The oldest liberation movement on the continent, the African National Congress, is facing a crisis of great magnitude. Not only are there power struggles within the organisation but a sense of resignation towards the organisation in broader society. The masses have evolved from a state of defeatism — induced by the post-1994 euphoria — to frustration with the ANC-led government. For over a decade our people have had the retina removed from their eyes.
We’ve settled comfortably into a zone where we’ve been conditioned to believe the myth that was the “rainbow nation”. A myth designed by the ANC under the leadership of Nelson Mandela to foster relations between oppressed black people and their oppressor of many decades. But with the euphoria having died down and objective reality perpetually rearing its ugly head, our people have begun to understand the nature of this myth. To understand the South Africa that was sold to us in 1994 exists only in the minds of the architects of its propaganda.
South Africa today is different to that painted when the country was sitting on the threshold of constitutional democracy. That South Africa was supposed to have been one where the people would govern in every sense of the word. The people would be the architects of the direction the country was to take, politically, economically and socially. That South Africa was supposed to have been one where children of the poor would have access to tertiary education. That South Africa was supposed to have been one of genuine social cohesion, where the previously conflicting races would converge to design solutions for the future.
Instead we have a South Africa governed by the elite on behalf of the majority. A South Africa where even the delegates responsible for electing the leaders of the ruling party are treated as mere voting fodder, which exists to serve the agenda of the ruling elite. We have a South Africa where poverty and suffering have a black face, while privilege and opulence continue to assume a white face. The volatility of race relations has undermined the idea of social cohesion as envisaged in the “rainbow nation” project. South Africa is a country of vast economic inequalities, with the black majority on the receiving end of this injustice.
Because not everyone understands the distinction between the party and the government, as well as the government and the state, the dissatisfaction of the masses with the status quo is projected and understood as failures solely of the ANC. And so when the masses revolt, they revolt not against the system that creates their suffering and abject poverty. They revolt against an ANC that is seen as the system itself. This revolt against the ANC, understandable as it may be, is greatly misplaced.
Many of our people are of the view that what happened in 1994 was a revolution, a complete overhaul of the apartheid regime and all its institutions and socialisation. But what actually transpired was a political breakthrough, an annihilation of a minority dictatorship at the level of governance. This breakthrough did not in any way tear at the heart of the system of capitalism that finds expression through white supremacist ideology. The former president of the ANC Youth League, comrade Julius Malema, made a poignant assertion when he said: “What happened in 1994 was that we removed those signs that read BLACKS NOT ALLOWED and WHITES ONLY … ”
This is in fact what happened. The institutionalisation of apartheid was reformed, while apartheid as a system was left untouched. Therefore the ANC inherited a South Africa that was and continues to be defined within apartheid ideology. It is the ruling party in a government that is located in a white supremacist and bourgeois state. The ANC is not in power, it is office. In this democratic dispensation, the power remains in the hands of the same people in whose hands it was during the apartheid dispensation. For this reason the ANC does not have the power to annihilate the economic inequalities that plague the country. It does not control the means with which these inequalities can be completely addressed.
The problem in South Africa is not corruption as is projected. The problem is that there exists a structural inequality that subjects the black majority to having to fight for a piece of the cake while the bigger proportion of it is safely kept in the hands of a minority. So the argument the media likes to project is that if there was no corruption in the ANC-led government there would be equality. A convenient argument that seeks to defocus us from the real issue and the real cause of the status quo.
We must expose this fact because the liberal offensive that wants to project the ANC as the foundation of all ills in society is deceiving our people and demobilising them from investing energies in the fundamental struggle: economic freedom, freedom from the clutches of monopoly capital that has a white face. The ANC is merely a manager of the system, not the system itself. And what must be dismantled is the system. If we employ our energies solely in the dismantling of the ANC, we run the inevitable risk of being led by yet another manager of that same system, which is designed to keep the masses of our people poor.