Today the DA gathers here at the historic Wesleyan Methodist Church in Waaihoek to bid farewell to an organisation that changed the course of our country’s history. Founded more than a century ago in a school room here at this church, the ANC spent the rest of the 20th century mobilising black South Africans against a brutal and unjust government.
While the struggle against Apartheid was fought on many fronts and by many groups and individuals, the ANC was, for many, the rock upon which the resistance movement was built. This reflected in the overwhelming support it received in our first democratic election in 1994.
Earlier this year the party celebrated its 104th birthday, but for all intents and purposes it has ceased to exist. Because beyond the logo, the colours and the slogans, the ANC of 2016 bears no resemblance to the movement that played such an important role in liberating black South Africans from the illegitimate and cruel Apartheid government.
For any political organisation to survive more than a century is a remarkable achievement, but when the end came, it came swiftly. Under Jacob Zuma’s self-serving leadership – and assisted by a party whose senior figures had acquired an unquenchable taste for wealth and power – it took just years to dismantle a century of toil and sacrifice.
As the Official Opposition, it is perhaps not expected of us to mourn the demise of our biggest political opponents, but we’re not blind to the invaluable contribution made by former leaders of the ANC in years gone by. All South Africans, including us at the DA, owe the likes of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Govan Mbeki a huge debt of gratitude.
While the ANC’s fall from grace may be politically beneficial to the DA, we are saddened by the demise of such a historically important party and the manner in which it happened. Each generation of ANC leaders has borne an enormous responsibility to preserve the dignity and the moral integrity of the organisation. The current generation chose to abandon that responsibility.
When Josiah Gumede, Saul Msane, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, John Dube and Sol Plaatje gathered here on 8 December 1912, along with various other chiefs and community leaders, to found the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), their goal was to fight for the rights of ordinary South Africans. Everything about the movement was selfless and honourable. Little were they to know that a hundred years later this noble goal would be trampled by the entire party in the name of greed and personal enrichment.
What happened to the ANC is not new. We have seen the same pattern repeated, where liberation movements have failed to transition into parties of government. As corruption takes over, and the delivery of services to the people stalls.
To counter this, the ruling party has to capture democratic institutions to avoid facing justice, and it has to capture the media to ensure that “good news” overshadows the reality of its failures. These governments invariably turn their backs on their constitutions and they abandon the rule of law. It is at this critical junction that South Africa now finds itself.
Today, in Nelson Mandela Bay, the ANC is launching its 2016 election manifesto. They will undoubtedly put on an impressive show, filling out the stadium with thousands of supporters in the party colours. But don’t let this fool you into thinking they’re a healthy organisation. The old ANC is dead, and the new one is something entirely different. This is South Africa’s loss.
The DA remains the only political party which can advance the Constitution and bring change to the people of South Africa!