ANC leader Popo Molefe has reflected on corruption, cadre deployment and the party's progress since apartheid in light of the UDF's 30th anniversary.
The opposition Democratic Alliance's (DA) stronghold in the Western Cape is proof of that our democracy is working, said United Democratic Front (UDF) founding member and former North West premier Popo Molefe, who added that "no political organisation is ordained to govern alone forever".
Molefe, a senior member of the ANC, was candid in his assessment of South Africa's political landscape ahead of the 2014 general elections.
"Both the DA and the ANC have had the opportunity to govern the Western Cape province, albeit through coalitions," said Molefe. "The developments there reflect a process of a maturing democracy and the existence of a free market of ideas ... This is an intrinsic element and essence of democracy."
Talking to the Mail & Guardian in the wake of the 30th anniversary of the UDF, Molefe said South Africa progressed very far since the party's role in the 1980s to unite various groups across race and party lines in the fight against apartheid.
But he acknowledged that the ANC lost its grip in the Western Cape.
The UDF, which was closely associated with the ANC, had a strong presence in the Western Cape during the fight against apartheid – so much so it was launched in Mitchell's Plein.
'The stronger the DA will get'
But the ANC struggled to hold on to the Western Cape in recent elections, with the DA using its wins in the province to prove they can work in governance and not just opposition.
"The DA in the province got stronger because the ANC was divided," Molefe said. "In their own words 'the more divided we are, the stronger the DA will get'. The ANC ended up losing the Western Cape in the 2009 general elections after infighting, divided along racial lines, reached fever pitch.
The DA is aiming to wrestle control of Gauteng from the ANC in the general election next year, learning from their victory in the Western Cape. Many, including those within the DA, say the party's chances are slim.
Quoting their own research, the DA put the ANC at 51% of the vote in the province. But analysts disagree.
The DA uses local election results as indicators, but the ANC performs better at national elections – and comparing the local and national results is disingenuous, political commentator Eusebius McKaiser previously told the M&G.
Financial services group Nomura South Africa estimated an ANC drop from 65.9% to 56.2% nationally, but this comes in the absence of poll data.
An analyst based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Susan Booysen, said the ruling party was unlikely to drop below 60% nationally.
But the ANC in Gauteng is showing signs of division after the fall-out from the factional battles in Mangaung.
In the run-up to Mangaung, the ANC in Gauteng pushed for a change in national leadership and supported Kgalema Motlanthe – then the deputy president of both the party and the country – for the position of ANC president. The ANC could well lose Gauteng, as they did the Western Cape, if the divisions continue.
The factional divisions within the Gauteng ANC have been apparent for some time. Zuma's decision to appoint Nomvula Mokonyane as premier ahead of Paul Mashatile in 2009 angered Mashatile, who is now arts and culture minister and chair of the ANC in the province.
"Public representatives and political parties ought to work hard and honestly to deserve the support of the citizens," said Molefe.
But while many of the UDF's leaders – including the likes of Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu – may have held the moral high ground then, many ANC leaders have been tainted with corruption, political careerism and factionalism.
"The ANC does not consist of infallible human beings," said Molefe. "Neither does it guarantee that none of its members will act wrongfully or falter in the course of discharging their responsibilities."
But Molefe added that it wasn't all bad.
"Stories carried in the media about a few leaders who fail in office should not mar the efforts of the many senior officials and members of the organisation who conduct themselves appropriately."
At a New Age business breakfast last week to commemorate the UDF's anniversary, Molefe said that there was nothing wrong with cadre deployment.
"People say there should be no cadre deployment. There should be cadre deployment to advance the transformation agenda," said the ex-general secretary of the UDF.
But he emphasised that people appointed in the public service must have the requisite skills, the New Age reported.
Asked whether the ANC was being soft on corruption, as evinced by its stance on the Gupta family's controversial use of Waterkloof Air Base, the building of the president's residence at Nkandla, and the arms deal inquiry, Molefe said all of the issues were being addressed or investigated.
"To my knowledge none of the three issues mentioned above were swept under the carpet," he said. "We have witnessed recently action taken against specific individuals. There are legal mechanism and internal party processes to deal with the challenges of impropriety."
'A massive rally'
Meanwhile, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal will hold what they've described as "a massive rally" in Durban's Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium to commemorate the UDF's 30th anniversary, on Friday. Molefe will deliver a keynote address and, along with other ANC leaders, visit the home of former UDF stalwart Archie Gumede.
But those who were active in the UDF in the Western Cape are disillusioned with the cause they once fought for.
"Then we helped to make it happen, to work for change. We burnt tyres in the roads, we carried out the campaigns of resistance," Isaac Langeveld, a 62-year-old former activist told the M&G in a previous report.
"But I don't know what we have achieved because people here are still living in poverty. Promises were made and not kept. I have started working with the youth, as they are our future now."
His view was shared by another former UDF member, Dawood Meyer, now 63, who also lives in windswept Rocklands. He said he was also present at the big launch and was involved in the resistance campaigns run by the UDF.
"It has been a big disappointment for us as there is still so much poverty around," he said. "Ever since 1994, they have forgotten about us. The government used the UDF for its own purposes."