South Africans have outgrown ANC politics. The presidential election campaign is as tedious as it is time-consuming. It is underpinned by massive ploys of bribery, vicious backbiting and deadly rivalries that sometimes end in political assassinations.
In this climate of political intrigue, Jacob Zuma continues to play his enemies like a master chess player. Meanwhile, the veterans sink into jeremiads about their lack of vigilance, asking how this descent into the political abyss happened? Ben Turok mourns the loss of the ANC’s political virginity when, in fact, it was never a virgin. He harkens back to a past that hardly existed.
“The mood at the stalwarts conference was quite different,” he says. “There were no signs of egos, or speakers promoting themselves as candidates. It was all straight from the shoulder, moral exhortation and call for governance with integrity without Zuma.
“It was remarkable to hear so many voices complain that the ANC and its government have been hijacked and usurped for corrupt ends. Disenchantment with government performance was common in all the presentations. All this was articulated with much shaking of heads and with expressions of sadness.
“That the ANC remains a powerful force in South African politics is beyond doubt.” Equally, Cheryl Carolus admits on television that the ANC has become slack, unaccountable, and corrupt, yet she insists that the ANC, with its noble past, is the only party that can lead the country, despite its colossal destruction of every state institution for its own benefit.
The schizophrenia is awful to behold to a public that has outgrown its political masters. We are like graduates preparing for careers while the ANC is still trying to teach its members the alphabet. The veterans and stalwarts speak of the rot as external to themselves, demonstrating no capacity for self-reflection of their role in weakening our democracy.
Sarafina, the arms deal and the travel scandal were crimes perpetrated by the legislators when those very stalwarts who moan now were in senior ANC positions at the time, imbued with enough power to have charged offenders.
But they all covered up. No one takes responsibility for the mess. No one admits that the ANC was too busy enriching itself and that the moment for greatness was lost under former president Thabo Mbeki’s rule.
He boosted the economy with his sound macroeconomic policies, yet his autocratic style of leadership mixed with an unhealthy dose of Stalinist politics sunk his and our fortunes, making way for a successor whom we all knew would wreck the economy.
The ANC could have catapulted us into a new economic dawn on a par with the best in the world, given that since 1994 we have generated more revenue than ever before, despite the small pool of taxpayers.
That is why direct presidential elections are a sine qua non for national renewal so that we can be spared ritual charade. The ruling party’s annual shenanigans are tiresome, expensive and a farce. With daggers drawn, they sing and toyitoyi as though political and character assassinations have died with Shakespeare.
What we see are geriatrics jockeying for power, using young people as lightning rods to gauge the extent of public support for their ideological proclivities.