ANC a hissing pressure cooker
There is no doubt that the ANC is in huge trouble and deep pain. This is no longer in question. The symptoms are there for all to see.
As it goes into its policy conference this week, the party's provincial structures are in tatters and its leaders are at war with each other. The North West ANC has experienced a coup d'etat. The Free State ANC is composed of leaders who openly defy their national leaders. The Limpopo ANC is virtually an independent structure, in open war with the party's national leaders.
The Western Cape provincial structure is in so much debt that the sheriff has attached its office furniture, it is ineffective as an opposition in the provincial legislature and it is divided. The same goes for the party in Eastern Cape.
The leadership in Northern Cape faces such serious corruption charges that it boggles the mind that it has been returned to power so emphatically.
This is not an organisation whose mission is to liberate ordinary South Africans from poverty. It is a party that has been hijacked by people whose aim is to loot the state as quickly as possible before the taps are shut.
This applies not just to the provinces. At national level, corruption flourishes, the party's leaders are at each other's throats and the national executive committee leaks like a sieve.
Tragically, the divisions are not between different ideological strands. They are between three ideologically similar strands: a corrupt faction that is in power and wants to perpetuate its hold on it; another corrupt faction that wants to be at the feeding trough; and a third, weaker, strand that believes it can return the party to its former glory.
Ideological contestation is dead in the ANC. There is no real effort to push the ANC left or right. Such questions arise only in relation to who is pushing what policy line. It has nothing to do with what the party can do for its constituency.
It has not always been like this. Whatever one may say about the ANC today, it needs to be said to its credit that the new South Africa owes it a debt of gratitude. No party could have held South Africa together as the ANC has done for the past 18 years.
It gave hope to the poorest of the poor that their lot will be bettered. It gave hope to the landowners and the wealthy that their property rights would be protected. It kept a balance.
The National Party, the PAC, Azapo, the Democratic Party of the 1990s - none of them could have come even close to pulling off this feat. It was a balancing act that required leadership, sacrifice, patience and, above all, vision. The ANC had this and it pulled out every stop to make sure that we were set on the road to stability.
It was a different ANC then. Even though many of its leaders were living in abject poverty, like the majority of the people, making as much money as quickly as possible, with no regard for the needs of the populace, was not the leaders' priority then.
But not now. Not anymore.
This has massive implications for the future of the ANC and for our future as a country. The key question of the week ahead is how long the ANC can keep itself together without its internal ructions totally destroying the party.
Don't be fooled into thinking that, just because the ANC is divided, and ruled by fear and loathing, that it will implode quickly. Empires, and corrupt empires in particular, are kept together by common interests. In this case, the largesse that comes with the continued hegemony of the ANC is such that it has, as we saw in 2007, before Thabo Mbeki was kicked out, made enemies of friends and friends of enemies.
What is keeping many within the ANC now is that they cannot contemplate a future outside the party. This is a lesson learnt extremely harshly by those who went with the Congress of the People in 2009. This is a lesson being learnt by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. It's freezing out there.
So the pressure cooker remains inside the party for now. But no organisation can withstand such intense pressure for decades. As communities begin to protest about service delivery, as ANC leaders continue to look away and line their pockets, the pressure will rise. Something will have to give.
So the question for this conference, as the ANC puts useless plasters over its deep wounds this week, is whether it is capable of sorting itself out and charting a new way. If not, then how long can the ANC hold itself together? And if it cannot, what is going to happen when it eventually loses power?