Mass protests could be our Arab Spring – ANC

ANC head of political education Nathi Mthethwa. (Gallo)

ANC head of political education Nathi Mthethwa. (Gallo)

The ANC is worried about the growing number of mass protests in the country, which it says could opportunistically be used by some forces to stage a regime change similar to North Africa’s Arab Spring.

  • For more of the M&G’s coverage of the ANC’s national general council, click HERE.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines of the ANC’s national general council (NGC) at Gallagher Estate on Saturday, ANC head of political education Nathi Mthethwa said the governing party needed to urgently attend to concerns raised by ordinary people during service delivery protests to avoid creating space for those pushing for regime change to take advantage of poor people. 

South Africa has experienced an increase in service delivery protests – according to figures provided by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. Tabling his budget vote in Parliament earlier this year, Nhleko reportedly said: “Police resources were committed to 14 740 incidents of which 12 451 were peaceful with 2 289 turning violent. This was more than double the number of protests police officers responded to in 2007/08 when the number of protests stood at 7 209.

“We should warn ourselves of the flammable social tinder.
The dire situation of our people is characterised by poverty, which is very real. The popular mass protests should be looked into from the point of a revolutionary movement unparalleled in our country and elsewhere which is able to honestly reflect its strength and weaknesses. We have to address service delivery [concerns] our people are raising. If we address them, we will do away with opportunistic actions by some self-proclaimed revolutionaries,” said Mthethwa.

Last week, ANC North West chairperson and premier Supra Mahumapelo accused former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema of plotting to overthrow the government after the two led the anti-corruption march to the Union Buildings.  

In his political report delivered to about 3 000 delegates attending the NGC, President Jacob Zuma also alluded to the ANC’s concerns about forces of regime change.

“We also need to be alive to lessons from North Africa, especially the aftermath of the political changes that were referred to as the Arab Spring. 

“We must carefully analyse foreign interventions that bring about regime change, which leaves the people leaderless and allow military formations and right-wing organisations to lead, as has happened in Libya and causing serious instability in the Sahel region,” said Zuma.

He said South Africa should continue to support the African Union’s concept of “African solutions to African problems”. 

“We cannot afford a situation where continental initiatives to bring about lasting peace, security and stability on the continent continue to be undermined by powerful foreign forces,” Zuma said. The governing party is not only worried about external forces, but also its own deployees in government accused of failing to deliver the necessary services to the people.

Mthethwa warned that the party risked losing power if it continues to disregard the concerns of the masses.

“We [ANC] must always be guided by our values of selflessness, humility and human solidarity. The people who get tenders and government officials who award the tenders must always be guided by the ANC values when they make their decisions. If we don’t do that, we will regret it.

“We are in power because people believe we deserve to be there. But if we don’t do things they expect us to do, they will take us out,” said Mthethwa.

He said the ANC was not planning to change its current policies despite pressure from its alliance partners Cosatu and the South African Communist Party.

“The ANC is facing challenges, [but] we don’t need new inventions to deal with the challenges of the day. We asserted we have to fight corruption and implement the [ANC’s] concrete programmes of economic transformation,” he said.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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