Does South Africa need a new NEC?

2017-05-27 11:10

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC meets this weekend to recalibrate, debate and set policy. As the “highest decision-making body” of the party, this forum holds the strategic and leadership quorum that supposedly guides the movement.

One would think that, given the current explosion of information about state capture taking place under President Jacob Zuma, the NEC would be cutting the cancer from its body politic as aggressively as possible. But until now the NEC has been shown to be a lame duck. It is itself captured, compromised by tribal factionalism and “politics of the stomach”. For all the talk coming out of the ANC about reforming the party, combating corruption and having cadres “pass through the eye of the needle”, a more likely scenario is that the body will Mantashe - backtrack, equivocate and retrofit rationality to its continuing unprincipled blundering.

Leadership requires legitimacy, the ANC NEC is losing it.

When leaders do not have legitimacy their followers begin to look elsewhere for guidance and alternative sources of direction. When the example set by leaders becomes one of repeated violations of the values and principles of their followers, either the followers who lack clarity about their own commitment to virtue begin to compromise, or those leaders are abandoned. Thanks to Zuma the ANC’s legacy as a ruling party is now at great risk of being destroyed. The ANC’s legacy, as an iconic movement for liberation, is now being replaced by that of “just another patronage network for exploitation”.

Since the NEC has shown itself incapable of taking action, the NEC itself is losing legitimacy. Far from being the highest “decision making body”, it is becoming the apex of indecision. This poses a danger for the party and for the country. In a multiparty democracy the system requires robust party-participation. The implosion, of a party such as the ANC into disarray and division, poses a systemic risk to the system as a whole. In a situation where the executive branch of government, the “deployed” arm of the party, has gone rogue and been criminalized, the need arises for a higher order intervention - the need for a national NEC. Such an NEC would not be of a party, but of society more broadly.

We need a Government of National Unity.

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, not to the power holders and power brokers of the ANC. If the party has been captured, and debilitated, then the country must escape its vice. In instances where this happens to a nation, whether through a coup or revolution, and other forms of civil protest or civil disobedience - where a rejection is made against office-holders - the need arises for a caretaker government. We have a national election scheduled for 2019, which is a marvelous opportunity for citizens to reject and appoint their representatives freely. However, at the rate of decay in the executive both at cabinet level and in state owned enterprises, 2019 is too far off. It would be reckless to allow the wrecking ball that is the Zuma faction to retain power until then. We do not need regime change, but unless the regime can reform, regime change may be the only option.

South Africa needs to make it clear to the NEC this weekend that “unless you clean your house we will clean ours”. It is called democracy and we’re serious democrats - take it or leave. We are the people.” South Africans with a direct line to NEC members should make this point as clearly and as urgently as possible. Give us a state president who belongs to us, a servant of the people, or step aside so that we the people can elect one.

Let’s deal with the rot then let’s deal with injustice.

In the short term South Africa has to surgically remove the rot that has crept in at institutional level and undermined our governance. In the medium term, we need to do the hard work of building a more just order, brick by brick and job by job. Removing the rot is only step one. Corruption is a hindrance to inclusive development and it is the poor who suffer the most at the hands of cronies and securocrats. Under the current leadership the public is daily being subjected to violations by a small group of public service pretenders. This must stop. Perhaps the time is soon approaching for a national NEC.

Marius Oosthuizen is a member of faculty at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa. He teaches leadership, strategy and ethics and oversees the Future of Business in SA project that uses strategic foresight and scenario planning to explore the future of South Africa, Africa and BRICS

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February 18 2018