July 13, 2024

Why Will ACT Hurt The ANC At Polls

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The reality is that the RET forces did not constitute proto-defectors at that time for no less than three reasons.

FILE PHOTO: Ace Magashule has launched his new party the African Congress for Transformation. PICTURE: Timothy Bernard

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The RET forces knew that their prospect of regaining access to state power lies within the ANC rather than a breakaway party, writes MOLIFI TSHABALALA

In an opinion piece entitled ‘The ANC’s RET Grouping is a precursor to a new party,’ published by Eyewitness News (EWN) on 7 April 2021, ANC Northern Cape chairperson Zamani Saul, who is also a Northern Cape, characterized Elias ‘Ace’ Magashule, a former ANC secretary-general, and his fellow dissenters, commonly referred to as the radical economic transformation (RET) forces, as the proto-defectors. The characterization stems from a basic view that a faction is a proto-party.

The reality is that the RET forces did not constitute proto-defectors at that time for no less than three reasons. First, the RET faction, otherwise known as the Jacob Zuma faction, had emerged with an ideological victory at the 54th ANC National Conference, where the party reaffirmed its commitment to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and resolved to use expropriation without compensation among the mechanisms to address a century-long land issue.

Therefore, it derived a certain degree of political legitimacy from the ideological victory, which pitted a dominant faction, more specifically, its leader and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, against neo-liberal market forces, thereby somewhat weakening him.

Second, a leadership faction exists relative to its leader’s political life and intra-party engagement. For example, a Thabo Mbeki faction had ceased to exist within a five-year period post the 52nd ANC National Conference, held in December 2007, largely owing to its patron-in-chief’s withdrawal from intra-party engagements, including electoral campaign.

In contrast, Zuma has not entirely withdrawn from intra-party engagements, despite his incessant legal troubles. Hence, the RET forces are still referred to as the Zuma faction.

Third, after a deeply factionalised party, such as the ANC, has concluded an elective conference, a minority faction has to ponder on whether to remain within the host party and fight for its dominance, defect from the host party and form a breakaway party and/or defect from the host party and join another party.

The Zuma faction had opted for the first judging by Magashule’s statement at an ANC anniversary in January 2018 in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. He implored celebrants, chief among whom Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom Ramaphosa had defeated by 179 votes for the ANC presidency, to “stay focused” because “it is just a matter of five years” to regain party dominance, which provides asymmetrical access to benefits of patronage, such as office pay-offs and political protection.

If the RET forces were indeed proto-defectors, then they would have defected from the ANC and formed a breakaway party within an eighteen-month period, that is between the 54th National Conference’s conclusion and the sixth general elections, held in May 2019.

Relative to the third reason, the RET forces knew that their prospect of regaining access to state power lies within the ANC than a breakaway party. Incidentally, none of the ANC’s breakaway parties – the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the Congress of the People (COPE) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – since 1994 has ever come close to dislodging it.

Concluding the foregoing opinion piece, Saul touched on “a need to strengthen the capacity of the disciplinary committee by first and foremost releasing the disciplinary committee from being captive to factions.” To that effect, new members were appointed to serve on the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) and the National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal (NDCA).

The first prominent victim of the strengthened NDC is Carl Niehaus, a former ANC national spokesperson, followed by Magashule, who is set to stand trial for, among other counts charges, corruption and fraud that stem from his tenure as a Free State premier. Both have since gone on to form their own parties, the African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance (ARETA) and the African Congress for Transformation (ACT), respectively.

Following his expulsion from the ANC, it had been rumoured that the latter would either join the former’s party or the EFF. In fact, Ramaphosa had sent Fikile Mbalula, an ANC secretary-general, to convince Magashule not to take a decision that would impinge on the ANC at the polls, be it to form his own party or joined the EFF. However, the SG decided not to engage him based on his (Magashule’s) public utterances.

While it is still unknown as to whether ACT constitutes a major or minor party defection, it would most definitely impinge on the ANC at the polls. The reality of the ANC going below 50 per cent is now for real.

***Tshabalala is an author and independent political analyst

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Republic Mail and its associates.

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