Editorial: Will the ANC see its next milestone?

There’s a mainstay to our political calendar that’s been with us ever since the unbanning of the ANC. It’s the marking of yet another year in existence of a party that is one of the oldest on the continent and even older than the all-powerful and, at the moment, conquering Chinese Communist Party. We all know the images of the leaders of this now-110-year-old party cutting cake with fanfare and celebrating the achievements of the party founded by people such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme.

It’s a milestone birthday, and as such the Mail & Guardian has commissioned a series of articles on the state of the governing party today. Over the course of its history, there have been many times when it was prematurely written off, and it has had its fair share of bad leaders. Pixley himself would prove a disastrous president when he took over the reins of the party almost twenty years after he helped its formation. To the radical economic transformation faction, former president Jacob Zuma wasn’t the worst leader, judging by the level of contestation we expect at the end of this year, when the party undertakes its 55th elective conference.

Party president Cyril Ramaphosa ushers in the birthday celebrations undere conditions that reflect troubles during his five-year term at the helm. The year began with parliament burning and mumblings about the release of the first part of Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s report into state capture; a poor performance at the polls towards the end of last year and a confidence crisis among all segments of society over the state’s ability to fix the economy. Almost two years of a Covid-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped the tenure of a man who was supposed to get the country on the right track after the “wasted nine years”.

Never mind the challenges of governance in a pandemic. The ANC’s governance record has been left wanting for many a year and much longer than the past decade. Corruption that Professor William Gumede speaks about in his piece this week continues to cripple the party and scare away its brightest minds; and the land question remains unanswered, to the betrayal of its founding principles, as so well illustrated by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi this week. 

Since the 2008 global recession, the country’s economy hasn’t quite recovered despite a brief growth spurt that came ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Unemployment is at record highs, with little in the way of solutions from the economics cluster of ministries, namely finance, small business and the Ebrahim Patel-led trade and industry departments. 

Some plot the beginnig of the end to the events of Polokwane in 2007, but wherever the mark is, the governing party is in decline. How much more time before it loses the country altogether? 

It’s a question of the next decade, or even the next two years. The 2024 general election looms.

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