The African sunset in South Africa – By Owei Lakemfa

The loss of majority in parliament by the African National Congress, ANC in the May 29, 2024 South African elections, was a sunset for the continent. It means that the unrepentant Pan Africanist organisation with its  vow to the mass of the people and, unrepentant commitment to humanity as manifested in its  unprecedented war against genocide in Palestine, might be compromised under a coalition.

The uniqueness of the ANC in  South African and international politics is that it has  never really been a political party. Rather, it is an all-comers   movement of  people dedicated to freedom and social justice. It is built on  a tripod; coalition of people with different ideologies and religions, the South African Communist Party which espouses socialism, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU.  The current President Cyril Ramaphosa is from COSATU.

South Africa is an African promise. It rose out of the horizon after one of the bloodiest pages in human history  was written not just in the blood of the African people, but also in that of thousands of our Cuban brothers who laid down their lives on our soil.   Its struggles for freedom and land and, insistence that all human beings are   imbued with  the same  endowments  irrespective of colour or  creed, was itself, a  fight for humanity.

The war against Apartheid which pitched humanity against racists and super powers like the United States and United Kingdom, brought out the beast in some and the best in liberation fighters like Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Solomon Mahlangu and the Mandelas.

Even in their  hour of victory, the South African people under the ANC flag, were never  vengeful. What they  promised essentially  was: “a democratic society based on equality, non-racialism and non-sexism (and) a nation built by developing our different cultures, beliefs and languages as a source of our common strength.” Those gave  the ANC  victory at the polls.  What last week, reduced the ANC’s  percentage vote to 40.18 per-cent and its majority in parliament   to 159 of 400 seats,  is its inability to fulfil the other half of its 1994 promise. It was  to build: “an economy which grows through providing jobs, housing and education (and)  a peaceful and secure environment in which people can live without fear.”

The rainbow nation now has a narrow choice. A coalition in which the ANC will have to make quite difficult choices.

On the inevitable coalition, the ANC’s National Spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri  informed that: “The ANC has taken the position that we must all act in the interest of our country and its people, and work on a national consensus on the form of government that is best suited to move South Africa forward at this moment in our history.”

But the practical reality is that this could be a nightmare. The most straight forward, is a coalition with  the Democratic Alliance, DA which polled 21.8 per-cent of the votes with 87 seats in parliament.   This possible coalition will have 246 seats which automatically, will form government.   But this, literarily, will be going to dinner with the Devil.  Where the ANC is pro-people with welfare principles, the DA is more like a resurrection of the old ruling class. Where the former is a grassroots movement , the latter is mainly for the middle and upper classes drawing its strength from the old Apartheid ruling mass of Afrikaans. The DA’s origins are in the 1959 Progressive Party  which warned the then  ruling class   against  continuing  the Apartheid policy.

The next possible alliance is with the new  uMkhonto we Sizwe, MK, party led by former President Jacob Zuma.  It was formed just five months to the elections and has caused the greatest upset in the history of the country’s elections. It also drew its support from the normal ANC political base, and is a major reason why the ANC lost its parliamentary  majority.  The party with 14.58 per-cent  of the votes and 58 seats in parliament,  would give the ANC alliance a comfortable 217 seats in the National Assembly.  But  going into alliance with it could be like  the ANC eating the humble pie. The ANC was led by Zuma which  forced him to  resign as the country’s President in 2018. Zuma has been battered, bruised and imprisoned. In fact, the Constitutional Court  barred him from running for parliament  over a contempt of court  conviction, but he remained on the ballot. Now, he is a king maker and may be in a position to determine  the political future of Ramaphosa as President of the country.

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula  said the ANC would not compromise its principles just to hang on to power: “I think the ANC has many factors to consider in terms of how it forms a government – both the stability of the country at large but also for the sake of having a government that still holds to the values of the ANC that it has long said that it serves.”

If the party is to stick to this principle, then the MK is its best choice of a coalition partner. But then, Zuma might ask for his pound of flesh by  making the removal of his arch rival, Ramaphosa as a condition.

A third option, is like no option; an alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF led by  Julius Malema. He was the  former ANC  Youth leader who was expelled by the party.  If the MK is a radical party, the EFF is left of the MK.  The EFF wants the appropriation  of lands from the current owners  who  historically, stole them. It also wants the nationalization of the mines and banks to give economic power to the masses. It garnered 9.52 per-cent  of the votes and has 37 seats in parliament. A coalition with the ANC will give the alliance  196 seats which would need a broader coalition with a smaller party like  the Inkhatha Freedom Party  with 17. The problem is that this is essentially an ethnic party of  Zulus. The  other small party, the  Patriotic Alliance, PA  with 9 seats, is a far right, anti-immigration party. Far worse than going to bed with the DA.

The decline of the ANC is not unexpected. When it had the masses and most of the world solidly behind it, its leaders chose to have the political kingdom hoping that the economic kingdom would be added to it.  The reality is that to have majority rule  with minority  control of the economy , is a doomed plan. To have the Black Majority Vote without Black Economic Power, was bound to maintain South Africa’s economic Apartheid system.  By the way, Mother Africa, Winnie Mandela warned us against this, but we never listened.