EDITORIAL: A new party must be born
‘A large disincentive to further splits has been the difficulties faced by splinter groups in the past’
Tuesday’s vote of no confidence has offered a glimpse of a new political landscape. The ANC claimed victory, but the most important outcome is that it heightened the possibility that the party will split following the December conference. And the reason that risk has risen is that the recent events, including the debate, have drawn very starkly the division between the Constitutionalists and the Party Faithful — those who believe the party’s interests are more important than those of the country. It seems more likely now that this is the fault line on which the ANC will have its third split.
It is worth noting that after both of the previous conferences, the party fractured. Mangaung in 2012 brought the birth of the EFF and Polokwane five years earlier had given rise to the Congress of the People. In two other breakaways in the tripartite alliance, the United Democratic Movement was formed in 1997 after Bantu Holomisa was fired from the ANC, and in Cosatu, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, its biggest union, was expelled in 2014.
Nobody is contemplating leaving the ANC yet. A large disincentive to further splits has been the difficulties faced by splinter groups in the past. It is difficult to set up a new party, instil practices and processes, build structures and determine leadership. But it could be that those who lose in December may be left with no other choice but to break away.
This will be the case if it is a winner-takes-all conference, where the presidency is won by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and a purge of the losers follows. Not surprisingly, there is growing interest from various quarters in the ANC for some kind of compromise deal to try to avoid this outcome.
But such a deal would only delay the inevitable. In the aftermath of the no-confidence vote, it is now clear the political and ideological differences within the ANC can no longer be papered over. While one group has internalised the values of the Constitution, which it views as the basic foundation for democracy, the other believes that as the custodian of the national liberation struggle, the ANC’s interests are more important than those of the people at large.
Mmusi Maimane is, of course, hoping the DA will be the beneficiary of such a split. He spoke on Wednesday of the prospect that some in the ANC could again stand with the DA; he referred again to a possible realignment of politics.
Realignment across the political spectrum makes a lot of sense. While the ANC is home to diverging political groups, so too is the DA. While the latter has tried to hold on to its liberal identity, which originated in the old Progressive Federal Party, the reality is that the ideological spectrum covered by the DA is more divergent than that of any other party.
What this all points to is that our political parties are out of sync with the times. A new political vehicle based on inclusivity, commitment to SA and clear principles for a new society is needed, but has not yet been born.
Maimane’s hopes that the DA could provide a political home for the Constitutionalists in the ANC is a naïve one. As a party, it carries even more unpalatable baggage than the ANC. It is a hodgepodge of people whose most shared value is opposition to the ANC.
In May, Maimane gave a speech at Constitution Hill in which he outlined the DA’s vision for a new movement. He said the movement would be based on values including constitutionalism, inclusive economic growth, nonracialism, a capable state and zero tolerance for corruption.
If the list sounds familiar, that is because it is. It echoes exactly the vision outlined in the National Development Plan, authored by the ANC Constitutionalists themselves.
The design of the new vehicle is not hard to agree upon. But somebody needs to start building the body of the car.