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Either the ANC will reform itself and retain power, or it will implode and possibly have to share power, or it will be voted out and lose power.
The first option is the least likely. It was always somewhat far-fetched to believe that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government could root out cadre corruption, repair hollowed-out state institutions and move rapidly to install a pro-growth economic framework. The pushback from within a party that increasingly resembles a criminal mafia is just too strong.
If the ANC is incapable of reform, the question is whether the tensions between the reformists and the radical economic transformation (RET) gang will result in the party simply fracturing? Probably not.
Whatever Ramaphosa’s failures as the president of the republic, he has functioned well as president of the ANC. He has repeatedly stated that his primary goal is to keep the party intact and he has done exactly that.
Neither faction, despite the mutual loathing, can afford a party split with all the unsettling variables that it introduces. To retain power would mean an alliance with either the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) or the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Aside from the fact that the ANC would struggle to meld its liberation history with a predominantly minority, liberal tradition, there is the issue of corruption.
The DA has consistently proved itself to be an honest governance party, which to many in the ANC entirely defeats the main reason for winning political power.
The EFF, which is essentially the ANC in red overalls, would be a much better fit.
It has the revolutionary rhetoric down pat, drawing its inspiration from Marx, Castro and Gucci. And its socialist stamp of approval is available for sale or hire by any multinational conglomerate or foreign power with the requisite funds.
The problem is whether the EFF has enough support to give such an alliance with part of a split ANC an electoral majority. It may well.
An Ipsos poll this month, testing voter intentions in the November local government elections, would have been heartening for the EFF and its RET constituency in the ANC.
Measured against the 2019 national election, ANC support has dropped from 58% to 49% and the DA has dropped from 21% to 18%. The EFF has increased from just under 11% to almost 15%.
This is a continuation of a trend that emerged clearly for the first time in the 2019 KwaZulu-Natal provincial election.
The ANC vote dropped 10 points to 54%. The DA grew by 1% to 14%, while the EFF grew from 2% to 10%. Perhaps, after 27 years, we are at last moving slowly towards some kind of denouement.
The ANC can’t and won’t reform. If it did split, its preferred alliance would most likely be the EFF, skewing the balance of power in such a government towards a radical, black nationalism, with disastrous implications for South Africa.
So, that leaves us with the last option: starting to turf the ANC out. To do so, the more centrist political parties – the DA, Freedom Front Plus, Inkatha, Cope, ActionSA, OneSA and Good – will have to perform markedly better in November’s municipal elections.
Against a weakened, financially and morally bankrupt ANC that is in such disarray that it couldn’t even submit its candidate lists timeously, this is the best chance they will have had in 27 years.
Whether they are able to win the trust of the electorate is another matter
LOCAL ELECTIONS 2021