Editorial: The ANC's struggle is against itself
For a moment it seemed like something from a surreal Punch and Judy show – China and Oubuti were the names, with the former arrested for complicity in the murder of the latter. But, of course, it is no laughing matter. China Dodovu is the deputy provincial chairperson of the ANC in North West, and the late Oubuti Chika was the regional secretary of the ANC's Dr Kenneth Kaunda region. Elsewhere in this paper we report on some of the issues swirling around this death and this arrest, including allegations of plots all over.
All this talk of conspiracy is very hard to untangle, but it is clear that the Chika murder is related to ANC power politics in a province struggling to hold itself together: it's a matter of who got to go to Mangaung, of who fraudulently blocked whose access to that leadership conference. This death is about factional war in the ruling party, the kind of war that erupts when leadership positions in a party are not determined by who is likely to attract more voters from the general populace, but by obscure processes that seem ever more likely to be manipulated by string-pullers inside the party's conclaves.
The ANC in the Free State has already been taken to court by its own members for the way internal elections were skewed ahead of Mangaung, and the court ruled that the process had indeed been manipulated unfairly. Many accounts of the lead-up to that conference echoed this kind of unethical fiddling with internal party democracy. That is all bad enough, but murders that are about the scramble to gain or hold on to political power are much, much worse – they are a scary sign that South Africa could be headed back towards the violence that marked the apartheid years and still mars many African states, even the democratic ones. This violent competition for power is precisely what open democracy is meant to avoid.
Last year, ANC "fixer" Wandile Mkhize was gunned down outside his home in KwaZulu-Natal just after the party's policy conference in Midrand. There are at least two other such cases from the province, and several deaths in Mpumalanga over the past few years were surely political.
At Mhkize's funeral, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said somewhat blandly that "the confluence of politics, criminality and business" were to blame. He is almost certainly right, and the formula could probably be applied to the North West case too. In which case, the ruling party should be pressed to clean its house with the utmost urgency.