The violence plaguing the ANC’s election campaign should be no surprise. This week’s eruptions in Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Soshanguve, Hammanskraal and elsewhere are not aberrations.
Like a festering sore, violence has become an ANC fixture. More than a dozen comrades have been murdered by fellow ANC members in recent months, mostly in KwaZulu-Natal. As discontent spreads, the death toll may rise. Not by accident.
The ANC has a violent past, as both victim and perpetrator. And as the party loses its grip on power, we can expect more outbreaks. The latest wave of destruction was triggered by the imposition of Thoko Didiza as ANC’s Tshwane mayoral candidate. Both the cause and the perpetrators are rooted in the ANC, a party at war with itself. In other areas, disputes have arisen over who should be ANC candidates in the August 3 municipal elections.
Ostensibly, people who seek political office aim to “serve” communities. Yet the reactions of thwarted aspirants and supporters suggest these folk have, instead, been focused on helping themselves.
Thanks to the example set by President Jacob Zuma, politics is seen as a path to riches. So, some of these people are fighting over access to wealth. In an ailing economy with high unemployment, even the modest pay of a part-time councillor is attractive to those who have nothing. And it is not uncommon to view councillors as people who open doors to jobs, contracts and tenders.
This can be the motivation to support a particular candidate, seen as a meal ticket rather than a devoted exponent of service delivery. Internal ANC clashes are also symptoms of panic. Comrades know the number of positions open to the ANC is shrinking. They are fighting over diminishing scraps as electoral fortunes dwindle. Much armed struggle bravado is exaggerated. Violence by the ANC was not all directed against white oppressors.
“Black-on-black violence” covered a multitude of sins when the ANC asserted dominance over rivals. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the ANC was involved in such violence within the country. Abroad, abuses at ANC camps such as Quatro in Angola are acknowledged on the party’s website.
The ANC is, was, and ever shall be hypersensitive about accusations of violence. Indeed, we need to acknowledge key points. First, the movement resorted to armed struggle only after decades of fruitless attempts to achieve racial justice through peaceful means. Second, the apartheid state, exercising a monopoly of force, was extremely violent.
Violence begets violence. And once the vicious cycle is in motion, apportioning blame becomes less important than seeking solutions. Violence is now part of ANC culture. It has been used to quell internal disputes and subdue external rivals. Violence subsides only when dominance is asserted over internal and external opposition.
That dominance has been rocked. The ANC leadership is floundering internally and losing ground externally. Should we fear what will happen when electoral losses reach tipping point? Will soft answers really turn away wrath?