South Africa: The struggle for democracy within the ANC

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Dec 22nd, 2012
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Paul Trewhela
Paul Trewhela says the Mangaung elective conference was determined by fraud
 The party leadership of South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma (L) has been challenged by his deputy. Source: AAP

The party leadership of South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma (L) has been challenged by his deputy. Source: AAP

“Widespread irregularity” within the ANC – and the “forces of change”

An important analysis has been published by Professor Pierre de Vos – professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town and deputy dean of the Claude Leon Chair in Constitutional Governance – on the landmark judgement of the Constitutional Court last Friday (14 December), which found lack of internal democracy within the ANC in Free State province in choice of delegates to the ANC elective conference at Mangaung. The judgement carries major implications relating to the government of South Africa.

Writing in the Daily Maverick online, Professor de Vos concludes that the Court found “widespread irregularity, if not fraud, involved in the Free State elective conference.” (“Elective processes: Something is rotten in the kingdom of the ANC”, 20 December)

He adds: “These irregularities include the failure to provide ANC members with an opportunity to lodge objections about the accuracy of the preliminary audits of branches, despite the fact that the ANC rules itself provided for such a process.”

Members in one branch were “disallowed from participating in the elective bi-annual general meeting in breach of the right to participate in the activities of the ANC.”

In another branch, no audit was conducted, “thus disqualifying members of that branch from being represented” at the provincial elective conference – on the basis, it was stated, that they “supported the so-called forces of change.”

In yet another branch, the official ANC audit admitted in effect – in the Court’s own words – that “this branch and its members were not entitled to and did not participate in the conference,” a process “inconsistent with the requirements of the ANC’s constitution.

With other branches, members of the national audit team (who were also members of the ANC’s National Executive Committee)

simply failed to attend auditing meetings, thus “denying the affected branches representation at the Provincial Conference”, while other individuals who did attend the provincial conference had not been “elected at a properly constituted branch general meeting.”

Professor de Vos continues: “Reading through these lists of irregularities, it is difficult not to conclude that those in charge of the Free State ANC and some NEC members who supported the re-election of the PEC (and perhaps President Jacob Zuma), at best turned a blind eye to serious irregularities and pre-conference vote rigging and at worst participated in it.”

He adds that “given the systemic nature of the irregularities in the Free State in an elective conference which took place just a few months earlier, given the fact that Kgalema Motlanthe did not manage to receive the support of a single Free State delegate at the Free State nominations conference, and in the absence of evidence that the irregularities were dealt with properly by Gwede Mantashe who, in any case, had a vested interest in the outcome of the process, it might not be unreasonable to question the legitimacy of all the Free State delegates represented at Mangaung.”

Professor de Vos concludes that the judgement “does raise questions about the manner in which internal elections within the ANC are managed” and about whether the outcome of such elections can, without further evidence, “be deemed as being legitimate.”

There is no way at this stage of getting similar clarity about internal ANC processes in other provinces – say, in KwaZulu-Natal, where the ANC’s national auditing process somehow blithely annouced a miraculous jump of 35 percent in party members in only five months prior to its audit.

The single most important conclusion a non-jurist might now make about the centenary ANC elective conference at Mangaung is that it was determined by fraud. There is further evidence of the use of improper state violence in the interest of Zuma’s candidacy, as shown in a disturbing report from Mangaung by Greg Marinovich and Thapelo Lekgowa. (“ANC North West: Cops allegedly detain and beat ‘Forces of Change’ delegates in Mangaung”, Daily Maverick, 19 December)

A great struggle on the nature of democracy within the ANC has now opened up, as shown in an article by Niren Tolsi, “Free State ANC members to challenge legality of Mangaung” (Mail & Guardian online, 18 December)

But as the ConCourt judgement indicates, and as Professor de Vos affirms, lack of internal democracy within the ANC now proposes a major question about the character of democracy – or lack of it – within South Africa itself, given the absolute system of proportional representation set in place by the Interim Constitution of 1993 and the Constitution of 1996.

Given the colossal role of the ANC central administrative body in a political system run almost exclusively by PR, the “systemic” lack of democracy within the ANC in Free State suggests also a systemic lack of democracy obstructing the electorate as a whole.

In this way, the Mangaung conference has opened up a further struggle for democracy, requiring a review of the nature and effect of the electoral law.

With the ANC’s internal irregularities exposed to full view by the Court, Zuma’s re-election has placed electoral reform on the national agenda.

His political task team, with its headquarter in Gwede Mantashe’s secretary-general’s office at Luthuli House in Johannesburg – the real administrative centre of the country, a vast party-bureaucratic apparatus extending into almost every ward and municipality, much as in the Soviet Union and in China – has shown itself to run the ANC, much as it did in exile.

The manner in which ANC members were deprived of their constitutional rights at Mangaung recalls how, at a stroke, in December 1989 the entire body of ANC exiles in Tanzania were deprived of the committees they had democratically elected three months earlier, by the party high command based in Lusaka.

The issues of the exile have come full circle. The struggle for democracy goes on.

That is the real meaning of “the forces of change”.

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