The African National Congress (ANC) finds itself in a challenging position as it approaches what is arguably its most crucial election since 1994. The party is grappling with internal divisions and the emergence of rival political parties, making the upcoming election a significant test for its leadership and future.
Former President Jacob Zuma, known for his controversial tenure, has dared the ANC to take action against him and has even formed a rival political party to challenge the ANC in the elections. Despite his opposition to the party, Zuma claims to remain a loyal member, exploiting the ANC’s historical tendency to prioritize his influence and support over principles and discipline.
In response to Zuma’s confrontational stance, the ANC has chosen to “appoint” his former wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Zweli Mkhize to engage with him. However, this decision has raised eyebrows as it appears to be an attempt to address the issue through an ethnic lens. Both Dlamini-Zuma and Mkhize hail from KwaZulu-Natal and previously contested against incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency.
The ANC’s leadership is currently in panic mode as it faces its most crucial election yet. ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula recently admitted that the party lied in parliament to protect Zuma during the Nkandla homestead scandal, further damaging the party’s credibility. This revelation follows a damning report by the public protector, which implicated Zuma in the misuse of public funds.
Adding to the uncertainty, Ramaphosa has resorted to fearmongering by suggesting that if the ANC were to be defeated in the upcoming elections, social grants and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would be discontinued. These statements reflect the ANC’s deep fear of losing the elections and highlight its desperation to maintain power.
The ANC not only faces challenges from within but also from newly formed political parties. The party is uncertain about how these parties will perform and whether they would be willing to form a coalition with the ANC, considering that some of them have emerged as splinter groups from within the ANC itself.
Another significant factor is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a prominent opposition party. While some within the ANC are considering a potential alliance with the EFF, there is clear disagreement within the party. The EFF has maintained a somewhat friendly relationship with Zuma, who founded the uMkhonto weSizwe party, making a pact with them a more realistic possibility.
Forming a coalition with the Democratic Alliance (DA), another major opposition party, seems unlikely given the ideological differences between the two parties. The ANC has historically campaigned on a nonracial platform, but has struggled to fully implement and test this ideal. The party has faced criticism for disregarding the coloured community and limiting white membership to leadership positions.
Amidst these internal challenges, ANC members and supporters are divided in their reactions. Some accuse Mbalula of exposing and “de-campaigning” the ANC, while others express concern over the party’s lies and corruption. It is essential to recognize that the misused funds were contributed by the people themselves.
The ANC’s conundrum is undoubtedly complex and multifaceted. As the party celebrates its 112th anniversary, it must confront its internal divisions, address its credibility issues, and navigate the changing political landscape to secure a successful outcome in the forthcoming election.