Divided it stands; fall it will
Leading intellectual Joel Netshitenzhe said two weeks ago that the ANC was "the critical ingredient of the glue that holds South Africa together".
Speaking at the University of the Witwatersrand, Netshitenzhe continued: "In a society with deep divisions and the ever-present danger of fracturing along a variety of fault lines, the thinning of that glue . would present a real danger."
It is an interesting proposition. How thin is the glue that is the ANC? How swiftly is it fraying and thinning? Can it hold South Africa together?
I am not as convinced as Netshitenzhe that the ANC remains critical to our glue, but let us assume that he is right.
The question then becomes the health of the ANC today and in the future. Recently, fellow columnist S'thembiso Msomi asserted that the ANC was in terminal decline. His words, for those who love the ANC, were chilling: "Many in the party thought Polokwane was the lowest point and that the party could only rise from that.
"They were mistaken. The reality is that the party continues to sink and the current national executive committee has shown no capacity to rescue [it] from apparent disaster ...
"Whatever the outcome [of the ANC Mangaung conference in 2012], one thing is for sure. The ANC will not be able to survive all this for long. Yes, it will reach its centenary as the country's most dominant party. But I doubt the party will reach 110."
If Msomi is correct and the ANC implodes in the next 10 years, and we draw Netshitenzhe's logic to its ultimate conclusion, we could have a South Africa that implodes in 2020 because the ANC is no longer in the mix. Analyst Moeletsi Mbeki earlier this year said that in 10 years South Africa would experience its "Tunisia moment".
It is therefore important to look at the ANC and reflect on its health. It may be a signal of whether or not South Africa has a healthy future.
What do ANC leaders say about the health of the ANC? The signs of decline, according to them, have been there for a long time.
On December 17 2007, at the ANC's Polokwane conference, outgoing secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe asked key questions about the ANC and whether it could survive as an organisation.
He said the Jacob Zuma-Thabo Mbeki battle had divided the party and the rot had spread from branch level to senior leadership.
"When elected leaders at the highest level openly engage in factionalist activity, where is the movement that aims to unite the people of South Africa for the complete liberation of the country from all forms of discrimination and national oppression?" he wrote in his report.
"When money changes hands in the battle for personal power and aggrandisement, where is the movement that is built around a membership that joins without motives of material advantage and personal gain?
"When the members of the national executive committee engage in factionalist activity, media leaks and rumour mongering, how can we expect the membership of our movement to carry out their duties to observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally the decision of the majority and the decision of higher bodies?"
He could have been talking about the ANC today. At the beginning of last month, delivering the Dorothy Nyembe memorial lecture in Durban, ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise said the ANC was "a mess".
"Comrades boldly boast that the abnormal situation and the divisions that characterised the [Polokwane] conference must now be accepted as a tradition of the ANC.
"Kingmakers and bookmakers can only survive when the national executive committee is divided. Politics of blackmail get stronger when factions are growing stronger than the organisational structures," she said.
Two weeks ago, we had ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe suggesting that the party was in an even bigger mess than many suspected.
He wrote in a report to the national executive committee: "More worrying is the efforts comrades put into dividing the organisation. Comrades invest a lot of time and energy in trying to divide the [top six] officials and then shout that even the officials are divided.
"Some comrades work for the chaos because chaos and anarchy are good forests for mischief ... When there are tensions in the regions and branches, it is confidently claimed that they are victimised because they support one group or the other.
"Provinces complain of national executive committee members who visit their provinces [at] night to promote divisive factional interests."
From the words of these ANC leaders, and from the many unsaid words of others, it is clear that the ANC is in trouble. In my view, the ANC will lose elections in 2024.