The African National Congress under Jacob Zuma is destroying Nelson Mandela’s legacyby Justice Malala / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
A painting by a Johannesburg artist shows a 12-year-old boy who died of Aids performing an autopsy on Nelson Mandela as politicians look on
It is a sweltering 38 degrees Celsius in the packed stadium. Jacob Zuma, president of the African National Congress (ANC)—a poor, uninspiring reader at best—is an hour into a long speech and the wheels are coming off his carefully choreographed party.
It is 8th January 2012, and the ANC is celebrating its birthday in Mangaung, the conservative town where Africa’s oldest and most admired liberation movement was founded by black professionals a hundred years ago. More than 100,000 supporters have turned up.
As Zuma struggles through his text the crowd starts leaving. About 5,000 diehard supporters are left in the stadium when he finishes an hour and a half later. Zuma’s deputy, and most likely his challenger for the presidency when the party holds its elective conference in December, Kgalema Motlanthe, proposes a toast.
“The leaders will now enjoy the champagne, and of course they do so on your behalf through their lips,” he says, raising his glass to the near-empty stadium.
Motlanthe’s Orwellian pronouncement is the most apt description of how former president Nelson Mandela’s iconic party has descended into a corrupt, factional, paranoid and greedy shadow of its former self. The party that promised “a better life for all” in 1994 is now becoming increasingly concerned with the material wealth of some of its members. The ANC itself has a funding vehicle, Chancellor House, which allegedly profits from government contracts and is set to make billions of rand from the building of new power stations.
It has not always been like this. After 27 years in prison, Mandela emerged to lead his party, the ANC, out of a debilitating three decades in exile—during which it became deeply influenced by the Soviet Union—into a social democratic organisation that embraced reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa. With his adversary, FW de Klerk of the National Party (which presided over apartheid), he moulded a profoundly divided country, with deep fissures along racial, economic and class lines, into a unitary state and struck a pact to govern together in a coalition arrangement in 1994.