As South Africa faces increasing difficulties, the ANC’s adoption of centre-right policies further exacerbates social disparities and undermines the endeavour to establish a just and egalitarian society, a principle that played a pivotal role in the courageous fight against apartheid.

By Mbangwa Xaba

It appears the recent resignation of Phapano Phasha from the ANC went largely unnoticed by various mainstream media outlets. Phasha, who held the position of chairperson within the ANC’s Rooderport branch, was regarded as a notable figure with a quasi-degree of sway.

Phasha, the former chairperson of the Anti-Poverty Forum, garnered temporary fame for her bold confrontation with Eskom in 2019 concerning its significant agreements with independent power producers (IPPs). Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that Phasha does not wield the same degree of influence as prominent figures like Julius Malema or Ace Magushule, whose departures would rock the soul of the ailing ANC.

Her departure, though minuscule in its impact, was as predictable as the rising sun.

Phasha’s tenure within the ANC has been marked by her staunch affiliation with the controversial Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction of the party. While the RET faction has its supporters, it is no secret that it has faded from grace even within the ANC. So, the departure of a well-known sympathiser of this faction might be seen by some as a natural progression in the internal dynamics of the ANC. Nothing to write home about.

But it is far from a mere footnote in the party’s history. It raises important questions about the ANC’s direction, unity, and ability to adapt to the changing needs and expectations of the South African electorate.

Phasha’s departure, against the backdrop of her confrontations with Eskom, is not just an isolated incident. It is a symptom of a deeper ailment afflicting the ANC. The party, which played a pivotal role in South Africa’s history during the anti-apartheid struggle, is experiencing a subtle but fundamental metamorphosis and a detrimental erosion of public trust and unity.

Once a shining light of optimism and a fearless symbol of defiance, the ANC has morphed into something unrecognisable – a political chameleon that has shed its pro-poor and leftist skin to reveal a centre-right ruling party. This metamorphosis has not only left its loyal supporters bewildered but has also resulted in the abandonment of strategic positions that once propelled it to the forefront of the revolutionary movement.

Alas, the ANC has taken a disheartening detour, deliberately veering away from its once cherished leftist ideologies and vital policies that were once the bedrock of its noble quest for social justice.

As a result of this divergence, the ANC’s governance has been characterised by a limp from one monumental catastrophe to the next. Nothing is worse than the deterioration of state-owned entities. These institutions, which were meant to be the backbone of South Africa’s development, have crumbled under mismanagement, corruption, and toxic political interference. The resulting inefficiencies have had a direct impact on the economy and the lives of ordinary South Africans.

Without this capacity, the ANC stood no chance of undoing the apartheid spatial and economic structure. Three decades later, apartheid’s ghost still looms large, with deep inequalities persisting in housing, access to education, and economic opportunities. The poor and marginalised continue to be trapped in the same cycle of poverty, with limited access to basic services and opportunities for growth.

Cities and social infrastructure have not fared much better. Instead of improving living conditions, some cities have experienced a decline in basic services and infrastructure. While urbanisation was supposed to be a force for progress, it has led to increased overcrowding, pollution, and inadequate housing for many South Africans.

The uncontrolled influx of illegal foreign nationals is another issue that the ANC has struggled to address effectively. While South Africa should be open to those seeking refuge and opportunity, the ANC has failed to create a balanced immigration policy that both welcomes newcomers and protects the rights and opportunities of its citizens.

South Africa’s criminal justice system is in shambles, with corruption and inefficiency permeating every level. The rise in crime and the general feeling of insecurity among citizens reflect a criminal justice system that has lost the trust of the people.

Education, often heralded as a path to a better future, has not escaped the ANC’s governance failures. The decline in education quality has left many young South Africans ill-equipped to compete in the modern job market, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and unemployment.

All these failures have a single source – the ANC’s departure from its foundational principles. This is starkly evident in its policy shifts, particularly the move away from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to more right-leaning initiatives such as the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) and Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR). These policies prioritised privatisation, and market-friendly approaches, diverging significantly from the initial goals of radical wealth redistribution and social equity.

Moreover, the ANC’s retreat from advocating for state ownership of key industries like banks, and mines, and the reluctance in effective land distribution represents a departure from its historical commitment to rectifying the deep-seated economic injustices of apartheid. This shift has left millions of poor Black South Africans in shanty towns, perpetuating economic disparities and exacerbating social inequalities.

The ANC’s active disengagement from the land redistribution program has only served to worsen the plight of marginalised communities. Simultaneously, the party’s actions have resulted in the vilification of grassroots movements striving for economic equity and inclusion of African citizens. This is especially distressing given that South Africa holds the ignominious title of being the world’s most unequal society.

Perhaps most distressing is the allegation that the ANC, once a symbol of resistance against oppression, has turned against the very people it once represented. The party’s involvement in actions such as the Marikana tragedy, where workers were brutally suppressed and lives were lost, has stained its hands with the blood of those it should have protected.

The ANC’s deviation from its pro-poor and leftist roots is not just a betrayal of its historical promises; it is an active disavowal of the values that inspired millions during the struggle against apartheid. Labelling the ANC as a force of the left now seems like an insult to the very principles of the left, given the party’s stark divergence from these ideals.

The situation at hand not only presents a crisis for the ANC but also a looming humanitarian catastrophe for the millions who are left behind, struggling for the bare necessities of life. It underscores the urgent need for a revaluation of the party’s direction and a recalibration towards its original goals of social justice, equity, and the upliftment of the marginalised.

The ANC’s current trajectory is not merely a shift in policy; it represents a moral and ideological crisis that demands immediate attention and rectification. It is a call to rekindle the spirit of the movement’s origins, reigniting the fight against inequality and realigning with the aspirations of the very people the ANC was supposed to champion. The future of South Africa hinges on the ANC’s ability to reclaim its core values and once again become a force for positive change and progress for all its citizens.

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