Ramaphosa's new dawn more of ANC's same old script with a different cast

President Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the ANC does not change anything about the party whose track record running SA's government must be viewed as a whole.
President Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the ANC does not change anything about the party whose track record running SA's government must be viewed as a whole.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

It's a bad time to be president.

Especially when you leave people with more questions than answers about the way forward on the country's power crisis and yet it has been in your party's in-tray for over a decade.

The public goodwill that existed in 1994 that could tolerate the errors of judgment, ignorance (shock or surprise) and the slow pace of realising "'the better life for all" has all but depleted.

The new dawn is like that famous lyric: "same script, different cast".

Cyril Ramaphosa may not have been in office for very long, less if we discount the period he spent finishing off his predecessor Jacob Zuma's last term.

But the fact remains that the ANC has been running the show for 25 years. He has been a member of that party for much longer. And now he leads the organisation.

It may seem like an obvious point. However, the focus on individual successive presidents of the ANC creates the impression that successive ANC administrations are distinct.

As if merely changing a president changes the party and the context - a lesson our neighbour Zimbabwe is learning.

Whatever the differences arising from the party's elective conference contestations every five years, that sees the emergence of one leader rather than another, there is continuity.

When the organisation wins the general elections and governs eight out of the country's nine provinces, it is the same party, regardless of which president or top six leadership is at the helm.

We should disabuse ourselves of the notion that we should judge successive ANC administrations on their own merit. We should judge the ANC for its entire performance since taking the helm of the state in 1994.

Given its practice of democratic centralism and its penchant for taking collective responsibility for the damage caused by the injudicious conduct of individual leaders, the ANC's track record should not be treated as divisible. Therefore, the "new dawn" is as much an electoral gimmick as was the "good story to tell".

The ANC has a way with regurgitating the same storyline dressed up in a new wardrobe, with the cast much the same but reshuffled and the show going by a different name.

Each season has its intrigue, with the one starring Zuma so far having garnered the highest ratings in terms of viewership.

This is the flow of the scenes of every successive ANC administration.

First, highlight the amazing progress the country has made in transitioning from apartheid to a democratic state.

Second, highlight the achievements of the party in extending basic services to the majority of citizens and amplify these by holding up the long-lasting impact of apartheid on society.

Third, acknowledge that there remains much more to be done in improving the lives of the majority of SA's people and promise that the ANC is up to the task.

Fourth, emphasise the necessity of transforming SA economically and socially, to make it inclusive and equal. Promise to accelerate change and to deliver on promises previously broken.

Fifth, highlight how the party will engage, produce a plan, and then present the plan, and then convert the plan to an agenda, and then at some point in future implement the said agenda to solve pressing problems.

Sixth, make a clarion call for society to get behind the party's efforts so "together we can move SA forward".

Lastly, the party's leadership crosses its fingers that its erstwhile supporters and loyalists, alliance partners and sympathisers will stand by it while it dithers over what to do about lapses in judgment, failures in delivering on services, deteriorating governance, weakening state capacity and growing corruption.

It may be only just over six months of the sixth administration and seemingly too soon to judge.

Nevertheless, how the incumbent leadership addressed the load-shedding crisis, a microcosm of SA's socioeconomic and political crisis, is a clear indication of more of the same from the ANC even under the much-commended Ramaphosa.

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