The ANC: A house divided

File picture: Phill Magakoe/ANA Pictures

The fifth ANC policy conference wound down to a close last Wednesday, after six days of proxy battles for the leadership of the party, disguised as a series of policy discussions.

And this despite the insistence that the succession debate would not taint the important deliberations of the 4 000 delegates who gathered at Nasrec in Johannesburg to determine the policy direction of the ANC in preparation for the December elective conference.

Rather than the event being about mapping a coherent policy framework for the ANC, at a time when such policy coherence is desperately needed, it devolved into a war between the Zuma camp, and the also-rans: Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Mathews Phosa David Mabuza, and most recently, that paragon of objectivity and political neutrality, National Assembly speaker and ANC chairperson, Baleka Mbete.

It is bizarre beyond comprehension that the ANC is able to pretend that it is united in its unqualified support of Jacob Zuma serving out the remainder of his second term as president, when the policy conference was a battleground for the forces competing for the soul of the ANC.

Even more bizarre, is the ANC’s suggestion that it is the only organisation that is capable of creating the much vaunted better life for all South Africans, when in the last eight years, it has consistently demonstrated its incapacity to do so.

And all of this has come to pass under the stewardship of His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, president of the ANC, and of the country.

If you took the trouble to watch and read media reports as the farce unfolded, you could not but conclude that the substance of proceedings was about succession and not about policy.

Granted, there were some surprises. For example, nine out of 11 commissions agreeing that the term “white monopoly capital” is a nonsense of unknown origins, and must not form part of the ANC’s future lexicon.

Rather, it was agreed that “monopoly capital” irrespective of its colour, is the great evil, to be defeated at all costs.

Not to mention the contradictory proposition by Mr Zuma in his closing address that the land question must be solved within the confines of the existing constitutional and legislative framework, but that the ANC must still pursue a majority which will allow it to change the constitution (good luck with that).

The scuttlebutt on the floor, when the media was permitted to interact with delegates, was more about which camp – Dlamini-Zuma vs Ramaphosa – had the upper hand as as each fresh assault by either faction was launched, and either succeeded, or was defeated.

When Mr Zuma took to the podium to deliver his concluding address, he was his usual charming, giggling, triumphant self, as he demonstrated once more just how much of a stranglehold he still has on the ANC.

His crowning triumph was doing to the ANC what he has done to the executive – bloating it – by leaving delegates with the suggestion that the Top Six msut become at least the Top Seven, so that whoever loses in the succession war, still has a bite at the cherry, as second deputy president.

All this does, is highlight once more, the depth of endemic divisions in the ANC.

Think about it. The only time the ANC has demonstrated any kind of unity, was during the time of Nelson Mandela.

He is the only leader of the ANC since Oliver Tambo who had the moral integrity and the inherent determination to forgive in the interests of national reconciliation. Where else did Archbishop Desmond Tutu find the inspiration to coin the phrase Rainbow Nation, which initially, but for such a painfully short time, inspired the nation to seek unity and a common destiny?

But the seeds of division were sewn back then, when Madiba anointed Thabo Mbeki as his successor, rather than Cyril Ramaphosa.

The divisions deepened when Mr Ramaphosa refused the deputy presidency under Mr Mbeki, but it was only at Polokwane in 2007, when the incumbent fooled the ANC into believing he was eminently qualified to run the ANC and the country, that the divisions became public and very ugly.

Sixty percent of the voting delegates supported Mr Zuma, 40% supported Mr Mbeki for a third term, and the die was cast when a “coalition of the wounded” hived off and formed the ill-fated Congress of the People.

It was no different in 2012, when the ANC crown was hotly contested yet again, and Mr Zuma once more triumphed, with Kgalema Motlanthe playing proxy for the struggle for supremacy between Messrs Zuma and Ramaphosa. That he has since come out vocally against Mr Zuma, suggests that he was already playing the long game in 2012, by distancing himself from the toxic presidency of Mr Zuma.

Last week was simply the next episode in the tragic soap opera which the ANC has become, as it doggedly pursued division rather than unity of purpose.

The question on everybody’s lips is, of course, “who will be the next ANC president”?

The murkiness of ANC factional politics makes it virtually impossible to predict right now, but it is self-evident that the interests of the country as a whole, are entirely secondary to those of the ANC.

But one thing is certain: that the candidacy of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been publicly endorsed by her ex-husband, means that she is without doubt, patently unsuitable for the job.