Editorials 12.1.2017 05:16 am

‘Divided’ ANC must take Lincoln’s words to heart

ANC president Jacob Zuma leads party officials and the gathered crowd in song following his address at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 16 April 2016, during the launch of the organisation's local government elections manifesto. Picture: Refilwe Modise

ANC president Jacob Zuma leads party officials and the gathered crowd in song following his address at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 16 April 2016, during the launch of the organisation's local government elections manifesto. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The then future US president said ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand’ in a speech in the Illinois State Capitol.

One of American president Abraham Lincoln’s most famous political speeches borrowed heavily from a Biblical reference from the Gospel according to Mark.

Lincoln gave the address in 1858 in the Illinois State Capitol accepting his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the US Senate, but in a political sense, the remarks of a man credited with the abolition of slavery in America ring as true today as they did way back then. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said Lincoln in the preamble. “I believe this government cannot endure.”

Indeed, the status quo did end after a cataclysmic civil war tore the budding American nation asunder.

While armed insurrection cannot be logically applied in modern-day South Africa, the divided house of the ruling ANC is on the brink of collapse as yet another faction of the party’s heavyweights voiced concern over where the strongest political group is heading.

Delivering a progress report on last month’s meeting with the ANC national executive committee, party stalwarts said this week it was urgent to restore party unity by “influencing the change of trajectory of factionalism to that of unity” and returning the party “to the people to whom it belonged”.

Whether this is attainable remains a moot point in a 105-year-old liberation movement beset by distrust and riddled with self-seeking cronyism and rampant corruption and following diverse agendas, such as the vexatious ANC electoral system, which the stalwarts indicated could be a major link to the current leadership crisis.

The stalwarts also called for a conference on their concerns, a common device employed within a party that has always employed a rigid “top down” consultative process. Whatever transpires though, it would be wise to heed Lincoln’s words.

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