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What is to be done?

4 April 2017

The question was asked by the Russian novelist Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky. It was asked by Vladimir Lenin. And it is being asked by many in South Africa today when faced with the entrenched Zupta faction in the ANC.

What is to be done?

Some are putting their hopes in a no-confidence debate in parliament, but that is a delusion.

Such things may work in a constituency system, but not in a proportional representation party-list system such as we have, Any ANC members of parliament who vote no confidence in Zuma will soon find themselves out of parliament, and they will be replaced by more compliant members. Such a move will only serve to strengthen the Zupta faction.

What is to be done depends on whether the ANC capture by the Zuptas is reversible. And that will only become apparent at the next ANC conference when Zuma’s successor as President of the ANC is chosen. If the anti-Zupta people (the “stalwarts”) leave the ANC or are kicked out before the conference, the chances of the Zupta faction retaining and increasing their control will be increased.

But people need to be prepared for whatever happens at the conference.

If it ends with the Zuptas in control, then will be the time for the stalwarts to leave, immediately, and take a leaf out of the book of Dr Malan’s book, and form a purified ANC to fight the 2019 General Election. If the ANC can’t be saved, then at least the country might be.

Here’s another suggestion of what is to be done:

The Big Read: The guilt of the gutless three – Times LIVE:

They must call an emergency meeting of the ANC national executive committee. They must have one item on the agenda: the recall of Jacob Zuma. They must use every ounce of their being to get every single national executive committee member to support the motion. Then they must bring it to a vote.

Those three men, if you haven’t realised it, are Cyril Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe and Zweli Mkhize – the deputy president, secretary-general and treasurer-general respectively of the ANC.

Perhaps it is still possible for them to do that. Perhaps it will be as easy for the ANC to remove Jacob Zuma from the presidency as it was for them to remove Thabo Mbeki, which they did for far less cause. But perhaps those three know something that we don’t know — that ANC capture is complete, and that it is impossible for it to be reversed. It was already complete at the ANC’s Polokwane conference, or even before the conference, when Zuma conned all sorts of people into voting for him as leader, but promising them everything they wanted. He could not possibly deliver everything he promised, and when he failed to deliver, some of those who had supported him became critical (like the leadership of Cosatu), but by then it was too late, and he sidelined them.

So the crunch will come at the next conference of the ANC, to choose Zuma’s successor. That will be the last chance to liberate the ANC from the Zuptas.

Of course we’ve seen it all before. After the Polokwane conference some ANC leaders broke away and formed COPE. But that fizzled because of their bickering and in-fighting and leadership squabbles. But if Zuma’s successor as President of the ANC is another Zupta, then there needs to be a united opposition to dislodge them, and that might mean aiming to form a new government of national unity. Just as the 1994 government of national unity tried to dismantle apartheid, so a new government of national unity will be needed to undo the damage done by the Zuptas. And the rest of the damage done by apartheid that still needs to be repaired.

No confidence debates in parliament won’t solve the problem. Even raising endless points of order, as the EFF members are wont to do, is likely to be more effective. Marches on the ANC headquarters organised by other political parties will be counterproductive — even ANC members who don’t like the Zupta faction are likely to resent it when another political party tries to tell them who their leader should be. ANC leaders who don’t like Zupta trickling away in dribs and drabs won’t solve the problem — that will just strengthen the Zupta faction.

Don’t knock the non-Zupta people who are closer to the centres of power as “gutless” and the like. They may, like Pravin Gordhan in the more recent past, be able to restrain some of the worst excesses of the Guptas. And for other ANC members, the word is, “Don’t mourn, organise”. Organise for the next ANC conference by taking back the branches from the Zuptas and the tenderpreneurs.

Is there anything that non-ANC members can do? Whatever seems possible, but try not to join in stupid stunts like marching on Luthuli House. Try to be aware of what is going on, and help to make other people aware of it.



I’m not usually given to political rants like this. It’s just that all sorts of people are asking and saying what they think should be done, so there’s my 2c worth. But it’s the exception. As I get older, I tend to agree more and more with G.K. Chesterton when he wrote:

When the business man rebukes the idealism of his office-boy, it is commonly in some such speech as this: “Ah, yes, when one is young, one has these ideals in the abstract and these castles in the air; but in middle age they all break up like clouds, and one comes down to a belief in practical politics, to using the machinery one has and getting on with the world as it is.”

Thus, at least, venerable and philanthropic old men now in their honoured graves used to talk to me when I was a boy. But since then I have grown up and have discovered that these philanthropic old men were telling lies. What has really happened is exactly the opposite of what they said would happen. They said that I should lose my ideals and begin to believe in the methods of practical politicians. Now, I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics. I am still as much concerned as ever about the Battle of Armageddon; but I am not so much concerned about the General Election. As a babe I leapt up on my mother’s knee at the mere mention of it. No; the vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.

So please forgive this momentary incursion into discussing practical politics. Back to the Battle of Armageddon.

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