The law of nature suggests that what goes up must eventually come down. I think Newton’s law of gravity said something to that effect. When the Romans engaged in expansionist military adventures, terrorising and conquering territories that existed outside of Rome, none of the Roman warlords imagined any succession of events that could lead to the ultimate collapse of the Roman Empire. The Romans were simply mighty and invincible. Even Leonidas, the King of Sparta in ancient Greece who led the ever-conquering army of 300 brave Spartans, could not foresee their slaughter at the Battle of Themopylane in 480 BC. The battle cry the night before the slaughter of the patriotic army of Spartans was, “no retreat, no surrender”. Death in the battlefield was glory for the Spartans who are said to have fought to the bitter end, those who lost their swords, resisting with their hands and teeth.
History is littered with accounts of spectacular falls of establishments of unsurpassed dominance, from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich; and therein lie lessons for the African National Congress (ANC). Closer to home is the demise of the Convention People’s Party (CCP) of Kwame Nkrumah, which liberated the people of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) from the shackles of the British Empire. The CCP’s rule was momentary; it lasted only nine years from 1957 to 1966. The CCP ascended to power by gaining an overwhelming majority at the elections. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Fearing opposition, Nkrumah declared Ghana a one-party state. For Nkrumah the overwhelming majority vote for the CCP was an attestation of the will of the people for an end of multi-party system for Ghana. He went on to say, “A people’s parliamentary democracy, with a one-party system, is better able to express and satisfy the common aspirations of a nation as a whole, than a multi-party parliamentary system, which is in fact only a ruse for perpetuating and covering up the inherent struggle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.” Historians claim that Nkrumah and the CCP managed to achieve in nine years what British colonialists managed in over 100 years. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In 1966, the CCP suffered an abrupt and unforeseen death when Nkrumah was overthrown and killed.
The current leadership of the ANC, spurred on by the spirit of triumphalism after the national conference in Polokwane, similarly saw the future in which they had secured the ANC’s permanence and continued dominance. The complacency and nauseating arrogance grew in leaps and bounds. We saw the ANC of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela being hijacked by hooligans, convicted criminals, corrupt men and all sorts of men who are proven champions of improprieties. The Great Purges that followed victory of the ANC cemented the beginning of its end. The ANC is now shaken, fear and paranoia has gripped its leadership who finds solace in continued denialism and public pretence that all is well.
The reactionary suspension of the former ANC chairperson Mosioua Lekota and his loyal sidekick Mluleki George from the ANC is suicidal. The National Working Committee of the ANC has granted the influential dissident permission to launch an unstoppable mutiny; to destabilise the dominance of the ANC and threaten its anticipated overwhelming victory in the 2009 election. The numbers of ANC branches ready to join Lekota’s anticipated party are growing; the multitudes of disgruntled ANC members are ready to reclaim their place in the political arena. It is not only the ANC that is now divided; the ANC Youth League and the SA Communist Party (SACP) are equally divided. It would be naïve of the leadership of Cosatu to assume that its membership would not be enticed by lure of promises associated with new political formations of such grand scales. It is only a matter of time until we see those who supported its former president, Willie Madisha, jumping the sinking Titanic in their droves.
The ANC’s golden era as political home of millions of the liberated masses is coming to an abrupt end. When the ANC took a fatal decision to humiliate former president Thabo Mbeki by asking him to step down as president of the Republic, it anticipated that decision to mark a beginning of a new era in South African politics — and it did!
Lekota — like all men who conquered nations, ruled empires and achieved their greatest success and permanent place in history — needs a noble cause to pursue; but remaining mindful that history has equally been most unforgiving of those whose adventures were of spectacular failure. The defence of democracy alone is not enough a cause to sustain the momentum of the anticipated political formation into the future, beyond 2014. All the rest of us imbued by the current euphoria still require policies that would bring a lasting difference to millions of our people. The promises of things intangible is inadequate to sustain the ardent hope of throngs of disgruntled members of the ANC and the rest of apathetic electorate.
It is time for the ANC to mandate Gwede Mantashe with the task of drafting the epitaph of the ANC. Like the army of 300 Spartans who marched to their tragic end at the Battle of Themopylane, the 86 membership of the national executive committee of the ANC chose the path of self-destruction. We welcome a new beginning!