Why we’re letting the ANC destroy South Africa (and how we can stop)

  • 2

This is the second contribution in LitNet’s mini seminar on structural racism.


South Africa isn’t hell and the ANC isn’t the devil, but bad governance is the ANC’s way of punishing South Africans for withholding the two-third majority that would give the party some of the perks of parliamentary sovereignty.

If you’re a thinking South African, you have questions. Wouldn’t this “punishment” be the thing that causes the ANC’s potential voters to withhold their votes? Wasn’t it the ANC that led us from parliamentary sovereignty to a constitution that limits the ruling party’s powers?

ANC members like Sihle Zikalala say they wish the new South Africa mimicked apartheid South Africa in this regard.

ANC members like Sihle Zikalala say they wish the new South Africa mimicked apartheid South Africa in this regard. Lindiwe Sisulu argues that the Constitution gets in the way of redress and transformation, as though the government that’s been corrupt with limited powers would be incorruptible if it had unlimited powers. (It’s impossible to tell whether someone’s breaking the rules if they also have the power to make the rules up as they go along, so there is that.)

When the Constitution is used appropriately, it delivers equality and compels the state to act in the interests of the general public. Why, then, would the ANC say it’s a colonial tool that limits the powers of a black-led government, or that it suggests black people aren’t trusted with the same powers that white people were trusted with? Could the ANC’s attacks on the Constitution, its self-defence when it’s accused of falling short of the Constitution, rely on an ingrained inferiority complex – the imposter syndrome that’s a legacy of apartheid? Because it’s one thing for a black South African to appeal to the ANC’s electoral promises. “You promised us power, water, jobs.” What we rarely allow ourselves to do is quote the Constitution, lest Jacob Zuma accuse us of being clever blacks. This explains infrastructural deterioration and South Africa’s extraordinary tolerance towards corruption. Imagine what would happen if more of us became accustomed to a South Africa that works – how would the ANC stay in power and feed its cronyistic cabals? The key to the ANC staying in power while stealing from the public was outlined by Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of a South Africa that tells us black people that we are hewers of wood and drawers of water. The ANC serves beer on a champagne budget, and pockets the change.

Over elections, we’ll be reminded how the ANC liberated us back when, but while the ANC did make extraordinary sacrifices and rallied varying organisations under one vision, there isn’t a single coherent explanation for how 1994 happened. The last book I read on this was Breakthrough by Mac Maharaj and Z Pallo Jordan. It was written to “shed new light” on the processes that led to the formal negotiations. But there’ll always be new light to shed, because apartheid ended when President FW de Klerk read the geopolitical and economic winds and was shrewd enough to hand power over to the only people with the political capital to take over. If the liberation story tastes like gum someone’s chewed all the flavour out of, it’s because it was artificially flavoured: the ANC’s complaint that the Constitution fetters their powers is practically an admission that they weren’t truly responsible for the transition to democracy. This means that they, too, have imposter syndrome, and they can only survive by ensuring that the black majority partakes of that imposter syndrome. Had the ANC truly been in control of the liberation, they would have followed through on the economic reforms they’d promised their supporters all along or made the economy serve the people on more modern terms. If the ANC is morally squalid and if South Africa’s infrastructure is crumbling, then you know the party’s view of black people.

What’s easier than making the problem internalised black inferiority, black-against-black malgovernance, with zero reference to white supremacy?

There’s a temptation to end the article here. After all, what’s more convenient than blaming the ANC for the continuation of apartheid’s legacy? What’s easier than making the problem internalised black inferiority, black-against-black malgovernance, with zero reference to white supremacy? If that’s the whole problem, if it’s a distant, political, academic thing “over there”, then there’s no need to introspect about personal, immediate, physical reactions to black people, or check how those are fundamentally in agreement with the ANC’s assessment of black people. This was what I thought as I read Bettina Wyngaard’s White supremacy at Afrikaans festivals. The article described an event where Wyngaard tried to find out whether a set of empty seats was occupied. The body language of the person she asked showed an increasing amount of anxiety at one or more prospects: sharing space, and/or sharing space with people of colour.

The challenge with such stories (and racism in general) is unless that person expresses her thoughts, there’s no knowing them. Quiet racists outsource the work to systems that bury black bodies for them. Verwoerd and De Klerk are smiling in their graves, because South Africa is functioning as they knew it would. We no longer have “whites only” signs, but apartheid’s geospatial planning remains largely intact and functional. How do we change this? Do we win more rugby world cups, where we enjoy the brief thrill of social cohesion without the risk of social justice? Do we continue business as usual, even as the universe throws pandemics, riots, strikes and other crises at us to wake us up?

It’s one thing to be an armchair analyst who locates the problem “over there”, in what the ANC is doing wrong, or to say South Africa needs to vote for change. It’s quite another to sit with our bodily sensations – the impulses that produce body language – when someone asks whether the seat next to us is taken. To ask ourselves what we’re doing at events, through business activities and through social interactions to create a South Africa where everyone has equal and equitable access to opportunities to be more than hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Read the other contributions here.

LitNet se miniseminaar oor strukturele rassisme

  • 2


  • Pity about the last little tail added on. Irrelevant and an attempt at a last little smoke screen. Spoils it a bit.

  • George Redelinghuys

    Thank you for this interesting article concerning die-hard racial attitudes in South Africa. One cannot but feel a bit envious of countries like Brazil where there has been no social revolution, and Cuba, where there has been one, for the success in dealing with multiracial issues. It would be most interesting to know the secret of their success, the holy grail of successful race relations.

  • Reageer

    Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.