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15 Mar 2019 00:00
Same old: It’s clear that Cyril Ramaphosa is favoured by many citizens across party lines, but the ANC’s reputation, tainted by corruption, will work against the party. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
The ANC has in the past two elections ignored signals from the electorate that it will no longer tolerate corruption and public representatives who lack integrity.
It has done so again. The party’s list of MPs and MPLs, submitted to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) this week, illustrates that the ANC offers more of the same, with those mired in corruption allegations and whose conduct shows a shocking lack of integrity likely heading back to Parliament and provincial legislatures for the sixth administration since 1994.
This is the result of a combination of the need to balance conflicting forces in the ANC and the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa has focused solely on the renewal of the state, which he began after his election as party president in December 2017.
It has resulted in a governing party locked in semantics about reform but little else.
The list includes Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini, who is facing possible perjury charges after she was found to have possibly lied to the Constitutional Court during the Social Security Agency of South Africa fiasco in 2017.
Minister of Environmental Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane is also back, despite the disastrous state she left the water and sanitation department in and the annual grocery shop list she allegedly provided to dodgy services company Bosasa.
Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba makes a comeback too.
ANC structures believe this motley trio deserves to return to Parliament, with all its perks, benefits and the responsibility to represent citizens in holding the executive to account.
On the other hand, a parliamentarian whose stellar work in shedding light on the corruption and maladministration at Eskom, Zukiswa Rantho, did not make the cut.
It is almost laughable, if it was not so tragic. The list speaks volumes about the calibre of membership of the governing party, but more worrying is the extent to which it means Ramaphosa’s hands will continue to be tied as he seeks to reform the country and the party.
Before the 2014 elections, ANC research showed that issues such as the controversy over Jacob Zuma and state expenditure on his Nkandla property and other allegations of corruption would damage the party’s electoral performance. The research was ignored by the national leadership, which was complicit in Zuma’s shocking handling of the public protector’s report on Nkandla, released some months before the polls.
This culminated in a 10 percentage point decline in support for the ANC in Gauteng in the 2014 elections and a national drop of nearly four percentage points, down from 66.9% in 2009 to 62.15%.
Before the 2016 local government elections, which took place on the back of the Constitutional Court’s explosive judgment on the public protector’s Nkandla report and former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas lifting of the lid on state capture, the ANC’s research showed that its support in Gauteng, the country’s economic hub, was at an all-time low of 41%.
Coupled with the loss of two key metros, Johannesburg and Tshwane, the ANC’s support in Gauteng in 2016 dropped to just 45% and to below 55.6% nationally.
The ANC is pinning its hopes on Ramaphosa to turn around its election fortunes, but it is clear for all to see that little has changed in the party, despite the president’s attempt to clean up the state.
It is reported that he is more popular than the party itself, but he cannot be separated from the ANC. This situation, after the elections, will trip him up and he may regret his failure to exert a sterner hand on the lists process.
His allies consistently repeat the mantra that a decisive electoral mandate from a cross-section of South Africans is critical to ensure a firmer grip on the ANC.
Natasha Marrian is Mail & Guardian's politics editor. Read more from Natasha Marrian
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