Rise of the disenchanted
The problem with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, President Thabo Mbeki told an audience, was that they did not have an ANC.
That was back in 2004, at a cocktail party in Pretoria.
It was the best of times for the ANC and Mbeki. He had just been re-elected president in a poll that increased the ANC majority in the National Assembly.
His popularity, according to a public survey, was at an all-time high.
The ANC looked invincible, hence the boastful statement by the then deputy president Jacob Zuma that the former liberation movement would rule until the Second Coming.
On the continental front, African Union leaders looked up to Mbeki to help resolve complex and violent conflicts in troubled member states such as the DRC, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe.
It must have been the many conversations he had with leaders of the various factions in the DRC and Ivory Coast that led him to conclude that the political instability in those countries was because they did not have a political force that was powerful and credible enough to keep those states from falling apart.
The ANC was that force here and much of the 1994 "miracle" was a result of the party's ability to convince the majority of South Africans that a negotiated settlement with the apartheid government was the shortest route to political freedom.
Not that the ANC did not have its own problems in subsequent years. It had plenty, and much of the rot eating away at the party today is a result of the decay that set in on Mbeki's watch.
But few at that time could question the party's slogan "The ANC Lives, The ANC Leads".
It was totally in charge, especially in historically underprivileged communities. Even the service delivery protests - staged against ANC-run municipalities - were often led by ANC members.
But now things are changing rapidly.
The party no longer commands the moral authority it had in the 1990s and for most of the first 10 years of the 21st century.
As the tragic events at Lonmin's Marikana mine, in Rusterburg, North West, demonstrated, the ANC alliance's hegemony over its traditional constituencies of Africans and the poor is no longer a vision.
Many of the service delivery protests of the past year or so have happened without the knowledge of the party structures in the affected communities.
For many of these communities, the slogan "The ANC Leads, The ANC Lives" is no longer a reality.
In these communities, and in workplaces such as Marikana, the ANC and its allies are as good as dead.
It is not a national phenomenon as yet and the ANC is certainly going to win the next general elections. But these events reflect a governing political party in decline.
The slide is unlikely to be arrested any time soon because the party has become so consumed by its internal leadership squabbles and the scramble for state resources that it is struggling to see past its nose.
Take the bizarre conflict between the supporters of the mayor of the ANC-run Nelson Mandela metro, Zanoxolo Wayile, and those backing party regional chairman Nceba Faku.
The two ANC factions have been fighting a long-running battle that is now threatening to collapse local government in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas.
Yet both factions know they have a very narrow majority in the council, having managed to get just over 50% at the polls during the 2011 local government elections.
It will be no surprise if, fed-up with these leadership battles that have nothing to do with delivering a better life to local residents, voters remove the ANC from power in Port Elizabeth at the next polls.
It would not be for the first time - the party lost Cape Town in similar fashion a few years ago - and it certainly won't be the last.
The DA has positioned itself well to gain from the losses the ANC is certain to suffer because of its factional wars.
While all we have been hearing from the ANC over the past few years has been the loud bickering about Mangaung, Helen Zille and her team are on a campaign to win hearts and minds by dealing with issues that concern the majority of South Africans.
Some of the proposals the DA has put forward to address might be questionable, but at least the party has a Jobs Campaign.
It is a campaign that may well win it some votes among the millions of young traditional ANC voters who are without a job.
Many more will not back Zille, given history and their perception of the DA as a party of privilege.
Where will those voters go?
As a fractious ANC rapidly disappears from the poor, would they turn to populist individuals and groups for leadership? And if they do, will the centre hold?