THE launch of the ANC’s election manifesto in Nelson Mandela Bay this weekend catapults the party into full campaign mode for the August 3 local government elections.
This campaign could not have come at a worse time for the ANC.
The party has suffered severe reputational damage due to the scandals surrounding President Jacob Zuma, particularly the ruling by the Constitutional Court that he violated the Constitution and allegations about the improper influence the Gupta family has on him.
The ANC is trying to shake off widespread calls for the president to be recalled from office or to resign, arguing that Zuma’s “apology” for the “frustration and confusion” over Nkandla is sufficient to put the matter to rest.
Internally, the ANC is battling to suppress dissent, with some branches and the Gauteng provincial executive committee (PEC) refusing to toe the line.
This week’s statement by the Gauteng PEC that Zuma should “reflect deeply and do the right thing to resolve the unprecedented crisis that the ANC currently faces” prompted a clampdown from ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. He said the provinces have “no authority” to speak on the Constitutional Court judgment.
But the Gauteng ANC has undertaken to consult its branch and regional structures on the way forward, and has not discounted the possibility of campaigning for the president’s resignation or recall once that process is complete.
The ANC is battling to keep members focused on its election campaign as Zuma and his controversies continue to loom large. Although it has issued a decree against debating the future of the president, public outrage and discussions within its structures continue.
From the statements issued by former ANC leaders, stalwarts and children born in exile, there is clearly a worry about how the ANC’s protection and defence of the president is impacting on the party.
They believe a surgical removal of the embodiment of the rot is the only way to rescue the party.
But the pledges of support from some party structures show that Zuma is not an anomaly in the organisation.
According to some of Zuma’s ardent supporters, the decision by respected veterans of the liberation struggle, civil-society groups and religious organisations to speak out in defence of the Constitution was part of a plot for regime change and to assassinate Zuma.
“I want you comrades to know that we have uncovered such a plot … we must start to build the capabilities of the SANDF [South African National Defence Force] to the capacity and capabilities of a world superpower. We must have one million well-trained young soldiers,” the KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo was quoted as saying.
The ANC Women’s League secretary general Meokgo Matuba said: “Staff riders and wedge drivers have intensified their war to divide the ANC and enforce regime change.”
Matuba also had some words of advice for religious leaders: “We want to remind them that unless there was a conference to amend the Bible, in our understanding, in the Christian faith, forgiveness is not optional but should be offered as an unwarranted favour as guided by the scriptures. Even the well-known Lord’s Prayer talks of: ‘.... and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.”
Such laughable statements will hardly assist the ANC’s mission to shut down the public debate about Zuma. The only thing these achieve is to reflect the calibre of support behind him.
There are undoubtedly many people within ANC structures around the country who work hard to uphold the party’s image and public representatives who take their responsibilities seriously.
The ANC’s manifesto probably contains genuine goals to improve service delivery and the efficient functioning of municipalities. But these are hamstrung by the Zuma albatross and the mob trying to defend him.
By the time the ANC wakes up to the fact that it should have listened to the voices of reason, it will be too late.
• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick. firstname.lastname@example.org