The future of the African National Congress
In India, the Congress Party that spear-headed the liberation struggle in the sub-continent of India took over a split sub-continent India and its nemesis Pakistan. The national government of the Congress Party represented no particular section of the country in particular and represented everybody in particular. Its ministers were appointed for their know-how and their commitment to the national development plan that followed a socialist line. Heavy industry was introduced, archaic personal laws were reviewed, agriculture development was put in place and there was an independent foreign policy was pursued.
Unfortunately, within ten years the Congress Party began to get grieve from smaller parties. These parties were formed on the basis of region, religion, language, caste and class differences. By 1957, ten years after India’s independence, membership of the Congress Party declined in Kerala, and a communist party took over. By 1983 it was the turn of the state of Andhra Pradesh to follow. The process was relentless. Upper caste Indians and Hindus left the Congress Party. Lower caste Indians left Congress Party for those who spoke on behalf of lifting their status. Muslims who had been the greatest supporters of the Congress Party left because of the demolition of the Barbican Masjid (mosque). As the Congress Party leaked support at the polls there followed first, a period of coalition governments. The first no -Congress government was formed in 1977, thirty years after India’s independence. The Bharatiya Janata Party led that coalition. The Congress Party also led some coalition government as well.
This period of coalition governments could be said to have been as a result of the widening as well as the deepening of India’s democracy. But it was a period of incoherence in public policy. Ministers were appointed to please alliance partners according to the prestige and profitability of the portfolio. And the ministers behaved according to self-, party-, region- and finally national-interest. It was also a period of political instability.
So, the Freedom and liberation struggle movement was allowed only twenty to thirty years to enjoy the fruits of their struggle before others moved in to claim power and take the pioneers and veterans out of the show. That is what the example of the Congress Party of India tells us. While each liberation movement survives for so long, all liberation movement in a democratic political system would have to share power, give up power within twenty to thirty years after independence.
ZANU-PF of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe has held power with only one interruption of coalition, since independence in 1980. This has been possible because there is no democratic practice in Zimbabwean politics. Using the army and the police as well as the struggle military veterans, Mugabe has been able to keep his liberation movement in power for almost forty years.
Anyone who cared to look at the trend of electoral processes in Zimbabwe would see the twenty to thirty year rule was going to apply. It was therefore not particularly clever of President Zumba and former Mrs. Winnie Mandela to say that the ANC would rule until Jesus came back!
All through its history the African National Congress suffered the loss of support through members breaking away to form near parties. The first was the Pan African Congress, which organised the tragic demonstration that led to the massacre at Sharpville in March 1960.
Since freedom was achieved there has been two more breakaways from the ANC. When President Thabo Mbeki was recalled in September 2008, COPE – Congress of the People – was formed by people who broke away from the ANC. Today, COPE has some members in parliament. Another breakaway took place when Julius Malema, former leader of the ANC Youth League, and one of the most ardent supporters of Jacob Zuma who threaten to kill for him, left the ANC to form the EFF – Economic Freedom Fighters – which has been a plague on the house of the ANC in parliament. By the way Malema has apologised to the country for being one of the people who brought Zuma to power.
The ANC won a massive vote in 1994. In the elections that followed in 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014, the ANC have steadily lost votes to the extent that for the first time in 2014 they could not achieve a 2/3 majority. This has been good for the constitution and for the country.
It has been good for the constitution and the country because the politicians of the ANC have become arrogant and big mouthed! They have been talking about how the constitution is just a piece of paper and it can be changed. They, and especially, the President and the big six of the party were talking about how the judiciary or the press or the civil society are not allowing the executive to do its work of ruling the country. Fortunately for the constitution they no longer have a majority that can make them do whatever they like with it.
The municipal elections of last year caused the real trouble for the ANC. The party lost major municipalities to the opposition party the Democratic Alliance including Pretoria the political capital of the country as well as the Nelson Mandela Municipality. From this performance, it is believed that when the national elections come in 2019, it is not unlikely that the ANC will not only win a majority of the votes, it might not win the election. And South Africa might begin its own period of coalition and political instability. As the kids were singing:
Nkosi sikeleli iAfrika
Mandela promised me a brand new car.
Is it a Ferrari? Let’s go and look.
Oopsie, it is a taxi!
Voetsek! I want my ballot back!
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