ANC: a dog in the manger

Patricia de Lille.

If I can’t win, I’ll make it impossible for you, if you do. Sound familiar? It should, because this is how the ANC ungraciously has handled defeat in the past.

In 2006, when the DA took control of the City of Cape Town with a fragile multi-party government (MPG), the ANC national government, through the then ministry of local government, tried to change the management structure of the City from an executive mayoral system to a 10-member committee, which would allow the ANC to grab six seats in collaboration with the African Muslim Party (AMP) under Badih Chaaban.

Thankfully, the Independent Democrats (ID) under Patricia de Lille joined the MPG, when the AMP was given the boot for colluding with the ANC, which made the dissolution of the executive mayoral system moot as the ID-supported MPG would in either case have had a majority.

The excuse for implementing the 10-person committee system, was to make the City government “more representative.”

Interestingly, the ANC was quite happy with an executive mayoral system in all other metros in the country, where it ruled with a comfortable majority. Clearly, the ANC believes only an ANC-dominated government – national, provincial or local – is sufficiently representative.

When the DA achieved an outright majority in the 2009 election in the Western Cape, the ANC was equally dog in the mangerish, taking its seats in the opposition benches in the provincial legislature with overt bad grace.

Rather than getting on with the business of providing services, the ANC caucus focused rather, on tripping up the DA at every turn, sniffing out non-existent corruption and accusing DA premier Helen Zille of everything, from sleeping with members of her largely white and male-dominated cabinet, to being a CIA mole.

The seismic shift in our politics on August 3 has once more provided the ANC with an opportunity to behave like a spoiled child who has lost a game of marbles. Deliberately arriving late for the inaugural council meeting in Nelson Mandela Bay last Thursday, the ANC caucus created an almighty ruckus when it found the door to the venue firmly locked.

After demanding and being granted entry, the ANC councillors all trooped out when the DA’s Athol Trollop was proposed and elected executive mayor, unopposed.

Prior to this exodus, however, the ANC caucus had attempted to filibuster the election of the new municipal manager, and it was only when he – Jonathan Lewack (DA) – took control that the election of the executive mayor took place. Mr Lewack then proceeded to read the riot act to the recalcitrant ANC caucus, and managed to get proceedings under control.

Former ANC mayor Danny Jordaan was conspicuous by his absence.

Although the ANC caucus in Tshwane took its seats in opposition benches without a fuss on Friday at the new council’s inaugural meeting, City manager Jason Ngobeni – an ANC deployed whose future is less than certain – took the opportunity to read out with appropriate relish, the cushy benefits which awaited the new mayor, who everybody knew would be the DA’s Solly Msimanga.

What are the chances that Mr Ngobeni would have engaged in such rhetoric if the ANC’s Thoko Didiza was about to be elected and sworn in?

The EFF’s Julius Malema said earlier in the week at a speaking engagement in Rustenburg “I hear people say Jesus has arrived in PE” – an allusion to Jacob Zuma’s pompous claim that “the ANC will rule until Jesus comes” – and although he was wrong in his assertion that “Jesus has also arrived in Rustenburg,” Jesus most certainly has arrived in Mogale City, Tshwane and Johannesburg (the EFF has finally agreed to support the election of the DA’s Herman Mashaba as executive mayor), where the DA will rule in shaky coalitions.

It beggars belief that the ANC insists on accepting “collective responsibility” for its embarrassing performance on August 3, instead of growing a pair, and kicking Jacob Zuma out.

If the ANC wants to have any hope of avoiding defeat in more than one province, and possibly even nationally in 2019, the very least it should do, is focus on ensuring that service delivery does happen throughout the country, by managing that process rigorously where it rules, and holding to account the coalitions in municipalities where it is in opposition, rather than playing the spoiler at every turn.

The ANC has squandered its struggle dividend with the older generation of voters, and it has alienated the youth, the so-called “Born Frees,” by its inept handling of the #FeesMustFall protests and the consequent immolation of the tertiary education sector.

The electorate is neither stupid, nor bovinely complaint. If the ANC continues business as usual, it will be even more severely punished at the polls come 2019, than it was in August.