By THEMBILE NDABENI
Denial is one feature with history in the ANC. Perhaps circumstances during the liberation struggle were not conducive for rational thinking because of inexperience and immaturity especially in their first test, the breakaway of the Africanists in 1958. Africanists raised concerns about some fundamental issues inside the ANC but were met with denial.
Denial haunted the ANC even in exile where the same issues re-emerged from the “new Africanists in exile”. It was addressed through labels: traitors, agents. Labelling was crowned with paranoia.
Denial: The ANC did not accept enormity of the Nkandla issue, from inside and outside. Inside, the current MKVA leadership saidg that President Jacob Zuma must pay some of the money for the upgrades at his Nkandla home. Outside, the public protector’s investigation and report represent the general feeling of many South Africans, but the ANC was still in denial.
The 3 August 2016 results had indications but were not addressed but denied. What happened? They were beaten for pace.
Labelling also goes to extremes sometimes, referring to people as agents, traitors, counter-revolutionaries, and right-wingers without substance. It is common within the ruling party circles since it serves as a defence mechanism, especially when they run dry of facts. Some of these labels are far-fetched. The ANC Secretary-General Mr Gwede Mantashe referred to a coalition against the ruling party as “counter-revolutionary” and “right-wing”. On NUMSA issue, NUM’s Mr Frans Baleni and ANC’s Jessie Duarte harped on the same string “and even compared the union with the terror group Boko Haram and the far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging”. A coalition challenging the ruling party is normal, as they too did in the past. The ANC and other forces formed a coalition, “Congress of Democrats” against the Nationalist Party government. Was that a “counter-revolutionary” and a “right-wing” coalition? Comparing the unarmed NUMSA to Boko Haram and AWB is disgusting! It’s worse when it is done by the person of a calibre of a secretary-general of NUM and the deputy-secretary of the ruling party? The worst part is when they did that to a chapter 9 institution official!
Labelling makes them to contradict themselves: In December 1912 Mantashe said they don’t want the churches mudsling with the ANC. And in December 2014 the very same Mantashe said the churches can criticise the ANC. Which one is it? If the churches go with the latter, won’t they also be branded as counter-revolutionaries, right-wingers?
It was shocking to hear the ANC’s Stone Sizani, saying, it is not a good feeling to be labelled with something that cannot be justified. But they do that to other people.
Paranoia manifests itself in different ways and levels. This is why they accuse NUMSA and other academics/intellectuals of plotting a coup against them, the ruling party! If that is so, what did National Intelligence Agency said? And why there was no government investigation reported? The ANC went to an extent of saying people should not believe what is written in the articles against them. Have they forgotten about “freedom of conscience” from the constitution through which the country they rule is run? Instead of looking at them, accept criticism and rectify their mistakes they demonstrate paranoia.
Many issues are raised especially about the ANC but are brushed aside. Breaking away of the Africanists in 1958 reoccurred in exile. Also after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 and other formations there was discontent inside the movement, but denial was the response as usual. The result was the formation of UDM, COPE, and EFF.
DLP is a disease resulting from intellectual deficiency (lack of proteins) and lack of triple Ds (vitamins): discussion, dialogue and debate. Lack of proteins and vitamins leads to sickness! When there was intellectual engagement, DLP did not have a space because diverse views were allowed. That took form of discussion, dialogue and debate. And not others’ forcing theirs through to others’ throats and label them when they don’t get through. It happened during the transitional phase, ANC and its allies expressing differing views in discussion, dialogue and debate with no labelling. Observers/analysts would make their conclusions and distinguish between “doves” and “hawks” with the realisation that the situation warranted both doves and hawks. That is no longer happening, but denial, labelling, and paranoia!
As much as power and influence, are not synonymous, they complement each other. Just like political power without economic power, power without influence is suicidal! The ANC’s influence over people in general is declining. Evident is the quantity and the nature of protests that are taking place around the country. What happens during parliament sessions, over and above is the August 2016 the municipal elections results?
The disease has been diagnosed, the causes have been identified and solutions suggested. Propaganda and rhetoric are outdated. The ANC needs to swallow its pride, admit it is sick and accept the cure. By the way there are thinkers from an ordinary person to intellectuals who can help! Intellectuals’ criticisms have been proven helpful. Also, “It takes a servant to see that the emperor is naked”. So is the ordinary person from the street’s opinion. What state is it as a result of denial and labelling people which result from paranoia instead listening and address the problem? Denial, Labelling and Paranoia don’t help but hurt people and halt the party. Listening, looking, make self-introspection, accept wrongdoing, learn from mistakes and build from them help.
Even criticism from the opposition can also help!
- Thembile Ndabeni is a freelance Writer, Researcher and Commentator. He holds Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.