HomeOpinion & AnalysisLiberation war propaganda has lost its aura

Liberation war propaganda has lost its aura

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By Tapiwa Gomo

SOUTH Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) seems headed towards the same route as other African liberation movements which delivered their countries from colonial rule but failed to deliver on the independence promise.

Only time will tell if ANC will react to its loss in popularity the same as its counterparts by abusing power to stay in power longer than needed. Assuming they choose that route, dynamics in South Africa are different from other countries.

In recent local government elections, the governing ANC only achieved 46% of the vote and this is their worst performance since independence in 1994.

The ANC has admitted that voters are punishing them for corruption scandals and poor basic services mainly in urban areas where they suffered major losses. “It is an unambiguous signal to the ANC from the electorate … people are disappointed in the ANC,” noted Jessie Duarte, the party’s deputy secretary-general.

That comment seems to gloss over the real issues. While corruption is one of the major concerns, a slow economic growth against a growing population has kept an increasing number of people, mainly black people, on the periphery and in abject poverty.

Deepening poverty runs across all races but at varying degrees. Black people have seen themselves being left out, if not drifting further away from the national economy except for the meagre social grants and few freebies.

The outcome of this simmering scenario manifested in the form of the riots in July this year which used the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma as an excuse. The outcome of the local government elections and the July riots must send a signal to the ANC that, unless it does something to resolve the economic anomalies and the racial disparities, its days in power are numbered.

And if they choose to adopt what other liberation movements in Africa adopted — to stay in power by force — they will unnecessarily set their house on fire. There are several factors why this will not work.

South Africa is one of the youngest countries on the continent and by the time it attained independence, the colonial system had drawn lessons from other African countries. The colonial system cushioned itself from predictable threats. It did a good job.

One of the lessons was to separate political power from economic control along racial lines. Black people via the ANC in South Africa have political power and yet economic power and the Judiciary remained in the hands of the descendants of the former colonial system.

Technically, the ANC cannot adopt radical policies without running into problems with the economy and the Judiciary. They are trapped. It is for the same reasons ANC cannot attempt a Zanu PF-type of land reform because its inability to control the economy and the courts keeps it on the leash. It is a leash it cannot unshackle without strangling themselves.

On the other hand, the pre-independence narrative that has kept liberation movements propaganda alive has run its course mainly in the face of deepening poverty and destitution.

Telling people that ANC fought for the country to liberate black people while they still suffer and go hungry everyday is no longer an attractive political bait as in other countries. The only answer to address hunger is food, so is hope to desperation.

It is in a difficult situation from which there is no escape without brutalising itself or someone because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), often described as a party for economically privileged white minority, is gaining ground and came second on 22% of the vote, while Economic Freedom Fighters got 10%.

The reasons are very simple and straightforward. The DA is restoring normalcy in urban areas where the ANC had neglected.

Its no nonsense policy on corruption is paying dividends because less corruption means more resources for municipalities to do more and restore services.  It is a straightforward transaction between its municipalities and the voters.  Voters know why they are giving their votes.

What are the options for ANC, if any? The first easy option is to accept defeat and pave way for a younger generation to take over. But if it wants to stay, first it needs to address its internal squabbles which are threatening to tear it party ajar. The Zuma arrest, too, has implications on the voters.

The ANC in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) admitted that Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has covered huge grounds because of internal ANC squabbles and how they feel Zuma was treated by his party.

Second, it needs to win the hearts and minds and regain the confidence of the people by being more decisive on corruption and improve on service delivery.

Third, it needs to generate a new economy built for, by and from the people into the mainstream economy. Waiting for a racially imbalanced mainstream economy to deliver jobs and economic opportunities on ANC’s behalf is unlikely to happen.

There are several countries that have done so such as China, Mauritius and others that have grown a new people-driven economy without killing the purported goose that lays the golden egg.  Black South Africans need to create their own economy and not just as tenders. The production sector possesses plenty of opportunities.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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