Conditions for a revolution are rife in South Africa

THE year 2012 is likely to go down in history as the year the post-Mandela revolution started.

Students of revolutions know that "the revolution comes in the night like a thief". But a keen student can see the signs long before the revolutionary outbreak happens. Those in power are always surprised by a revolution and feel betrayed by the people.

This is the year of the Marikana Massacre, followed by the Lenasia apartheid-like demolition of houses and then the historic farmworkers strike in De Doorns, in Helen Zille's territory. These three events jointly tell us where we are headed.

The Mangaung shenanigans will be a small footprint in history. More interesting is the fact that both the ANC and DA handled the situation with arrogance and force, instead of standing with the people. Correctly, a revolution is likely to topple both the ANC and DA at the same time.

These events tell us that the ANC has failed to transform the state into an instrument of the people. Instead it has been about managing the very system it inherited from apartheid.

From here on only two possibilities can be realised. Firstly, the government will use violence and arrogance against the people instead of listening to the people's legitimate demands. Secondly, the people will increasingly use extreme measures to fight for recognition of their needs and desires. A confrontation is inevitable.

Right now respect for the Constitution by the people is under stress. The contradiction between the notion that the Constitution protects the rights of the people and the reality, in which the government is actually acting against the people, is getting bigger. We see how workers have abandoned formal processes like Nedlac. Workers know that if they want wage increases they must embark on a "wildcat strike" or illegal unprotected strikes.

We see the same with "service delivery" protests. This in reality means the Constitution is failing to protect the people, so they will increasingly disregard it. How far this will go we do not yet know.

The question we need to ask is will the South African revolution be by the ballot or by insurrection, like the Arab Spring? These two possibilities exist with equal likelihood. A ballot revolution is dependent on the emergence of a strong, radical pro-black movement that will guide the hand of the people during an election to bring about a new government of the people.

While conditions for this exist, such a movement does not yet exist.

An insurrection is likely to follow the same contours as the Arab Spring, in which the government is run down by the people and a new dispensation heralded by popular will. Both routes are fraught with pitfalls. Victory is not guaranteed.

It is not a small matter that after Marikana the ANC lost a by-election there, nor is it a non-factor that a party like the IFP, which is practically dead, could beat the ANC in Nkandla, the hometown of the president. How these factors match and mix in the next few years is key. The revolution is coming.