEC (national executive committee) members on land, the economy and internal party politics, are telling.

Consider Sarb. Those in the NEC, and other members within and outside government, have divergent views about the bank’s mandate and its role. Other contradictory views are evident regarding the handling of the Eskom crisis, including the appointment of its CEO, and the ministers of public enterprise and finance.

And all of this is playing out in public.

As the economy continues what seems like an inescapable march towards extended decline and expanded unemployment, the dream of a thriving South Africa for all seems to be fading.

Read: Top ANC officials clash over Sarb mandate

On being elected, the president alluded to doing things differently because it was a new dawn, declaring accountability and promising to decisively deal with corruption and poor governance in government. Besides the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, he has done nothing to address management failure at various state-owned companies.

Is this deliberate? His office grants him the power to act.

Or is he being undermined by the politics of collective decisions and democratic centralism that is embedded in his party? I think both apply.

Not only are they restrictive, but these mechanisms have enabled senior leaders in the party to undermine him.

It should be no surprise then that the NEC, and to some extent the top six officials of the ANC ,are the real decision-makers.

Eyeing power 

Alongside the opposing faction and vested-interest business leaders, are the closely-allied, neither-cold-nor-warm communist party and the waning workers’ federation – all constantly camped near the corridors of power, waiting to seize and secure power for themselves.

Their interest is as much in governing and advancing South African interests as it in financially securing their future and keeping state power circulating among themselves – because if someone else takes over, there go their fat cheques and related privileges.

It is obvious that these Machiavellian manoeuvrings are part of the problem – affecting many government policy implementations and reform programmes.

For example, within the NEC there are those who want Sarb to be nationalised, and those who don’t. Mboweni’s tweets on the matter indicate that he is against it. Of course, the party has issued statements calling him to order and to toe the line.

What is revealing about the assertion that only Ramaphosa can “make pronouncements for and behalf of” the NEC, is that in reality, that has never happened. Most of the time the NEC lekgotla resolutions are delivered by ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, often with a tone or a message that reminds members who is in charge: the party, not the president.

Many other forces may be acting in the same direction, one of them being the president himself. How he has or has not used the executive powers bestowed on him has created an image of leader who does not know how to wield power to his advantage.

It is perhaps this perception that emboldens others to undermine him.

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COMMENTS   17

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A popular argument is that Cyril cannot confront his party and needs the NPA, SIU, Hawks, SARS, etc. to weed out the corrupt.

This is lamented in reams and reams of columns and analyses: the poor, pathetic billionaire president of the country is besieged and needs our support.

At the same time he enthusiastically endorses and opens up new avenues and vaults for looting with NHI, EWC and prescribed assets.

The only conclusion is that Cyril wants to replace the existing corruption network and set up his own patronage system within the state.

…another popular observation on Africa …is sadly every consecutive leader of the continents nations is more pathetic than the previous

Frankly, it’s so bloody clear. The factions in league with the Zuma administration who looted South Africa (and still want to) are – and this is plain for anyone with half an eye to see – Ace Magashule, Supra Mahumaphelo, Duduzane Zuma, Mosebenzi Zwane, Faith Muthambi, Nomvula Mokonyane, Malusi Gigaba, almost certainly ‘The Cat’ David Mabuza, Zuma himself – and a whole bunch of others, including Malema and his rabble, who blow hot and cold depending which way the wind is blowing.
For South Africa to succeed, those who 1) pay for SA to run and 2) those who don’t want to see it become Zimbabwe, need to support Ramaphosa, Mboweni, Pravin Gordhan, Shamila Batohi and Hermione Cronje in whatever way we can. Otherwise the previous evil looting spree will again take over and ruin us all. How can we back the good guys (yes, I know they aren’t all squeaky clean, but they are our only hope)? Not sure how we can do it, but firstly let’s get these Zumaites who are enemies of SA’s future out in the open, so the poor can wake up to the fact that they don’t need to be robbed yet again..

Strengthen SARS at superspeed and let SARS assess these robbers – for NPA to get to court is complicated and they need time to rebuild.
As I understand it SARS can assess and you have to provide evidence to the contrary. Perhaps that is a quicker way to get them in orange

Brilliant term..schizophrenic alchemist-truly brilliant. Simpler words-incredibly incapable and utterly crooked( thieves)

… you omitted “back-stabbing”.

I’m a schizophrenic alchemist – I suppose that makes me utterly incapable and incredibly crooked? … oh, and back stabbing.

The top 6 are all living the dream. Untold wealth coming their way, from you and me. No accountability. Financial heaven. Generational wealth, moving out of SA on a daily basis. If that was you, would you change things?
Really?
It doesn’t matter exactly who is in charge. Just know it’s not you and know the agenda is fixed.
Best get your own affairs in order as you see fit. You’ve got about a year I guess. I hope.

South-African politics is just the normal boring replay of an old movie. We are exactly where Margaret Thatcher said we would be under ANC rule. She predicted this mess because she studied the work of Von Hayek. The future is very predictable for those who read.

“Socialistic] economic planning, regulation, and intervention pave the way to totalitarianism by building a power structure that will inevitably be seized by the most power-hungry and unscrupulous.” –
Friedrich August von Hayek

” … all constantly camped near the corridors of power, waiting to seize and secure power for themselves.”

Yes… the phrase “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has never been more apt than today in SA.

Zuma and family, Magashule and family, Mahumaphelo, Zwane, Muthambi, Mzwanele Manyi, Mokonyane, Gigaba, Dudu Myeni, all got conned by a family from Uttar Pradesh who walked away with all the spoils. If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny.

The ANC now stands for African National Constipation.

The mighty ANC has devolved into three tired old men making feeble attempts to limit the damage caused by their own party.

There is no leadership, vision and especially no energy to tackle this huge crises. There is not even a sense of crises.

The ANC now is like the black holes in outer space, from which no energy or light can escape. In SA they are sucking the energy out of the economy and the country.

One thing that Ramaphosa, Mboweni et al have going for them is public opinion. Remember the furore when Nene was replaced by ‘Weekend-special’ Des van Rooyen? Our stock market crashed and there was massive turmoil until Zuma was persuaded (against his will) to change his mind. Now imagine if the Luthuli looters try to kick out the Rama team. We are already in deep trouble now – but what will happen then is an unprecedented bloodbath. Investments will be yanked out by the billion and thousands of companies will retrench workers – or close. It will be interesting to see if the greedy unions try to play this card, because it will very likely destroy them (which will be the only plus point in the whole debacle).

…..sociopaths more likely!

It’s interesting to see how much more blatantly economists are describing the state of our economy – and how we’ve found ourselves in this shocking situation.

Yet, for PC reasons we still cannot bring ourselves to be brutally honest about it.

Unfortunately, Whites and Indians tend to blame only the ANC as it is easier to blame a political party than to blame an entire ethnicity – especially in SA.

Would it be any different if the EFF were in power? Or tbe ACDP? Or Inkatha?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is that we are avoiding discussing the truth.

It’s interesting to see how much more blatantly economists and others are describing the state of our economy – and how we’ve found ourselves in this shocking situation.

Yet, for PC reasons we still cannot bring ourselves to be brutally honest about it.

Unfortunately, Whites and Indians tend to blame only the ANC as it is easier to blame a political party than to blame an entire ethnicity – especially in SA.

Would it be any different if the EFF were in power? Or tbe ACDP? Or Inkatha?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is that we are avoiding discussing the truth.

End of comments.

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