WHEN the leader of an empire cannot safely enter the domain of one of its most important “colonies,” it is a clear sign it is falling apart.
And, that is exactly what happened to the African National Congress (ANC) this week. Two prominent members of labour federation Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) – the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) – declared their opposition to President Jacob Zuma addressing the federation on the symbolically most important day on organised labour’s annual calendar, May Day or Worker’s Day.
Cosatu’s association with the ANC goes back at east forty years to the 1980s, when organised labour actively joined the liberation struggle as, in the context of the end of the Cold War and the global social turmoil associated with it, the apartheid government battled to manage build-up of a potentially full-scale revolution.
In that environment, Cosatu played an important role in securing a negotiated settlement, leading to the first democratic elections in 1994 and the 1996 constitution that followed.
Post the negotiations, it remained a formal partner of the ANC, with the South African Communist Party(SACP) and became part of the so-called tripartite, ANC-led, election campaigns and government.
Especially after the end of the government of national unity under the transitional arrangements, and then the first election under the ratified constitution in 1999, the ANC aggressively started expanding it political empire with cadre-deployment – capturing all institutions of not only state power – with the judiciary the one exception – but also of state administration and of state enterprises.
Emperor dancing to own tune
With the marked assistance of both the ANC and the SACP, Mr Zuma became the emperor of this vast South African political empire.
Ever since the Nkandla scandal that boke in 2011 and the Public Protector’s report on it, and especially since her report on so-called state capture, it has become clear that the “emperor” was dancing to his own tune.
Tensions over the noise his controversial dance caused on the South African public esplanade, have been building ever since. But, it reached a final breaking point when there was a major cabinet reshuffle without consultation with alliance partners or even the ANC’s own top leadership.
The fact that it forced the country into a credit junk-status is now almost old news with the quick succession of events in the building revolt, not only against the emperor himself, although he is the main focus, but also against and within the ANC.
Besides the egg-dance Cosatu was forced into over the call by Nehawu and CWU, there were also other telling developments, including:
- The Young Communist League of SA (YCLSA) formally called on the party to consider contesting the 2019 election independently, something that was thus far only a possibility hinted at;
- The Western Cape members of the SA Democratic Teacher’s Association strongly criticised the way the ANC is handling the controversies around President Jacob;
- ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, denied that he, deputy president Ciryl Ramaphosa and other NEC members apologised for criticising the cabinet reshuffle, effectively implying that Mr Zuma lied in papers filed with the Constitutional Court;
- The own youth league (ANCYL), one Mr Zuma’s strongest allies inside the party, in turn found it necessary to attack the deputy president in public for his criticism of Mr Zuma; and
- To add insult to injury NEHAWU in its request that Mr Zuma should be disinvited to address Cosatu’s May Day rally, suggested that Mr Ramaphosa, whom has already been endorsed by Cosatu as its preferred candidate to succeed Mr Zuma, should be invited instead.
A dangerous place
How a dangerous place the “empire” has become in this environment is illustrated by reports this week on a statement by the Hawks that a 23-year-old man was arrested in Midrand for allegedly plotting to assassinate officials perceived as state capture beneficiaries.
The Hawks claim he is a founding member of the Anti-State Capture Death Squad Alliance (ASCDSA), which is on a fund-raising drive for R140 million for alleged clandestine operations.
This comes in the wake of a revelation by Mr Ramaphosa that his name appears with that of another succession-candidate, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, on a death list.
But, while true to form in the world of smoke and mirrors that the South African political environment has become, it is not easy to separate truth from fiction – as illustrated this week by Mr Zuma’s refusal to furnish documents, including the so-called intelligence report, which triggered his radical cabinet reshuffle.
Other developments, however like the racially loaded violent protest that erupted at Coligny in North West province, leave no doubt that is a large danger that the country could descend into wide spread a uncontrollable conflict.
by Piet Coetzer, The Intelligence Bulletin
Image: “The Course of Empire – Destruction” by Thomas Cole