Is the ANC now an elite party?

Many ANC voters are feeling increasingly alienated from the party and the excesses of its leadership. African News Agency (ANA)

“We are one people, these divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today.”

These words were uttered by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1911, immediately after the formation of the Union of South Africa the previous year, while calling all Africans to forget their ethnic differences of the past and unite under one organization to fight the oppression of blacks. The following year, 1912, the African National Congress was formed, with a primary aim of bringing all Africans under one organization as “one people” to defend their rights and freedoms. The manifesto of the party at that time indicated that then new party would direct its energy to the most marginalized, dehumanized and exploited section of the population which happened to be occupied by a black man. For many black South Africans who were subjects of a cold-hearted system called apartheid, it made sense for them to find shelter in the ANC as it was the only party that intended to fight the status quo of discrimination and a culture of black subservient, perpetrated by the minority white regime.

Under the banner of the African National Congress, black South Africans indeed became one people, there were no longer divisions across tribal lines, and there were no jealousies that previously hindered their unity. The formation of the ANC made a black man a force to be reckoned with in the country’s political arena as there was now a common goal amongst blacks to defeat the enemy – white domination and racism. The ANC became a party that represented a black man’s struggle regardless of class, level of education, geographical location. It became the home for all black South Africans who were tired of being treat like sub-humans in their forefathers’ land by a foreign minority.

Now, let us fast forward to 2019. Is the ANC still representing a black man’s struggle? Is the ANC still home to the downtrodden and marginalized sections of our society? To be honest, I don’t think so. The party is now experiencing all kind of woes today because we no longer “one people”, there are new “divisions” and “jealousies”. The ANC is no longer synonymous with a black man’s struggle, therefore it is failing to appeal to the people who are still struggling even today – years after it was formed and democracy was attained.

Without undermining the intellectual capacity of the masses who vote for the ANC to stay in power, most of them do not care much about every finer detail of every policy the ANC proposes. The masses vote for the ANC because they find resonance in the party, as it prides itself as a home for every South African especially the black man who for centuries has been oppressed. It is the party that promises freedom to those in chains. Such a party is therefore expected to walk and talk the language of those who are oppressed and in chains, not the language of the elite.

It is so unfortunate that the once glorious movement today find itself speaking a language so foreign to that spoken by the poor majority of this country. We no longer one people because we have allowed class “division” between the leadership and the masses. The masses are slowly becoming “jealous” of the lifestyle of the leadership i.e. holidays in Dubai, expensive weddings in exclusive vineyards, luxury cars, all of this flashed in the face of the poor on a daily basis in different mediums.

Pixley Ka Isaka Seme was certainly not talking about the division and jealousy I just mentioned, but these are part of the causes of our woes today. The leadership no longer walk the talk. You cannot stand tall and claim to fight white monopoly capital yet you are seen wining and dining at places created by the very same white monopoly capital you despise at every turn. Every Cubana nightclub around the country is mostly frequented by comrades who hold influential positions in the party. Not that there is something wrong with going to a watering hole to have a cold one or to network, the problem is that Cubana is known to be tenderpreneurs’ hunting ground for Slay Queens looking for easy money. 

The young and old fellows of our beloved party love this place so much that they even visit it wrapped in the party’s regalia. They spend money on expensive champagnes and take a picture with beautiful girls, all of that ends up online. The bigger picture that somehow the leadership is failing to capture is that in any struggle those who are placed at the forefront should reflect the aspirations of those they lead and what they stand for. I am sure as a black man we do not aspire to live lavish, taking trips worth more than half a million when many fellow black men go to bed hungry.

I can safely say that this kind of in-your-face display of living large by some members of the leadership is somehow a contributing factor in the alienation of voters, especially wise young voters. The class and status problem is slowly gaining traction within the organisation. Those elected to lead no longer see themselves as part of the people. They now stay in gated communities, drive expensive cars and enjoy best holiday destinations. The only time they are with the people is when something mandatory has to be done when a certain branch general meeting has to sit in order to get numbers to support so and so. They claim to be the voice of the young, yet they are far from the reality of a young person in today’s South Africa.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with living in a gated community and frequently take expensive trips if you have worked hard for all that. But there is definitely something wrong if one gain access to such lifestyle through a ticket sponsored by the poor. The worst part is when that fancy lifestyle is flashed with arrogance and without shame.

On the 12th January, the party will be hosting its January 8 statement in Moses Mabhida stadium. When this event ends, the champagne life will start. Twitter and Instagram will be abuzz with pictures of exclusive after parties in areas meant for white privilege. I understand probably comrades will feel the need to celebrate after an intense mandatory door-to-door mobilizing. While comrades will be popping champagne in an upper-class community in Ballito with Slay Queens, scores of marginalized ANC voters who made possible to fill up the stadium will be going back to their impoverished communities, back to face the harsh reality of unemployment and grinding poverty.

Such behaviour has gained popularity among those elected to represent the poor masses of this country. This begs me to ask, is the ANC now an elite party?

Senzo Mkhize is a journalism graduate and works in the KZN Office of the Premier. He writes in his personal capacity.