The absence of leadership and unity within the ANC as a governing party fails to meet a framework of values and goals promised upon attaining democracy in 1994.

The ANC weekend NEC meeting from March 26-29 focused, among others, on forging unity and cohesion within the party, but different factions in the organisation are threatening the disbandment of the party in this political warfare. This tit-for-tat battle of power within the party fails to realise and recognise the frustration that is brewing among SA citizens towards the governing party’s failures in dealing with the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the failure of the vaccine rollout. High unemployment, gender-based violence, youth and education issues — the country is angry.

The current leadership of the ANC seems unable to connect to the core values that made us, the citizens, entrust our votes to the party post 1994. Today the party lacks the capacity to stimulate progress towards a better future. The leadership battles within the party are no longer about a contestation of ideas and a vision to move the country forward. The ideology of self renewal and vision that used to mark the ANC of Nelson Mandela has been superseded by fictional battles for state resources. State power is no longer about transformation but rather the road for self enrichment.

The ANC will not be held accountable so long as we the citizens remain complacent. We left politics to politicians by ceding too much control to political elites who we believed had the country's best interest at heart. We also deemed it sufficient to have opposition parties that would keep the governing party accountable in advancing progress and democracy, but they are weak and have failed.

So how do we hold the governing party and government to account? Active citizenry is the answer. The December 2020 integrity commission report suggested ANC members charged with corruption should step aside or be suspended. The NEC meeting that took place in recent weeks gives the NEC the power to enforce such a rule after 30 days.

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to show the kind of leadership that will lead to the transformation of the movement but also instil the trust and hope citizens once shared post 1994. For the party to have our votes again, trust needs to be earned. No longer can promises of service delivery and no implementation be sufficient.

All eyes are on the party leadership to lead the way in unifying the ANC so governance can work efficiently in delivering results. The ANC is the government of the people and still yields soft power in a form of historical sentiment and symbolism. It is therefore critical for the party to once again gain the trust of the people it leads or the local government elections will be a wake-up call.

The 30 days to step aside recommendation of the integrity commission will show which direction the party plans to take. If it’s the real renewal we seek, free from corruption, then President Cyril Ramaphosa will have managed to salvage his party’s reputation and restore the pride that came with the ANC of Albert Luthuli, OR Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

Ignas Mutombo
Political consultant, International SOS

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