/ 7 July 2023

‘Demise of the ANC’ article misses the mark

The 54th National Conference Of The African National Congress Party (anc)
Thirty years into its rule, the NP faced the reality of its demise. The ANC faces a similar reality

The Mail & Guardian on 26 June published an article “The demise of the ANC is the death of ideology In SA politics” by social commentator Donovan Williams which generated widespread discussion inside and outside the movement. Let’s continue the debate so that all viewpoints are aired. 

The way Williams introduced his argument’s thrust and the distortion of our ideology to the problems of transition seeks to divide the rank and file membership. This approach makes it appear as though all that was necessary to avoid the present crisis was the presence of some “holy” leaders who would not have committed the referred to a mounting chronicle of crimes and corruption. This focuses on the reflected image rather than the real strategic objective.

It is a common thing today for theoreticians and commentators to open their writing with a strong denunciation of ANC ideology and even distort it. This sort of distortion and nihilism only clouds the issue and does not deal with the problems of social transformation and the national democratic revolution scientifically. It is a serious mistake to take the ANC as an organisation that is devoid of good politicians. 

Now here is a scientific approach to a complicated problem which is expected of any seasoned cadre who employs his/her tools of dialectical materialism. From its inception, the ANC has fought the most brutal system called apartheid with Africans taking the most losses and casualties. Blood was spilt and we walked over corpses for the freedom of our people and never want to witness that war ever again. 

The ANC was the first liberation movement in the continent surviving the most hostile environment. However, dialectical laws demand that we look at things from all sides and not just be one-sided in our approach. We must also look at them in their processes of development and change. 

Williams argues we must instil fear in the people to turn the electoral tide around. There is no doubt that there were many ebbs along the way and wrong interpretations of events too. But who is not wiser after the event? It is very easy for us living in our time outside the situation to apportion the blame for all that was done in the past. Need we forget that ideology teaches us our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action? It is also important to remember that by-and-large theory is the product of practice and that since there was no practice of the ability to govern before 1994, the first builders would flounder?  

One has to lay emphasis on the above because there is a tendency with some theorists and commentators to speak of democracy in the abstract when, in fact, there is no such thing. Even in Greece, where the term democracy — meaning rule of the people —was first popularised, slaves were regarded as merely articulate tools. The poor peasants were engaged in a class struggle against the slave owners. 

The majority of our people joined the national and class struggle against racial colonialism called apartheid. The material conditions of development require that ideas must also correspond with these objective conditions. 

In examining only the so-called demise of the ANC and its ideological death it is unfortunate as it ignores the many achievements made by our democracy. Williams deals harshly with the developments post liberation. He does not provide a scientific analysis of why, with all that happened after we took office we first had to re-jig the RDP in favour of GEAR and the empty fiscus and manifesto commitments against an untransformed state.

I am also uncomfortable with Williams’ formulation that “President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be the epitome of false hope”. I find it difficult to understand what so conveniently places the president with a false hope pairing. I think this personification plays down and belittles his role in the ANC and society. 

Williams has unfortunately not supplied us with any facts showing how Ramaphosa’s hopefulness and positive outlook seems to be the epitome of the false hope of the ANC. While denigrating the ANC as the villain, Williams gives the impression that, like the opposition, “fighting back” is the solution to the electoral outcome. He seems to overlook the process that has taken place since the dissolution of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and placing peace and reconciliation as the bedrock of our democracy as opposed to fear-mongering.

Our people have an historic mission. The ANC, based on its ideology, must guide the membership and society at large. We cannot undermine and wash down the vanguard role of the ANC to weaker opposition politics and ideology. 

Williams’ attitude has not given us a solution to the problems but rather brought the whole concept of our ideological posture into question. The isolation of our president as a scapegoat does not provide a convincing argument to prove that the ANC is destroying everything. An honest historical analysis shows that in spite of all challenges, the ANC has always been committed to the revolutionary cause. 

In conclusion, the post-liberation era does not mean the freezing of national and class struggles for our people. Williams seems to be calling for revolutionary forces to lower their ideological guard, while the opposition are making maximum gains propaganda-wise.

We cannot in the twinkle of an eye forget the immense sacrifices of our people for freedom and commit ideological floor crossing. The renewal of the movement, not just the ANC, needs to reciprocate the commitment to the poor people.   

Sikhumbuzo Thomo is an activist from afar 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.