/ 13 January 2024

Difficult ANC anniversary speech for Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa Anc Conference Delwyn 2
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The ANC is  preparing to celebrate its 112th birthday on Saturday — 8 January — in the face of the greatest threat to its dominance of South African politics since it came to power in 1994.

Not only has its electoral support dropped significantly in successive elections since achieving its high-water mark in 2004, it also faces competition from yet another splinter movement at the polls later this year, this time in the form of former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party.

And, although President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to focus on the continuing load-shedding, the poor delivery of basic services, corruption and the high unemployment rate in his statement, analysts say it is not likely to have any real effect on voters in the national and provincial elections later this year.

The statement has historically been used by the ANC to lay out its programme of action for the year ahead. This dates back to its days in exile when the statement was communicated on its Radio Freedom to members and supporters inside South Africa.

In the post-apartheid context, the statement has provided the ANC with a way of taking stock of the past year’s achievements and failures and to outline its policy priorities for the 12 months ahead.

Political analyst Ntsikelelo Breakfast said the statement would probably focus on domestic issues, such as the poverty, unemployment and inequalities in the country.

These were the major domestic issues that were a danger to democracy. 

He said Eskom would also feature prominently in the statement, with the continued load-shedding a priority for Ramaphosa’s administration — and the party — going into the elections.

Breakfast said there was no doubt that Eskom and load-shedding was the elephant in the room which Ramaophosa had to deal with.

“The ANC is using power outages like a light bulb — they are switching it on and off. During the festive season, they were able to put it on hold so, at the heart of the statement, will be the issue of power outages,” he said.

He said that the slow pace of service delivery, in particular in the municipalities run by the ANC, would feature in the speech.

“I think the issue of corruption will feature prominently,” he added.

The party is also under pressure from its alliance partners, labour federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party, to deal with factionalism and to get its house in order.

At last year’s 8 January celebrations in the Free State, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi urged Ramaphosa to deal with factionalism in the party and provide a solution to the rolling blackouts if the ANC hoped to win the elections.

“Workers have put the entire movement on notice; workers are saying to the ANC today to dismantle factionalism, remove incompetent employees and unite the ANC,” Losi said.

These issues are also expected to feature in Ramaphosa’s address. 

Losi said that, on the international front, the statement would focus on Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinians.

On Thursday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearing the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel.

South Africa instituted proceedings at the ICJ last month over alleged genocide in its retaliatory strikes against Hamas in Gaza since 7 October, which have left at least 23 000 Palestinian civilians dead.

“The request that has been initiated by the ANC to the ICJ, that they must they must examine the genocide that is committed by Israel to the people of Palestine, will feature because its a very important matter. 

“They might also want to reflect on other issues of human rights and conflicts that have taken place in the continent,” Breakfast said.

Breakfast said he did not think the 8 January statement would influence the electoral behaviour of the voters because people have probably already made up their minds about who they were going to vote for.

The damage had already been done and it could not be undone. “People must not lie to themselves with a straight face that the ANC is going to win. The ANC is not going to win — the writing is on the wall,” he said. 

“There have been many scientific findings which have been unveiled concerning that the ANC will not reach the required threshold of 50%. For people to walk around saying that they will win with an overwhelming majority is daydreaming.” 

Political analyst Susan Booysen said the president would have a difficult task showing the progress the ANC has made, what the party had to offer and what it had been delivering in the past few years.

She said the statement was the unofficial launch of the ANC’s election campaign and she had no doubt it would influence how voters would perceive the six months ahead.

Booysen added that she did not think the ANC had anything new to offer voters.

“Voters look for a party that they believe has a chance of delivering.”

However, she said despite the difficulties it faced, the ANC remained the strongest party and the only one that could say it had a chance to come out with a majority, in its own right.

“At the other side of the coin is that it would need to be more persuasive than has been the case so far that the ANC is really renewing and cleaning itself out. 

“I believe he [Ramaphosa] will dish up any bit of information or evidence that he can find that the ANC is actually renewing and cleaning up because that is what was promised five years ago. He cannot get away without doing this,” Booysen said.

“There is nothing really that the ANC is offering this time around.”