The imminent collapse of South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is on the lips of every political commentator, agitator and aggregator, including those who were not born when the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela vacated the Union Buildings on June 14, 1999.
To some, especially those with ambitions to be sworn in once the Independent Electoral Commission confirms the final tally of the 2024 elections, it has been written in the stars that President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa is spellbound to be the ANC’s last Commander-In-Chief – insofar as the armed forces of the South African Republic are concerned.
Their feverish dream is for next year’s general elections to become the ICU doctor’s cold look that suggests one eventuality: “We did everything we could. The patient did not make it.” Of course, these dreamers spend sleepless nights avoiding the possibility of a Ramaphosa second term of office as the country’s number one citizen.
If we are to take a jalapeño bite at some honesty, some opposition leaders are scared that Ramaphosa might pull an Arnold Schwarzenegger stunt akin to the Terminator character, where he famously said the terrifying words, “I’ll be back.” Will Ramaphosa be back? It shouldn’t be the question. Will the ANC be back? That is the question. Some political parties believe that the ANC’s spotlight has run out of batteries.
Well, since these parties represent a broader section of society as witnessed in the hung metro aftermath of the 2021 Local Government Elections, they can only be dismissed at the ANC’s own peril.
However, taking opposition parties seriously is not a licence to rampantly stockpile the fantasies they are selling to their constituencies. Yet, the very dreadful idea of a national coalition government should not be summarily overruled either. Perhaps it is no longer a question of when, but rather a voter-smacking how.
Whenever I’m listening to great reggae music, I often ask myself a generational question. If Ramaphosa becomes the ANC’s last man at Tuynhuis, one of the presidential official residences, to what will tomorrow’s children likely attribute the demise of the liberation movement as a leader of society?
In other words, what would have happened between 1994 and 2024 to shapeshift the once-hallowed liberation heroes into fading ICU patients, politically speaking? What manner of the beast would have so succinctly, so severely and so successfully managed to fatally tear the mighty governing party apart?
To those prone to political fantasy, Ramaphosa is that beast with seven horns that was once prophesied about in the struggle literature of the forefathers of the ANC. However, I humbly contend that only intellectual dishonesty would lead any thinker to conclude that Ramaphosa is individually responsible for the downfall of his party of choice.
Such thinkers should be forgiven. In spite of their glaring error, there is no logic in harshly reprimanding them. Ours is a duty to become spiritual healers. We have no option but to open the eyes of those who call themselves ANC members to see the reality that their party’s demise can only be attributed to their own economic adolescence. It is common cause that adolescence affects teenagers, but we have seen adults who are yet to be weaned from the adolescence stage, as far as their social behaviour is concerned.
As an organisation, the ANC is 111 years old, but as a government, it is only 29 years old. Not only is it a young party in terms of state governance, but perhaps the ANC is way too young to handle the trillions of rands that have been passing through its hands over the past three decades.
One thing behavioural scientists forget to mention about money is that of all the options it gives you; disrespect is the biggest and most dangerous. In the Bushbuckridge area adjacent to the majestic Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, when a comrade says he wants a lot of money in his life, he says, “Ke nyaka go delela.” This is an adult’s adolescent behaviour.
Astute African linguists would tell you that a direct translation of the word delela is not only inadequate, but deficient. The term tella generally denotes the idea of being disrespectful, especially to your elders or those hosting you at their homes. But a village or township rendition goes beyond that.
Any indigenous South African language speaker will understand that there are variations to the meaning of the word. It can mean being disrespectful, overbearing, condescending, undermining and downright insolent. It speaks to the nasty behaviour that comes with power and privilege. It can also be traced in the obnoxious swagger and don’t-give-a-damn attitude that spoiled brats display when they want their presence to be felt among the poor.
In short, go delela is to ultimately look down on those you believe you don’t need in your life. That is exactly what a Bushbuckridge comrade means when he laughingly brags that he wants enough money to allow him to have swag. That is exactly the social illness that betrayed the ANC when they laid their trembling hands on the altar of state funds.
Sadly for the ANC, their struggles – dating back to the iron fist of apartheid and the sledgehammer of colonialism – made them allergic to financial responsibility. Their responsibility had always been to meet the enemy at the trenches of the bazooka and the rifle, not at the vault of the national budget, what I call VNB.
Forget the VBS; we are talking about the VNB. VBS, which has the fingerprints of ANC comrades all over it, was but a mere item on the spreadsheet of the money that magically disappeared in the hands of our own liberators between 1994 and 2023. Here is the reality, the ANC came with logically sound policies to mitigate against the effects of racial discrimination unleashed on South Africans by the vile and evil apartheid psychopaths.
However, we have to acknowledge that victims of trauma are not simply given money to forget the brutality that was meted out against them. No. There are psychotherapeutic methods which those skilled in the human mind use in their quest to help the victim deal with the trauma.
As a journalist who has been covering political developments for over two decades, I do not remember either reading or writing about a mass campaign aimed at providing counselling to victims of apartheid, especially those entrusted with disbursing golden coins from the VNB.
Too much money goes hand-in-glove with the boot. Sadly, at the bottom of this oppressive boot, it is the neck of the disenfranchised majority of South Africans. Objectively speaking, nothing has changed, except the wearer of the boot. The apartheid psychopaths kept our necks under the boot of their brutality while their hands held the keys to the VNB.
When they were democratically evicted from the offices tasked with dispensing service delivery, they handed the boot and the keys to our liberators. Instead of viewing BEE as a weapon capable of liberating their people from the diabolical regime, the comrades saw it as an opportunity to delela those whose votes were used as keys to open the VNB.
And here is a disclaimer, it is not every black man who became a president, minister, premier, MEC or mayor who abused the majority of South Africans in this country. But it is the system of oppression that they inherited from the oppressors that gave them the idea that not caring for the people is a leadership quality that is required when you occupy a position of power.
Yes, some did not steal a cent, but they did nothing when those working in their offices did. In the words of a forgotten fellow tavern patron, “The ANC government does not kill people like the apartheid monsters did, but they just watch the people die while they hold the cure in their hands.”
Indeed, I continually contend that ANC policies remain the best in the world, but it is the character of the ANC comrades that deserves scrutiny. In my view, it is not a sin to do business with the government, but it is an abomination to use your relationship with the government as a pin code to steal from your own people. This is nothing but entrepreneurial adolescence.
It is a disease that has led to the party crumbling even before its 30th anniversary at the helm of the VNB. To them, having access to money is equivalent to social insolence. No wonder conference after conference, whether at a branch, regional, provincial or national scale, it is the money demon that reigns supreme.
As a consequence, Ramaphosa is but a symptom of the ANC’s allergic reaction to money and power, and the power that comes with money. His actions of keeping millions in a couch while his own subordinates at Luthuli House starved, and had their homes repossessed, was merely the last stages of a disease that was allowed to advance for far too long.
When you delela your own people, you care less about the consequences because, in your mind, you do not need them. You only remember them when it’s time for them to reactivate the pin codes to the vault – every five years. The four years in between have been preserved for the gluttonous orgy of laundering the coins that are meant to provide a better life for all.
I mean, of all the presidents that the liberation movement has had in government, not even one could commit to providing at least one massive factory per province, just to create 50 000 permanent breadwinners spread across the country.
Instead, it is the names of the leaders, and those of their relatives, that keep appearing in the dodgy transactions involving the theft of minerals from the provinces that God had intended to enrich the people who live there.
In conclusion, Ramaphosa might be the hearse that carried the ANC to its final resting place, but he is surely not the one who put it in the pine coffin. His funders, who spent R1 billion on his 2017 ANC presidential election campaign, knew that if they threw money at the adolescents, delegates were bound to throw a final party and dance until their collapse a few months into 2024.
In the words of the great Bob Marley, “I shot the sheriff, but I didn’t kill the deputy.” In this case, the ANC is the deputy. The doctor’s report suggests that the patient died from too much partying while en route to liberating his people from suffering.
Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane is a senior African Times journalist.