Protests are not enough, the ANC is not flinching


The wave of anti-Zuma protests that have swept across South Africa this month have highlighted the extremely poor judgement the African National Congress (ANC) exercised when it elected President Jacob Zuma for a second term.

However, being governed by a political party that exercises poor judgement is the least of South Africa's problems at the moment. 

The greater concern – and this has been exposed during these protests – is that opposition parties in South Africa are still struggling to put significant pressure on the ANC, even with all the political ammunition at their disposal.

The market reaction to Zuma's controversial cabinet reshuffle last month should have sparked his immediate removal from office, failing which, the subsequent ratings downgrades from Fitch and S&P should clinched the deal for those who no longer want to see Zuma in office. The president was reckless and there should have been a price to pay for that. 

The Emperor has no clothes. 

Any other governing party in a democratic country would have already taken drastic steps under these circumstances. However, as has been the case for the past two decades the ANC has been allowed to continue living life in the fast lane.

The protest marches which have taken place throughout the country during the past week have been significant, however they have also been spearheaded by the opposition parties in South Africa. 

For that reason alone, the ANC has been able to continue with business as usual, without flinching. 

Zuma has continued to be welcomed with open arms at his public engagements, as if no protests had taken place at all.

Senior members of the ANC, who previously voiced their dissatisfaction with the axing of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, have gone on to 'Mantash' – a verb meaning 'to change your mind abruptly' – coined after Secretary-General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe accepted the reasons given to the ANC National Working Committee, following the dismissal of Gordhan.

Gordhan himself, who has been vocal in the aftermath of his axing, was prepared to suffer the indignity of his speech being drowned out at a memorial service for Ahmed Kathrada in Durban. 

ANC Treasurer, Zweli Mkhize, who openly called the circumstances around Gordhan's axing ‘dubious’, is one of the ANC NEC members who have been accused of 'Mantashing'. 

Despite valiant efforts to win over the ANC Youth League in Durban last weekend, Mkhize was also forced to endure the humiliation of having to deliver a speech amidst boos and chants pledging allegiance to President Zuma.

In essence, those who have taken on Zuma within the ranks of the ANC have been burnt and those who have decided not to challenge him, along with those who have changed their tune, know all too well that they will enter the political wilderness if they do take him on. 

This is a governing party that does not feel threatened.

It does not feel threatened by the DA, EFF or SaveSA movement.

It does not feel threatened because the message being delivered by the opposition forces in South Africa is still not filtering through to ANC constituents or the traditional ANC supporter base.

Until that happens, all the gains being made by the DA under Mmusi Maimane will likely count for nought when South Africans head to the polls in 2019.