Excellence is not a word you will readily find in the ANC’s vocabulary. More than the word, it is an alien concept. Not just a value incompatible with the party’s organisational culture, but in many respects at odds with it. Thus, it is detested. The consequences have been profound. The party’s slow-motion implosion can be attributed to many different factors, but its contempt for the idea of excellence is central to them all.

To understand why, it is necessary to understand the ANC’s primary animating force: majoritarianism. Consensus is an essential political tool, but consensus for its own sake is little more than a euphemism for mediocrity and populism. Many hard but right decisions are inherently unpopular. A good leader, able to bring to bear vision and conviction, can carry the day. A poor leader will simply put any issue to the vote...

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