S Africa’s Ramaphosa warns against destabilisation as ANC marks 110 years
POLOKWANE: South Africa’s ruling ANC, a storied liberation movement, marked its 110th anniversary Saturday in low-key fashion as the country reels from parliament’s destruction, last year’s deadly riots and emerging details of official corruption.
In the stands of a stadium in Polokwane, in northeastern Limpopo province, a few hundred party members sporting the African National Congress’ signature yellow, green and black dotted the terraces.
It was a far cry from the noisy and large crowds of supporters that are traditionally bused in for the annual festivities, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions that limit outdoor gatherings to just 2,000 people.
Also weighing heavily on the party atmosphere are acts described by President Cyril Ramaphosa described as having “the effects of subverting our constitutional democracy”.
“These acts include blatant acts of state (corruption) and criminality... the concerted campaign of public violence and destruction that took place in July last year, as well as ongoing theft, destruction and obstruction of infrastructure,” Ramaphosa told party loyalists.
“This anniversary takes place just a few days after a devastating fire swept through our parliament in Cape Town.
“The entire country has been shocked, outraged and saddened by the destruction because the institution of parliament is a repository of our democracy — and symbol of democratic stability of our people,” Ramaphosa said.
He added his government was “in the process of reforming our law enforcement agencies, our security sector, so that it’s better positioned to defend the gains of our democracy”.
The party of Nelson Mandela, which led the liberation of South Africa from the shackles of white-minority apartheid rule, has been weakened by historically poor electoral showings and factionalism. A more than 800-page report containing nearly four years of testimonies collected by a judicial panel on graft was handed to Ramaphosa on Tuesday.
The ANC is accused in the report of turning a blind eye to graft in state-owned companies which play a significant role in the South African economy.
Ramaphosa declared in his speech Saturday that “those who are guilty of corruption, ill-discipline, factionalism and undermining our democracy find no home” in the ANC, adding the party had been guilty of ignoring “acts of indiscipline”.
In last November’s local elections, a majority of registered voters did not bother to cast votes, and the ANC’s support at the ballot box fell below 50 percent for the first time in its history.
Now party officials are haunted by the possibility of an outright defeat in the 2024 general election.
“The ANC is bleeding. Either we renew the party or we perish,” said party supporter Themba Ubisi, 40, after the celebrations.
Another supporter, Khathu Mathoho, 45, was more optimistic.
“The party is self correcting. There’s a will to do things differently, but (some) elements are resisting change,” they said.
Ramaphosa vowed the party would be renewed.
“Let us cleanse the ANC,” he said. The party’s finances are also in shambles, with one political source confirming the ANC is indeed “broke” and that in addition to unpaid taxes, the party has a deficit of at least 400 million rand ($26 million, 22.6 million euros). On the eve of the ANC’s celebrations, the party held a traditional fundraising dinner attended by businesspeople and senior party supporters. But Ramaphosa’s dinner speech to the gathering was interrupted by an unexplained power outage. Ramaphosa tried to downplay the blackout, which local media is speculating was a security risk and which Police Minister Bheki Cele said is under investigation.