Editorial: It's do or die for the ANC

The ANC has let sleeping dogs lie for much too long. (David Harrison)

The ANC has let sleeping dogs lie for much too long. (David Harrison)

We have been waiting for the real ANC to emerge from beneath the morass of President Jacob Zuma’s various controversies for some time. The argument among the party’s loyalists has always held that the president, and the many allegations made against him, do not represent the rest of the party and its proud history. And yet no other ANC has been forthcoming in the past six years. Instead, the party’s national executive committee appears to grow ever more resistant to the calls for the president to step down, or at the very least, to face the consequences of his actions.

Now the party’s integrity commission has summoned the president to explain himself over the allegations detailed in the public protector’s State of Capture report. It is the first time the party will act against Zuma.

But the president has long been protected by senior leaders, who are more likely to label the calls for his removal an imperialist plot than to grapple with the ripples of discontent running through the party.

And rumours of moves to dissolve the integrity commission are once more proof of the lengths some in the party will go to protect the president.

But if the party’s failure to reconcile with itself is symptomatic of an organisation in the process of self-immolation, then its refusal to listen to the throngs of ANC supporters weary of the president is also a sign of conceit.

The ANC’s history will not protect it from the scrutiny of voters, who are still waiting for the party to deliver on its promises. The ANC’s history will not protect it from the dissatisfaction of voters who listen to the president spew all manner of excuses. And the ANC’s history will not protect it from Zuma himself if he continues unchecked on this path.

Just last week, Zuma told ANC members that, although he himself is not a thief, he knows of those who are. The bravado with which he declares these things is a sign of a man who knows he must fight to stay out of jail.

Or it’s a sign of a man who is completely oblivious to the swirl of voices rising against him. Because unlike what Paid ANC Twitter will tell you, there are millions of South Africans who cannot see an ANC beyond Zuma.

For the ANC to survive it must be able to distinguish itself from Zuma. And the move by the integrity commission, however that eventually translates, is a step in the right direction. What remains is to gauge how well, or not, the party is able to facilitate its own president being called to book. It will not be pretty. But the future of the ANC depends on it.

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