It won't be politics as usual when ANC is done voting

Little charisma, no great speeches - but the race for the top job has attracted unprecedented interest

10 December 2017 - 00:00 By BEN TUROK

It's amazing how much public interest is being generated by the race to lead the ANC.
It's surprising, since neither of the leading contenders, Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, are particularly charismatic, nor have they made memorable speeches in their campaign.
True, Ramaphosa condemned corruption and state capture, but given what we have learnt about Eskom and from Jacques Pauw's disclosures, this is small change in the present political milieu.
Nothing that either candidate has said indicates a determination to press for serious measures to address our numerous problems.
Of course they have been limited by the fact that state power will remain in the hands of President Jacob Zuma and his cronies. The cabinet will remain the same. Indeed, the prospects of change are constrained by the continued power of Zuma and this will only change if and when he is removed from office and replaced.The election of either of the two contenders for leadership of the ANC will also be constrained by virtue of the manoeuvring for senior places by the other aspiring candidates, who represent differing constituencies and interests. This will lead to a top six elected ANC officials of considerable diversity and not a collective chosen by Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma.
So why is there so much interest in the leadership contest? Perhaps because it is the first indication that Zuma's rule is nearing its end. Perhaps because the structures of the ANC itself have taken it so seriously.
Never before have there been so many contentious conferences, or so many referrals to the courts - extraordinary developments since it was not so long ago that members of the ANC complained of undue interference by judges who were not elected. Paradoxically, the public is now much better informed about how the ANC really works.
It is notable that all the excitement is about personalities, not policy. If policy issues were being contested, the ANC would appreciate all the attention. Instead there is contestation for office in the crudest form and, in extreme cases, leading to murder.
It might seem that the ANC is a casualty of this contest, since it emerges deeply divided, not on policy but on personalities and their followers.TRADITIONS LOST PURCHASE
The traditions so carefully nurtured by OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela and others have lost their purchase and only lip service and rhetoric remain. When one encounters some of the new recruits who have been brought in merely to swell provincial numbers in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, their ignorance of ANC history and values is evident.
The outcome of the conference may disappoint and not promise a better future. Indeed, as some leaders are warning, the ANC's future as a ruling party may be in danger in 2019 not because other parties are more attractive, but because of abstention by large numbers of ANC supporters.
At the recent conference of ANC stalwarts and veterans, Njabulo Ndebele said the ANC was behaving like a family, inward looking and obsessed with its own affairs. The activities leading up to the national elective conference confirm this view.

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