One of the fundamental errors of the ANC, and quite possibly other South African political parties, has been consistency in putting the party before state.
While it is conceivable how this may have happened, it nonetheless means that the ANC will ultimately make itself irrelevant to South Africa.
The ANC is generally understood to have come into existence to champion the cause of the African people against the injustice and immorality of colonialism and apartheid. It must have become quickly apparent that, for the ANC to do this, it must promote itself as the only legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, or at least, of the majority.
While this approach is understandable considering that most political parties, especially former liberation formations, took this route, the results have consistently been disastrous. This has been especially so in Africa.
So in the beginning, the ANC’s number one objective was essentially to serve South Africa in pursuit of a better society. But the second objective was to ensure its survival and growth in the face of unrelenting efforts by the colonial and apartheid apparatus to destroy it. This necessitated efforts on the part of the ANC to endear itself in the hearts of the people. This effort was ramped up after 1994 as the ANC gained control of state resources. Like a marketer whose sole purpose is to keep the name of his product in the minds of the people, the ANC succeeded to keep the name of the ANC on the lips, minds and hearts of South Africans. This resulted in the kind of dominance which almost guaranteed the ANC majority votes for the past two decades.
It is this dominance which convinced the ANC of its own invincibility. Because of this overwhelming support, the ANC started to take it for granted that a win at the polls is assured.
Ultimately, however it is not just the win at the polls that the ANC took for granted, but the people themselves. In its drive to convince the people of its invincibility, it seems to have convinced itself that it “owns” South Africa.
So deep is this sense of “owning” South Africa that the ANC regards its troubles as South Africa’s troubles. The insistence by the current ANC leaders, elected at last December’s ANC elective conference, that South Africa must wait patiently while the ANC sorts out its leadership transition, is testament to this. While there is no doubt that the outcome of this transition will affect South Africa, it is the arrogance of the ANC which is disturbing.
It is an attitude of an organisation which feels South Africa has no other recourse but to wait for it to sort itself out. And yet, it is the very ANC which has brought us to this regrettable point in our history.
The ANC seems to have inadvertently made itself a ruler of South Africa rather than a servant of the people, much like the regime it replaced in 1994. In its efforts to guarantee election wins and “own” South Africa, it has morphed into something far removed from what it was before. This is why we hear calls within the ANC for it to return to its former self. Cyril Ramaphosa is hoisted up as the new hope for the ANC … eh, and South Africa.
But I just can’t shake this feeling that we are being taken for a ride; that the overwhelming goodwill handed over to Cyril Ramaphosa still delivers us into the hands of the same organisation. The manner in which South Africans are expected to wait patiently while the ANC sorts itself, does not point to a changed ANC which puts South Africa first.
We remain vulnerable, and the ANC remains powerful, determining our fate largely without us or even our constitutional provisions!
One of the underlying causes of this vulnerability is our attitude towards leadership. We seem to expect leadership to deliver us from our woes. It is this expectation which causes us to elevate our leaders above ourselves, thereby fuelling the inevitable arrogance which develops thereafter.
Our interaction with leaders must rather demonstrate our clarity on the fact that leaders are fellow servants. Their efforts must not be presented as too complicated or beyond our reach. They must walk with us.
We cannot afford leaders who run on ahead out of sight, not now!