Editorial: Morally bankrupt ANC should step aside

If you were to consider just what the country and the world has gone through over the past five years, you’d begin to recognise the scale of the difficulties we are faced with in getting us anywhere near some sort of normality in our day-to-day lives. 

A Covid-19 pandemic, the subsequent shutdown of our local economy, more than 102 000 deaths and still counting, a steep increase in unemployment and, as a consequence ever widening inequality, rampant inflation around the world, an energy crisis and, of course, a European war. 

The world is awash with “black swans”; there’s really nothing that can surprise us now. What is certain is that the developments of the past five years will prove to be country- and region-defining events for decades to come.

The classic definition of a black swan event is an unpredictable development in a situation that has potentially severe consequences. These events are characterised by their rarity, severe repercussions and that they were obvious in hindsight.

In the wake of this bevy of black swans that have made our days more interesting than Chinese philosophy could have ever hoped for, South Africa’s governing party, the ANC, heads to this weekend’s policy conference more concerned with pushing back on attempts to improve governance than finding solutions to the many structural fault lines that have been so crudely exposed by our economic deterioration since the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Despite the tales of corruption laid out by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in his report on state capture that have torn to shreds any remnants of credibility in the ANC, there’s a significant faction in the 110-year-old institution that will seek recommendations at the end of the conference that the step-aside rule be amended at the very least, if not abolished by the end of the year. 

The step-aside resolution, which in practice means party members facing criminal charges are barred from contesting positions, was adopted at the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec conference, where Cyril Ramaphosa was narrowly elected to power. It’s a resolution that has affected a number of ANC members, including the disgraced former eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede, who is facing a slew of corruption charges.

Against the ever deteriorating socioeconomic backdrop that the ANC presides, what will be of more importance to its members this weekend will be the fate of disgraced politicians such as Gumede and its suspended secretary general, Ace Magashule, than that of everyday South Africans. If it unfolds as analysts and party insiders predict, then this weekend we will be watching the embers of a morally corrupt political party. Is there any other fitting description for the ANC if the job at hand is ensuring its criminally charged members are allowed to contest for party political seats and, in turn, government positions?

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