Time is quickly running out for the ANC to restore the lost confidence in its rule that was evident during last month’s local government elections.
If the party is serious about arresting the decline in its support ahead of the 2019 national elections, it needs to start walking the talk. This is in keeping with its promise to deal with perceptions of the ANC being arrogant, self-serving, soft on corruption and increasingly distant from its grass-roots support base.
But events of the past few weeks are hardly the kind of stuff that inspires confidence in the party.
These include the reappointment of Dudu Myeni as SAA board chairperson, despite her unimpressive track record at the helm of the airline over the past four years, and the apparent harassment of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by the Hawks.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s misleading statement — that the Cabinet had resolved to set up a judicial inquiry into banks that had closed the accounts of businesses owned by the Gupta family — is yet another example of how the governing party has lost the moral high ground.
It is hard to see how Zwane (a close ally of the Gupta family) would have made such a bold assertion without first seeking approval from President Jacob Zuma or discussing it with some ANC leaders.
Yes, Zuma has distanced himself from Zwane’s statement, but until he takes action against the mines minister, perceptions that Zwane privately enjoys Zuma’s support for his outrageous utterances will persist.
Zuma has publicly admitted he was friendly with the Gupta family, who have been accused by many within the ANC-led alliance of using their relationship with the president to “capture” the state.
Gordhan supporters believe the minister is the target of a Hawks investigation because of his fight to stop the alleged looting of state resources by Zuma and his allies.
Like any South African citizen, Gordhan is not above the law and the Hawks should charge him if they think they have a strong case.
It is believed, however, that the strategy behind the Hawks’s clandestine investigation is to put pressure on the finance minister to resign and make way for a Zuma loyalist to take over the treasury.
ANC leaders attending the party’s national executive committee (NEC) at the end of the month to discuss, among other things, leadership issues, will have to make tough choices.
One option will be to get rid of Zuma and a few rotten apples and start the process of organisational renewal — a move that would probably see the party improve its performance during the 2019 elections.
Not that the issue of organisational renewal is new to the ANC. In recent years, the party has produced volumes of documents exploring ways for the party to reinvent itself.
It even resolved during its national conference in Mangaung in 2012 to establish a political school for its cadres.
But so far, there has been little progress, if any, to show on the issue of organisational renewal.
To win back the confidence of the people, the ANC will need to rid itself of some dead wood in its ranks and bring in credible and tested people who will inject fresh ideas into the former liberation movement. The ANC knows very well who these cadres are.
The renewal process should not only be limited to the party’s NEC. It should cut across provincial, regional and branch levels.
A tripartite alliance leader who spoke on condition of anonymity this week argued that, if the ANC was serious about organisational renewal, it needed to follow in the footsteps of the Chinese communist party. As such, it should ensure that all those who were given leadership roles should be well trained and be appointed on merit.
“The system is called meritocratic, meaning people who are selected to lead or take key responsibilities in the party and the state are selected based on merit, or their ability or capacity to perform the work.
“The Chinese have a thorough system of selecting the best and further preparing them through training. If you fail to perform, they will demote you, depending on the nature of the failure.
“Every promotion and demotion is backed by a new induction and preparatory process,” the alliance leader said.
Another choice facing the ANC is to keep Zuma in his influential position. This option — which is likely to be the outcome of the NEC meeting due to take place at the end of the month — will definitely see the ANC’s decline in support continue in the years to come.