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Factionalism and rise of individualism is not only limited to Tshwane, it is across the board
Johannesburg – When two individuals within the ANC go head to head over a leadership position, and the senior leadership responds by bringing in a third person to bypass the standoff, then the ANC risks ceasing being an organisation. It risks becoming a group.
In a group, individual members are in it for themselves. They take individual rather than organisational inspired positions.
Hence, they entrench themselves in such positions.
They are unwilling to move in the interest of the organisation.
In the case of the Tshwane ANC, neither the current ANC regional chairperson, Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa, nor his deputy, Mapiti Matsena, were willing to move in relation to the Tshwane mayorship position.
Not only did they entrench themselves as the rightful heirs to the throne, but also assumed positions that suggest, the other, a comrade for that matter, should not get the mayorship position.
These are individualistic, rather than organisational, positions.
They are not articulated in the context of the performance of Sputla, nor the capacity of Mapiti. They are merely personal.
But then the senior leadership of the ANC entrenches this individualism, rather than the organisational wellbeing.
Deputy secretary-general of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, upon introducing Thoko Didiza as the ANC’s mayoral candidate, indicated that the contestation between the two regional leaders had become too “severe”.
The ANC’s response therefore has been to deal with the two contending regional leaders, Sputla and Mapiti, rather than take a position that advances the ANC.
In the process, the ANC senior leadership has actually murdered three birds with one stone: firstly, it sent Sputla and Mapiti back to their factional trenches.
Rather than working to consolidate the unity of the ANC, they are likely to undermine the other, and their corresponding faction, while advancing themselves.
It is also likely that these internal uncivil wars might navigate to bigger factions en route to the 2017 ANC elective conference.
In the immediate term, scuffles will disappear. But this should not be mistaken for unity and peace.
Secondly, while Didiza is an astute leader and a manager, the way she has assumed the mayoral candidacy weakens her authority and legitimacy among those she is meant to lead.
She stands between being a villain, and an accidental hero.
The third part is the integrity of the ANC itself. It has taken a serious knock with the events that followed the announcement that Didiza would assume the mayoral candidacy for Tshwane. The standoff between the primary candidates is indicative of the ANC’s inability to solve internal dynamics.
The fact that it had to explode at a critical election moment in the capital city is indicative of an inability to manage internal political risks.
It is failure of leadership, internal political management, and political risks assessment, and management.
Once the ANC entertains the notions of a compromise candidate, it has ceased to strategise organisationally. Instead, it is acting on individual inclinations.
Gwede Mantashe is correct, regardless of whoever the ANC could have chosen as mayoral candidate, there could have still been upheavals.
This factionalism, as Mantashe observed, in the ANC in Tshwane is entrenched. But the factionalism is not limited to the Tshwane region. It is across the board.
Individualism, supported by factions, is increasingly becoming the ANC. In the recession of party discipline, and cohesion, the ANC is becoming a group. In group settings, individuals are in the group for themselves.
Rather than individuals existing for the group, the group exists for the individuals.
Each individual uses his or her presence in the group for maximum personal gain. Even those who gang up together as a collective within the group, do so for personal gain.
This might even include harming fellow members of the group. In this group instance, leadership as a principle and activity is less pronounced. Instead, leadership is replaced by control and punishment.
The above scenario depicts the ANC. Individualism and factionalism has entrenched itself within the ANC. Increasingly, there are just too many ANCs within the ANC.
As a result Mantashe and his comrades in the top six no longer have time to lead.
Mantashe’s leadership role has been replaced by two primary activities: putting out fires within the ANC; and secondly, defending the ANC externally. At times, even defending the indefensible. Lately, this task includes even denying its own members.
This unfortunate state of affairs puts in doubt the ANC’s status of being the “leader of society”. The ANC hardly sets the agenda for society to engage. Instead, the ANC has become the agenda that’s constantly discussed at public and private gatherings.
Most of these discussions are preoccupied with the question of “what went wrong?”
The ANC is entering a phase of institutional survival. This is a situation wherein the organisation exists in terms of its own structures, and process. But not substantively.
In this instance, the ANC structures such as the top six, NEC, NWC, branches, and regions, will continue to exist, without expressing the fundamental substance of their existence.
In terms of processes, the ANC will continue with gatherings such as the NGC policy conferences.
Yet, there will be little substance in the outcomes. Each of the gatherings associated with processes above are likely to be associated with individual positioning through factional activism.
Thus, hallow organisational and process existence without substance, amounts to mere organisational survival.
This is akin to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe democracy.
There are elections every five years contested by various political parties. Yet, the substance of democracy is virtually non-existent. Democracy in Zimbabwe is on a survival mode and lacking in substance.
Similarly, the individuals that are capturing the ANC internally will rely on the organisation’s template of structures and processes.
They will ascertain their belonging to branches, their attendance of organisational meetings, and compliance with the rules and processes of the ANC, and yet, advancing their individual interests.
In other words, individuals will be able to tick all the boxes of internal participation and compliance with ANC rules, but for self-gratification.
This will be organisational survival, and lacking in substance, not fulfilling its liberation mandate to liberate South Africa.
This situation will persist as long as South Africa’s private sector does not create jobs.
As long as the private sector sheds jobs, political participation will continue to be seen as a key economic activity.
Local government level is one possible sphere that allows even the least capable to try one’s luck to become a councillor.
The local political elite will battle for the mayorship positions.
Such positions allow them to earn a livelihood, and to dispense patronage for the henchmen who help such individuals into mayorship positions.
Hence, the ever growing individualisation of the ANC.
The ANC senior leaders become something akin to labour brokers.
They determine who gets, or does not get, into certain leadership positions. Such decisions are not always based on performance, nor what is in the best interest of the organisation.
They might be self-inspired given the senior leaders’ quest for votes in forthcoming ANC elective conferences.
Beyond that they hold the guillotine to cut out individuals from certain senior government positions as and when they deem it necessary.
Alternatively, when such individuals are perceived to be flirting with an alternative faction.
In this regard, the ANC has not advanced the sacking of Mondli Gungubele, and Sputla as a result of poor performance.
In fact, Gauteng’s chairperson, Paul Mashatile, spoke very highly of Sputla’s performance in Tshwane.
Gungubele leaves Ekurhuleni with a series of clean audits, and AAA ratings. Yet they are shown the door for many reasons other than their performance.
Now this is the ultimate danger of individualism at local government. It bears the prospects of limiting development given that it is not individual capacity and ability that earns individuals leadership positions, but the strength of their factions.
The Greek philosopher, Plato, referred to this as mob rule.
This mob rule will gain momentum between the elections if there is not visible internal political leadership and management.
It will gain traction when those in leadership do not undertake internal risk assessment and political management.
When those in leadership confuse the absence of physical squabbles in between elections with discipline and cohesion, they will face several implosions as those happening in Tshwane.
The relationship between holding a senior state position with access to state resources, and the ability to dispense patronage, remains at the core of the individualisation of the ANC.
To deal with this requires leadership unusual.
But then if the leadership is also on an individual self-drive, there is a serious risk of an ANC Group!