Last week’s prophetic pronouncement by the Nazareth Baptist Shembe Church leadership that Cyril Ramaphosa will be the next president of South Africa does not only catapult the ANC leadership contest into a new dimension, but has possibilities of igniting a calamitous spiral of the worrying political crisis the country is already in.
Pointedly, this event has an ominous biblical parallel which we hope did not miss the attention of the prophets who may unwittingly have set the stage for trying days ahead for all of us.
In the biblical analogy, David the young shepherd, who had been promoted to a position of a harpist in King Saul’s palace, and had just demonstrated his skill of saving a nation by his crafty killing of Goliath the giant, was anointed by the prophet Samuel, after a revelation that Saul no longer enjoyed the confidence of God to lead His people.
What followed upon Saul’s discovery of this anointing of a new king while he was still on the throne was a concerted campaign to have David murdered.
Fortunately, Saul did not succeed, but Israel suffered as Saul diverted the focus of the nation’s military away from its real enemies for years as they pursued David.
In the current acutely fractious ANC, the verbal anointing of Ramaphosa is bound to provoke the ire of President Jacob Zuma’s ardent supporters and further sour and threaten the requisite collegial spirit for the smooth operation of the executive arm of the state.
Did we really need God to add paraffin to the flames of our currently devastating national leadership crisis at a time when the country needs to lift itself out of an economic quagmire?
There is a consensus that the utopia of the ANC shining as a beacon of Africa’s post-colonial excellence, and South Africa as the epitome of racial reconciliation and peace, is, in the hands of the current leadership, rapidly turning into a dystopia, a nightmare.
Our country is mired in a cacophonous political environment in which the governing party has virtually lost its moral authority as the leader of society, with economic gloom and paralysis, as well as racial polarisation, rising at an alarming rate.
Now we must buckle up for the consequences of the annunciation of the prophets on the outcome of the ANC’s already distressing leadership battle.
This pronouncement, and its consequences that are bound to unfold in the coming weeks, should instead of creating a sense of panic, force all thinking South Africans into a deep introspection and reflection into what is required to not only save, but renew South Africa sustainably.
It is not necessarily the ANC and its alliance partners that must go into introspection into what went wrong, and renew the institutions of the revolution.
As a social collective, a nation, we were offered an opportunity to take a glorious step into history in 1994.
Whether that step was followed by a forward movement or a backward one is a matter for our collective account.
The basic truth of the propensity of history to move in a dialectical fashion, as thought out by the intellectual progenitor of Karl Marx, GWF Hegel (he was not a communist!), is of pertinent relevance for us at this juncture of our national life.
The dialectical interpretation informs us that every achievement in history has a way of generating its own negativity, which in actual fact is the seed of the renewal of the original position.
This negativity or antagonism may be painful and intolerable, but is a necessary moment of ensuring that what was celebrated as a good achievement in the initial stages is purified of whatever weaknesses that were inherent in it.
This negativity or self-opposition is the moment where the Mandela dream, or the national democratic revolution – whatever one’s ideological ilk permits – is right now.
Our utopia of a free, democratic, nonracial South Africa as led by the ANC and its allies is facing its very own antagonisms.
These antagonisms do not necessarily come from outside, from infiltrators, as any true cadre of a revolution should know.
The problems we are facing now could well have been seeded from the omissions made during the initial push of the progressive movement.
They therefore have to be embraced, confronted and resolved in a sanguine spirit.
To start off, how does this tradition of leaders of a socialist-oriented revolution seeking support and endorsement from religious leaders fit into our ideological framework? Is it not demagoguery?
Going beyond the realm of ANC’s politics, we need to collectively confront the antagonisms generated by the 1996 constitutional dispensation.
The naiveté of the Desmond Tutu theology of interracial love, forgiveness and reconciliation is now glaring; the gaps and constraints in the national constitution that frustrate transformation and inclusive economic growth are now in our faces on a daily basis; the flaws in the electoral system of proportional representation that result in unaccountable public representatives are now haunting us; the illogical mismatch in the ANC’s period of tenure of office of its president that allows a president rejected by his very own party the possibility of continuing to govern the country for more than a year, are in all our personal problems.
The current crisis, even at its deepening scale as will be elicited by a reaction to Ramaphosa’s ill-timed anointing, must be exploited for an opportunity to remedy all these challenges of national morality in relation to racism, a Constitution being tested, as well as a vanguard for social change still struggling to find a proper profile for itself.
Presenting itself as an immediate challenge, for the ANC of course, is the historic omission of devising a rational procedure of electing its leadership as it mutated from a secretive liberation organisation to a parliamentary party.
From a perspective of dialectics, though, the current crisis of the ANC is not accidental.
It is natural and necessary for any revolutionary movement to face such a period during the course of its life, when it is forced to align its leadership role with the general movement of history as driven by the desires of the people, that is, the evolving material forces.
The ANC faced a near-similar stage around 1969 and survived under the disciplined leadership of Oliver Tambo.
A stubbornness in acknowledging mistakes made in the conduct of individual ANC leaders as well as in policy-making and implementation is simply anti-revolutionary.
Glaring mistakes such as the re-Bantustanisation of the country, and the emergence of tribalistic cronyism that the ANC seems to allow and encourage, have to be combated.
Equally, the discourse on anti-racism and racial justice has to be led by the prudency that the ANC garnered since the tortuous debates of the late 1950s.
We cannot allow isolated choral condemnations such as “state capture” and isolated themes such a “radical economic transformation” to emerge as panacea to the realities of a complex society such as ours.
The ANC, unfortunately, whether we like it or not, support it or not, is at the core of what would determine the present and future of South Africa.
It is therefore critical that an internal opposition of the current situation be mounted with all vigour within the ANC first, and even around the ANC, if the real ANC is captured by nefarious elements.
The antithesis is ultimately positive.
It is progressive.
Lamola is a businessman and senior researcher at the University of Fort Hare
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