It’s a powerful political instinct. Don’t break ranks. To do so will destroy not only the party but also your own sinecure.
Unfortunately, the glue of self-preservation that holds a political party together can leave the nation exploited and eventually destroyed. That is South Africa today.
The avowed aim of President Jacob Zuma’s internal critics – to excise from the ANC a malignant growth, without damaging itself – is doomed.
State capture is no longer a prospect. It is a reality. The Zuma-Gupta axis runs directly from an unassailable president to a now daunting array of ramparts in the economy.
The situation may be irreversible. Certainly, the enormous powers of Zupta patronage and intimidation make it impossible for the ANC to perform corrective self-surgery.
That can only happen from without. Hence the necessity for the ANC’s self-labelled “stalwarts” to face up to the fact that the Zupta faction has won.
The only option now for those who care more about the nation than they do about the mythology of liberation, is to leave the ANC.
To regroup as a new political organisation and then redeploy. But while centrifugal forces within the ANC have increased markedly, any hiving-off won’t happen until after the ANC’s leadership conference in December.
The reformers have one last-gasp hope, that they can ensconce Deputy-President Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the party. One has a sense that it is all too little, too late.
While Ramaphosa has been campaigning hard, he has an immense amount of ground to make up. Zuma has spent eight years ensuring control of the ANC party apparatus, sidelining from power with ruthless efficiency every internal critic.
He has also worked assiduously to control the majority of branches, from which come the delegates to the December conference. To challenge the nexus of power, unity of purpose and action are of the essence.
Or as Benjamin Franklin phrased it in 1776 to his fellow revolutionaries, upon the treasonous signing of America’s Declaration of Independence: “We must, indeed, hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Unfortunately, the ANC veterans and stalwarts never had the guts to act in concert against the Zuma sewerage pit. Instead, they stepped forward one at a time, to succumb, in turn, to the Zuma guillotine.
The cost of that lack of courage is that the state capture forces are well organised to perpetuate Zupta control on the levers of power beyond Zuma’s nominal exit.
Frank Chikane, a struggle veteran and close to former president Thabo Mbeki, this week said he believed that funds laundered during the state capture project will be used as part of a “war chest” to make sure that the “corrupt” retain control at the leadership conference. It does not end there.
A logical consequence of Zupta success in December is that the “billions” that have been siphoned will then be used to “steal the 2019 elections”.
It is a pity that the ANC dissidents hadn’t taken their script from Manuel Quezon, rather than Ben Franklin. Quezon, a Philippine radical and statesman, proclaimed: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”
Despite these admirable sentiments, Quezon died in powerless exile, after his homeland was caught in the events swirling around the Second World War.
By dithering for so long to break ranks, the ANC stalwarts similarly face being cast into irrelevance, as events escalate.