This goes far deeper than the Guptas
It is easy to blame the ANC and the government's latest woes on President Jacob Zuma's new best friends, the Gupta brothers.
By all accounts, they are easily dislikable - gaudy, given to bragging about their influence over politicians, and apparently downright rude.
With the president's son, Duduzane, as their business partner, they regularly make headlines for snapping up lucrative commercial deals.
The Guptas' Saxonwold home in northern Johannesburg receives regular visits from Zuma and some of his cabinet ministers, and the family have become the Zuma-era version of what were known during Thabo Mbeki's presidency as the "BEE usual suspects".
But what is said to be the family's undue influence over the president and his government is just a symptom of a bigger problem confronting the ANC - its unregulated relationship with big business.
That seems to be the point ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was trying to make this week before he put his foot in his mouth by blaming "racial prejudice" for the controversy over the Guptas' relations with the Zumas.
He told reporters on Tuesday: "We think that we must put on the table whether there is a case to be made of business having undue influence over political processes, and I think the ANC owes that to itself, rather than leave it to case studies .... We must have a comprehensive debate as an organisation."
Such a debate, however, would not be new for the ANC and its allied structures.
The party long ago acknowledged its problematic relationship with business - without doing much to resolve it.
At its watershed Polokwane national conference in 2007, delegates tasked Mantashe and other ANC leaders with the responsibility of formulating a new party-funding model aimed at minimising business influence over the state and political parties.
The party's second-highest decision-making body, the national executive committee, later instructed Mantashe's office to create a business declaration register for party members.
Mantashe said on Tuesday that a committee led by NEC member Collins Chabane, the Minister of Monitoring and E valuation, was putting together a code of conduct to regulate party members' business dealings.
But a mere register of business interests and a code of conduct for party leaders may not be enough to tackle the problem.
In 1984, in a bid to stamp out a similar crisis in the then newly independent Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF developed a leadership code that, among other things, prohibited party officials from owning businesses or shares in any entity "organised for profit".
But that stipulation was soon ignored by the party elite, and today Zanu-PF leaders are among the wealthiest people in Zimbabwe.
A similar code for the ANC looks set to suffer the same fate.
The reality for the ANC is that membership of its NEC has long been seen by ambitious members as the quickest route to financial wealth.
Past NEC members, such as former spokesman and now COPE MP Smuts Ngonyama, became involved in enrichment schemes such as the controversial Elephant Consortium's purchase of a stake in Telkom using public funds.
To be on the NEC is to be in an advantageous position, because you get to hear about major business plans by the state - and sometimes big business - long before these are announced to the general public.
You can then strategically position yourself, your family or associates to be among the first to benefit when such plans come to fruition.
Unless the ANC addresses how the NEC is perceived by its own members, the 2012 national conference and subsequent ones are likely to be dominated by fierce leadership battles that have little to do with the country's policy direction and everything to do with self-enrichment.
It is no secret that more than half of the 88-member NEC have business interests of one type or another.
The current upheaval over the Guptas is a direct result of some party leaders and business associates feeling that they are being squeezed out of potential multibillion-rand deals by the Indian immigrants and Zuma's relatives.
One prominent victim has been party national chairman Baleka Mbete.
A consortium led by her, Mandumo Investment Holdings, lost out on an empowerment deal with ArcelorMittal after the steel giant's London head office insisted on the Guptas being roped in.
Mbete was the country's deputy president at the time she first became involved with Mandumo's bid.
Intricately linked to this are the country's BEE policies, which continue to promote the enrichment of a tiny, politically connected minority at the expense of the majority of intended beneficiaries.
It was no accident that the likes of Gloria Serobe, Moss Ngoasheng, Saki Macozoma, Bulelani Ngcuka and other Mbeki associates snapped up most major empowerment deals prior to December 2007.
Now it is the "turn" of Zuma's crowd to eat.
The problem with the Guptas and their associates is that they seem to be crowding everybody else out and refusing to share the cake.
For the ANC, the solution is to look beyond the current Gupta crisis and interrogate its relationships with all other business entities and individuals, as well as the influence these may have on government and party decisions.
This, however, would be inadequate without new parliamentary rules forcing all political parties to be transparent with regard to the sources of their funding.
BEE rules, too, will have to change drastically to discourage the Guptas and other private sector players from seeking out partners exclusively from the small circle of politically connected individuals.