ANC's promise to self-correct is a hollow one, beyond its ability
If the ANC was serious about using its national conference for self-correction, it would use the coming four days to do exactly that. Failure by its more than 6,000 delegates, who have been meeting in Johannesburg since yesterday, to do some introspection, to openly and frankly engage with each other and have a robust discussion about the serious challenges facing it, could be disastrous for the 105-year-old party.
Instead of unifying and helping chart a new path for the ANC, this conference could spell the beginning of the end for Africa's oldest liberation movement. It is obvious that the conference means different things to different people and is defined by competing interests.
It is in danger of degenerating into a shallow popularity contest between two leaders who clearly have only their own agendas top of mind. But one thing is very clear to all the delegates. This gathering is a matter of life and death for the ANC.
Following myriad bruising battles including the electoral loss during last year's local government elections and court judgments that went against President Jacob Zuma, the party promised to use this conference to self-correct.Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe repeated this in a radio interview earlier this month: "Self-correction is a function of what the ANC does and, as I said, the December conference is a very important milestone for self-correcting. If the ANC fails to self-correct at that conference, it is likely to decline further."
Very few people believed his assurances. We did not and still don't. This is because the ANC just does not have the capacity to right all the wrongs of Zuma's disastrous 10 years at the helm of the party and eights years as president of the country.
If the party was capable of self-correcting, it would have done so long ago.
The past decade has provided the most difficult years for the ANC since its unbanning in the early 1990s. The dream left behind by Nelson Mandela of a united and prosperous South Africa lies in tatters.
Zuma has betrayed Mandela's promise to liberate all our people from the stubborn bondages of poverty and all forms of discrimination and build a country in which South Africans, black and white, can live without any fear in their hearts. Today the country is divided along racial lines.Zuma respects and listens to no one - not even his own party leadership, cabinet or advisers. A case in point is his decision to go ahead and announce the provision of free higher education despite a warning from his finance minister not to do so. He is yet to institute a commission of inquiry into state capture despite a resolution by his own national executive committee.
Zuma has the utmost contempt of the courts. Cheered on by his trusted lieutenants, he has steadily eroded the rule of law with his actions, behaviour and opinions, which have no basis in the constitution.
In his administration he reserves key strategic positions for those who will do his bidding. Think of the public protector, the national director of public prosecutions and many others. In his circle of advisers there is no place for independent thinkers or those who have a conscience.