The Balance of Forces Within The ANC: A New Dawn in Limbo!

By Musa Mdunge

On Wednesday I attended a closed session discussion on the state of the ANC and South Africa by the CAF group at the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. In the room were struggle stalwarts and veterans, who have given their lives’ purpose to building a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa that works for all who live in it. The topic of discussion was about the balance of forces that are shaping not only the ANC’s but the country’s political and economic trajectory. I felt like a kid in a candy store, as I sat in observing the wisdom of these cadres of the movement! 

One of the key points of discussions was about the state of the ANC under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa. While there was a general acceptance that the election of Ramaphosa in Nasrec was a positive event, the slim victory he got and the fact that Ramaphosa and the progressive forces within the ANC had to depend on for lack of a better word “the devil” incarnate in David Mabuza to deliver Mpumalanga to Ramaphosa’s feet in the 11th hour of the conference to shock and anger of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s faction, raises certain concerns about Ramaphosa’s chances to lead the renewal of not only the ANC but the country. 

The implication of this event meant that Ramaphosa did not earn the ANC presidency but rather he was handed the keys to the throne room and would forever contend with the idea that his power would forever be linked by the hip to change in “heart” by DD Mabuza. I have written extensively in articles past about the power and rise of Mabuza and how the Mpumalanga native managed to rise within the ANC from a school teacher to be able to build up the provincial membership of the ANC in that province to be the 2nd largest, overtaking the Eastern Cape.

While there is no doubt Mabuza was central to the Ramaphosa victory, the story is not as simple as that, Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign faced its own setbacks in the North West and KZN and thus made Mabuza’s 11th hour switch an even sweeter blow to the Zuma alliance. 

What was interesting was the general observation by the group of stalwarts and veterans that the decision by Mabuza to postpone his own swearing-in as a member of Parliament must be met with deep concern. Their observation was that by leaving Mabuza in Luthuli House with Ace Magashule, Jessie Duarte, Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba, all who were opposed to Ramaphosa’s ascension to power, the balance of force may be that you have a Mabuza ANC and a Ramaphosa government. 

This highlighting a unique two centres of power, one where the president of the party may have a swing of power in the state but may be politically weakened in a ruling party shaped in the image of the ANC's deputy president. 

Now, this has various implications for Ramaphosa, given that MPs get their instructions form Luthuli House and not the president of the Republic, given the separation of power (even though we all know Zuma cared very little for this constitutional principle), who will they, the MPs, listen to? 

At the end could it be that the President’s own legislative agenda may be compromised by the pushback he will face in the ANC caucus, given the influence by the likes of Magashule over the backbenches? These are questions that time will answer. Moreover, there is another factor, which was considered in the meeting, the redeployment of Zizi Kodwa, Senzo Mchunu and Fikile Mbalula to parliament for possible ministerial positions could further weaken Ramaphosa’s power within ANC structures and so while he moves to consolidate his power over the state, he may cripple himself, with regards to the source of  his mandate, which is the ANC. Is this gamble worth it and does it speak towards the line of thinking that to save the country, he will need to destroy the ANC? Is the choice between country or ANC? If so, assume the country is chosen for salvation, what or who replaces the ANC as the vanguard of the revolution? Moreover, are we doing ourselves a disservice by not preparing or even thinking about what a South Africa without the ANC looks like? 

In other words, how do we re-imagine a new social contract where the ANC no longer defines the perimeters of our dreams, aspirations and resolve? You decide!


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