Home Opinion and Features OPINION: ANC’s New Dawn crumbles as 2024 clock ticks

OPINION: ANC’s New Dawn crumbles as 2024 clock ticks

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The sobering message from the electorate is unequivocal: between now and the national and provincial government elections in 2024, the ANC must find ways to heal the rifts in its ranks or surrender power sooner rather than later, writes Cyril Madlala.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

IT WAS inevitable that at some point the ANC would begin to lose power, but the spectacular collapse in the country’s key metropolitan municipalities this week points to an erstwhile darling of the masses that is unwilling to accept that the love is gone.

From the millions who stayed away from the November 1 polls, to an array of the most unlikely partners that combined for the sole purpose of unseating the former liberation movement where it had failed to win outright majorities, enemies both within and outside the ANC are not embracing the proclaimed New Dawn.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election promise of renewal and an acknowledgement of dismal performance by municipalities under his organisation evidently did not convince many that under his leadership the restoration of the glorious movement of yesteryear was upon us.

The consequences will be dire not only for the ANC, but for stability and good, efficient governance that is necessary for the proper delivery of basic municipal services.

The loss of control of all Gauteng’s metros and barely scraping through in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal will require particular attention as the ANC takes stock of what has happened and tries desperately to heal before next year’s policy and elective conferences.

An honest diagnosis of where things have gone wrong necessarily comes with finger-pointing. Can the so-called “nine wasted years” of former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure in government still be responsible for such a dismal performance in Gauteng, as was suggested in previous elections?

Would the outcomes of coalition arrangements in KwaZulu-Natal have yielded different and better results if the provincial and local leadership had taken charge to resolve the impasse of hung municipalities between the ANC and the IFP?

Did the national leadership of the ANC that attempted to structure this deal with the IFP appreciate the dynamics on the ground that supporters from both parties were not amenable to the proposal not to contest each other where they had majority support?

Who should now take responsibility for the unseemly last-minute spectacle, in the full glare of national television cameras, of the ANC offering a lucrative eThekwini deputy mayoral post to Abantu Botho Congress leader Philani Mavundla, in return for delivering the votes of other one-person parties so that the ANC could hold on to power? If ever there were times of desperation for the ANC, this episode will rank up there among the classics.

Mavundla is a wealthy businessman and former ANC mayor in the Umvoti Municipality in Greytown, where he built a mall. He famously refused to receive a salary for his labour, and also rose to prominence when he offered to bail Zuma out of his financial troubles.

After joining and leaving the National Freedom Party, he formed his Abantu Botho Congress and campaigned in these elections under the key message on his posters: “People are fed up with thieves”.

Besides his vile messages about ANC leaders that went viral on social media, his party collaborated with the IFP to take control of Umvoti, despite the ANC’s majority support there. Again, the deputy mayor post was the reward for this party.

Elsewhere in the country, members disgruntled with the process to elect ANC candidates voted for the opposition, and the plethora of community-based organisations that have won former ANC seats suggests that the allure of the liberation movement has waned.

While for the opposition, dislodging the ANC from power at all costs was the main prize, as we saw in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Pretoria, but the consequences of the instability will affect service delivery.

The DA that has taken charge has no popular mandate and would have been as surprised as everybody else when their nemesis, the EFF, and Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA handed them these strategic municipalities on a platter, even if only to spite the ANC.

It is such an unworkable arrangement in a toxic environment of mutual dislike that it is difficult to see how it can survive beyond a few months before it collapses. Ironically,this failure will provide the ANC with an opportunity to regain power.

It needs it because in the past the ANC became so power-drunk and arrogant it was as if the black masses would never turn their back on it because of its Struggle pedigree.

It forgot to provide clean water, electricity, proper sanitation and to collect refuse, while comrades stole the money meant for the poor.

Now the sobering message from the electorate is unequivocal: between now and the national and provincial government elections in 2024, the ANC must find ways to heal the rifts in its ranks or surrender power sooner rather than later.

The question is whether the organisation will be able to survive the stormy waters that are characteristically a feature of build-ups to national conferences. The masses have lost patience, and the vultures in the opposition ranks are ready to strike.

* Cyril Madlala is a political commentator and former editor of The Independent on Saturday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA.

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