ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

Within a few days last week, the ANC revealed why there is suspicion that its leader’s notion of a "new dawn" is the emptiest of promises. It is a party with little coherence and squanders whatever goodwill comes its way.

First, no less an authority than The Economist magazine endorsed Cyril Ramaphosa, urging voters to back the ANC on May 8 for reasons which it says are "painfully pragmatic".

"The least bad plausible outcome … is for voters to give the ANC a solid majority, thus boosting Ramaphosa and allowing him to shun the populists and face down the mafia within his own party," the magazine argued.

If Ramaphosa doesn’t get such a majority, The Economist argues, it could pave the way for a coalition with the EFF — the party of "racist demagoguery and disregard for economic reality".

The magazine endorsed the DA in 2014. This time, it says, the DA has the right ideas for fixing SA, but "is in no position to implement them".

It was an unlikely fillip for a party desperately trying to hold a single line, ahead of next week’s vote. Yet within hours, there was the ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, illustrating exactly why it is a party that doesn’t deserve that vote.

Ramaphosa’s position has been that of the reformer, seeking to purge the most toxic elements of the party, to reinstate the ANC’s former moral authority.

But how, in this new dawn, can there still be place for the likes of Nomvula Mokonyane (she of the overly generous gifts from Bosasa), Bathabile Dlamini (she who nearly torpedoed the social grants system) or Magashule himself?

Many in the ANC have no time for "reform". Banners at ANC rallies this weekend, bearing the faces of Mokonyane, Dlamini and Magashule, proclaimed: "Hands off our ministers" and "Hands off our secretary-general".

Speaking in the Free State town of Parys, Magashule himself was full of praise for former president Jacob Zuma, the man who arguably did more damage to the ANC than anyone in its 107-year history. "When we were not there, when we were cowards, you took up arms," he said of Zuma. For good measure, he incited people to ignore the law by downloading pirated versions of Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book, Gangster State, which details Magashule’s own compromised past. This is despite the fact that the ANC’s national executive has told Magashule to stop using ANC platforms to attack the book.

Ramaphosa’s views aren’t the public position of even the top six members. The ANC is riddled with factions, which leads, at best, to policy incoherence; at worst, to irreconcilable contradictions.

But there’s another problem with a "strategic vote" for Ramaphosa, which is that there’s no certainty that it would actually give him a greater mandate in the party. As one ANC veteran put it, the larger the vote the ANC gets, the less the Magashule faction would need Ramaphosa later.

An Ipsos poll of 3,600 adults has tipped the ANC to win 61% of the vote, the DA 19%, and the EFF 11% in next week’s election — if nearly three-quarters of the registered voters turn up on the day.

But the most revealing answer from the survey is that just days before the election, 45% said there was no party that represented their views.

This shows that none of the parties presents a compelling vision. There are promises, but those are cheap. The ANC, which first promised a better life for all in 1994, has been falling short of that for years, unless your last name is Gupta. It’s hard to see that changing, even under Ramaphosa, no matter how impressive he seems.