There is much said about the future of the governing party in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC). There are some who have gone to an extent of calling for the disillusionment of the ANC. What is further amplifying these calls are widespread corruption allegations against the ANC and recently, the manner in which the provincial conferences of the organisation were managed, particularly in provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng. The provincial conferences exposed several fault-lines in the political and human infrastructure of the organisation characterised by political factions within the organisation namely, Radical Economic Transformation(RET) forces and the Ramaphosa factions. The RET faction consists mainly of supporters of former President Jacob Zuma and some senior leadership of the organisation most of whom are accused of corruption and/or violations of organisational code of conduct. The Ramaphosa faction, as the name suggests consist of supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa who is currently on the back foot following the Phalaphala scandal. Millions of US$ were apparently stolen from the Phalaphala residence of the president in the northern part of the country. The alleged theft has given political ammunition to the political opposition and enemies of the president, they have accused the president of money laundering.
There are views that factionalism within the ANC has divided the organisation , introduced toxicity and enmity within the organisation. Ordinarily, fierce political debates and disagreement are supposed to add vibrancy to intra-party democracy. However, what has emerged within the ANC are chaotic provincial conferences and deterioration of decorum resulting in the undermining of integrity of the organisation including its democratic processes. However, there are interesting views and interpretations to the current goings within the ANC that are worth examining.
First, the schism within the ANC is a common phenomenon in political parties in any democracy, such add life to internal democracy of political organisations. Moreover, constant pull and push in such situations is one of the essential traits that demonstrates democracy; what is happening within the ANC epitomizes maturity of democracy. Furthermore, contrary to prevailing general opinions on the need for unity; insistence on unity has proven, in some instances, to be a dangerous trapping to vibrant democracy. It could also be a precursor that leads to dictatorship. Organisations that have survived collapse are usually those that encourage dissent, accept clumsiness of democracy within their processes.
Therefore, besides chaotic conferences, toxicity and violence that is occasionally witnessed within the organisation; ANC is certainly reaching another stage of its life. It is an essential stage that will test the democratic shock absorbers of the organisation. It communicates an important fact, that disagreement and leadership contestations are healthy for democracy and the organisation.
What is emerging therefore as a result of the ongoing challenges in the party is the “Third Way” discussion. Third way is not a faction, rather a discussion, a process of renewal of the organisation intended to reinstate integrity, accountability and public respect of the organisation . The Third Way is best characterized by the leadership of outstanding individuals who are quietly and effectively working for the betterment of the people of South Africa . It is made up of second tier leadership of the organisation with implacable track record in the organisation and government.
Parks Tau, Khumbudzo Ntshaveni, Mmamoloko Kubayi, Sputla Ramokgopa are amongst those whose leadership characterise the Third Way and dominate the current discussion. They are young leaders who were inducted into the politics of the “movement” to eventually lead the organisation. Their future outlook of the organisation is informed by their intrinsic understanding of the fundamentals of the organisation.
Therefore, as the nomination process for the National Executive Committee (NEC) commences, it is important that the organisation considers the the outcomes and suggestions of the Third Way discussions. The process of NEC nomination must avoid the repeat of provincial conferences, which culminated in the inclusion of individuals with checkered pasts in provincial leadership. Former President Motlhanthe announced that there will be vetting processes and do’s and don’ts in the nomination process; that is essential for the success of the organisation. The organisation must carefully consider the Third Way particularly as it prepares itself for 2024 national elections.