THE general election next year is more likely to place the African National Congress (ANC) at a crossroads than the entire country, according to political economist Moeletsi Mbeki.
He was speaking at a panel discussion organised by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
The 2014 ballot is expected to feature a number of new political parties, including Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA, SA First, a party of former members of the African National Congress military wing uMkhonto weSizwe, and possibly Julius Malema’s protest movement, the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Joining DA leader Helen Zille in one of the DA’s Young Professionals Network debates, Mbeki said it would be natural for the ANC to be at a crossroads ahead of the 2014 national elections, as splinter party formations and fights with alliance partners had put the ANC through its paces in recent weeks.
“My proposal … is that South Africa is not at a crossroad. It is the ANC that is at a crossroads. The ANC is at a crossroads because these past few weeks have seen a series of new parties. The ANC is peeling off because it has been in power for 20 years,” he said.
“And what does it have to show for its 20 years in power?” Mbeki asked.
In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe took aim at “vested personal interests” preventing the ANC from being more united and effective, saying the problems of the party are likely to worsen in the short-term.
“If it does not pay attention to the importance of being relevant to the people of South Africa, it will run the risk of losing power,” he said.
Mbeki said after 20 years in power the ANC failed to make a dent in poverty, but instead opted to “cover it with a plaster” called social welfare.
Zille said it was problematic to predict a political crossroad because the most significant political crossroads in the modern world, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, were unexpected.
“According to some analysts, South Africa is permanently at a crossroads. The problem with political crossroads is that they come when you least expect them. None of the great analysts have ever foreseen catalytic moments,” Zille said.
Zille said events such as Marikana, the labour unrest that led to the deaths of more than 40 people in August 2012, had political ramifications and the country needed to become a consolidated democracy.
“When the ANC is at a crossroads, South Africa is too. The dividing line runs straight through the middle of the ANC. It’s not between the ANC and any other party. Look at the NDP (National Development Plan). We think it’s a good plan that corresponds with our policy,” she said.