The South African situation has become so fluid that political parties find themselves constantly reacting to changing circumstances. Parliament and its substructures are almost daily attending to controversial matters, caused in the main by extraparliamentary factors.
Some are defending the untenable; some are trying to get to the bottom of the problem. These matters have obfuscated substantives issues that should have been addressed to improve living conditions for South Africans. The problems have become colossal and there is no single party with the ability to address them.
The ruling party has curtailed its influence through its inability to cleanse itself of political mischief. It is at war with itself and at the moment there are no signs to indicate tensions might subside. A venomous battle for leadership has increased tensions within its structures, where polarisation has made it difficult to listen to reason.
Fueling the tension is the diatribe unleashed on each other by opposing contenders. Unity as the cornerstone of any successful organisation has lost its political flavour.
Compounding the situation are contending camps trying to outsmart each other, particularly on social media. This new dimension has exposed the glaring political limitations of these players, whose political expression is disconnected from substantive developmental issues, and has highlighted organisational weaknesses. Social media has emasculated the already depleted rank and file structures (branches).
The obsession with the leadership race, informed by “legitimised sectarianism” is dominating so-called “political engagement”. Dr Zweli Mkhize, has made a historic submission, expressing his regret at having participated in the politics of slates in the run-up to the Polokwane elective conference, and afterwards. He has admitted that slates politics has contributed to schisms within the ANC. Some scholars define the Polokwane elective conference as the final nail in the coffin of the organisation. The Mangaung elective conference is perceived as the escalation of the organisation’s disintegration.
The profile of guests invited to that conference marked a historic turning point in the history of the organisation. The decision of who to invite as guests is informed by a particular tactic and purpose. As analysts we analyse, among other things, even participants’ dress codes and seating arrangements. These factors convey a clear message which might not be understood by the unobservant and those bused in for voting. Songs reflect mood and message. You may sing and dance without knowing what the lead singer is conveying – probably informed by the interests of the people with whom he or she has surrounded themselves.
When the centre can no longer hold, a force that reports somewhere else takes over and runs the political space. When that time comes, anything good or bad might happen. Such developments precede the demise of a phenomenon that many believed was invincible.
When politics is characterised by a crisis underpinned by medium-risk factors, three behavioural patterns emerge.
First, a powerful person is on the offensive.
Then, when medium-risk factors escalate, the powerful person goes on the defensive, showing signs of irritation, intolerance and arrogance.
Finally, when such risks factors move into the next bracket, the powerful person becomes a vicious securocrat, adopting clandestine methods outside the law. These are signs leading to the end of the road: invincibility does not exist in a secular world.
A major weakness of all opposition formations is that as a bloc, they lack a common strategy informed by unity of purpose.
Tacticians know when to forge tactical alliances to advance short-term objectives. Ad hoc tactical alliances based on common interests have made an indelible mark – changing people’s perceptions, motivating the public to look at things differently and encouraging a space for questioning.
The fluidity of the situation at a given time, within a democratic space, presents opportunities to deepen democracy in order to revive the “better life for all” dream.
Agents of change are committed to ideals and not to structures – particularly if such entities are no longer serving the purpose on which they were founded.
There is a saying that actions speak louder than words. Agents of change always make themselves relevant to the rapidly changing situation, to serve collective needs.
Agents of change, wherever they go, advocate peace and are vehemently opposed to any form of violence – irrespective of the source of such primitive action.
That’s how our liberators distinguished themselves from the architects of apartheid.
- Christian Mxoliswa Mbekela is a strategic work consultant specialising in HR, EE and risk management. A former SAYCO NEC member, he was part of the team that re-established the ANC Youth League. He is currently doing a PhD in the Sociology Department at Rhodes University.