The cracks in the traditional coalition are showing such as never before, writes Lesiba Seshoka.
Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!
Gerald West, a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, presented a paper titled “Jesus, Jacob Zuma and the new Jerusalem” through which he explores the kind of religion projected in the public sphere by the ANC after liberation, especially after Polokwane.
This paper evokes in one the consistent message driven by ANC President Jacob Zuma that the ruling party will rule until Jesus returns.
But recent events suggest that it may as well be “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” for the ruling party.
These words, which are often interpreted as “the writing is on the wall”, were explained by the Biblical King Daniel to mean that God had “numbered” the kingdom of Belshazzar and brought it to an end.
“Mene” meant God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end, while “tekel” meant “you have been weighed on the scale and found wanting’’.
The expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa from Cosatu a week ago, as well as the posture of seven other Cosatu affiliates, signifies an impending doom for the ruling party, if it’s not better managed. Firstly, Cosatu has been a strong mobilising and stabilising force for the ANC.
During elections, it’s been Cosatu’s shop stewards and leaders that have walked the breadth and width of the country mobilising electoral support for the ruling party. In addition, there would be financial support from the individual trade unions to the ruling party, in the form of an election levy.
Assuming that each worker of the two million members has on average five dependents, Cosatu represents about 10 million potential voters for the ANC. While the rest of those, who support Numsa, together represent about a million, that is still too much for the ANC to lose.
But take the National Union of Mineworkers’ resolution many years ago that each branch of the union should have a branch of the ANC and the SACP.
Juxtapose that with developments on the platinum belt, where Amcu has become dominant. That in itself means it is not only a loss for the NUM but a loss for the ruling party and the SACP, too. That is more glaring when one flashes back to the last election, where some parts of the North West province literally became no-go areas for the ANC.
While many analysts believe that Cosatu may have handled issues differently, the fact is that there was no way there was going to be a different result, as all players played the politics of brinkmanship.
First, Numsa knew it had the numbers, and needed a special congress to outvote the other dominant faction in the central executive committee, so rightly referred to the constitution. But the dominant faction saw an opportunity in Numsa’s disregard for Cosatu policies and principles contained in the very same constitution to which Numsa was referring. The long and short of it is that it is the ANC that will eventually suffer at the polls .
But there are many other factors that suggest that Jesus may have returned earlier than expected for the ruling party.
The disbandment of the ANC Youth League has also been a major setback for the ANC. During the time of Peter Mokaba, Fikile Mbalula and Julius Malema, the Youth League was, in addition to Cosatu, a serious player in the mobilisation for electoral support.
Many of those who were in the Youth League have followed Malema to the Economic Freedom Fighters, while those who have remained have reached their sell-by date, as they’ve passed the age of 35.
Others are currently jostling for positions in the new league, from which will emerge victors and villains.
While the ANC is currently trying to rebuild the Youth League, it will take some time for it to return it to its heyday.
Besides, members of the born-yesterday crowd are generally not receptive to politics and trade unions.
Many young workers do not belong to unions or to structures.
Before all that, Thabo Mbeki’s recall robbed the ANC of a significant number of voters, particularly in his home province of the Eastern Cape.
While some returned in the last election, many have not done so in the Nelson Mandela Bay and other areas.
The Marikana tragedy made matters worse, as many of those who passed on hailed from the Eastern Cape. The police that shot at them are, in the eyes of many in that area, the police force of the ANC.
It never rains but it pours. Now take the student formations which were traditionally aligned to the ruling party.
The South African Students’ Congress (Sasco), the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League are all aligned to the ANC and are together in the Progressive Youth Alliance.
But these organisations compete against each other in the students’ representative council elections at universities and colleges.
The result is that they are now being largely defeated by organisations such as the EFF student organisation, as happened at Turfloop and other institutions, and the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso), as happened at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University last year, and at other institutions.
But this is exactly what Cosatu was trying to prevent by limiting competition among its own affiliates.
Many pundits punt the formation of a new “coalition of the expelled”, which may comprise Malema, who was expelled by the ANC; Joseph Mathunjwa, expelled by the National Union of Mineworkers; and Irvin Jim, expelled by Cosatu.
This may indeed be a formidable force that may put brakes on the ANC.
But it is a problematic coalition of people who refused to subject themselves to the discipline of their organisations. While ZwelinzimaVavi may be a voice of reason for such a coalition, his voice will be drowned out by the trio’s. If what happens in Parliament is anything to go by, then the writing is clearly on the wall for the beleaguered ruling party.
Imagine the five-month-long violent strike action on the platinum belt, but this time with Jim, Mathunjwa and Malema on the frontline. Our economy would cry like a newborn baby! Of course, the cracks would show in no time, and they’d soon be wielding pangas against each other.
Cry, my beloved country.
*Seshoka is Executive Director of Corporate Relations at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He writes in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.