In 1994 when the ANC came into power, the majority of South Africans believed it would deliver on its promises as articulated by the leadership, with Nelson Mandela at the helm.
This belief was based on the values espoused by Africa’s oldest liberation movement – both in speech and deeds.
Even as that generation of leaders grappled with many challenges, the ANC was united around ensuring that the new era would improve the quality of lives of all citizens.
This attitude has kept the ANC in power until now, thanks to the generation of voters who cannot consider any alternatives.
Unfortunately, scrolling through news websites, social media, newspaper headlines, radio talk shows or news, it is obvious that the original unity of purpose has vanished from ANC leaders and comrades.
The Coronagate, with tales of selfish and inconsiderate Covid-preneurs, is dominating our daily conversations, with citizens outraged by the brazenness of the looting of public funds and Covid corruption. Not that corruption is new, but Covid-19 is just showing up the pace of greed with which the ANC can move to pillage public funds and destroy the capacity of the state to deliver. Evidently, the ANC chose to ignore how other African liberation movements before it squandered the opportunity to sustain their freedom so that it benefits the citizens.
The once powerful United National Independence Party (Unip), led by the eminent Kenneth Kaunda – former president of Zambia – like the ANC fought against the colonial and white-minority rule. They waged a successful struggle to usher in independence in Zambia in 1964.
Ironically, the party defeated the ANC of Zambia in the 1964 election.
Even more interestingly, the Zambian national anthem – Stand up and Sing Zambia, Proud and Free – was inspired by Enoch Sontonga’s Nkosi Sikeleli’Afrika, which for a long time was the ANC’s anthem. Unip, after being in power for close to three decades after independence, is today a shadow of itself. It has no seat in parliament, managing a meagre 0.24% of the votes in 2016.
Many more factors led the party to its near death, including the nationalisation that almost collapsed the economy. However, when unity of purpose was no longer the glue that held Kaunda’s party together, complacency crept in.
Rising from the subjugation and oppression, the government of Zambia after independence had to pull the majority of its people towards a better life, albeit with a different economic model and electoral system.
The subsequent disinvestment by many companies and the economic over-reliance on copper did not help their cause when the commodity’s price plunged during the party’s rule.
Complacency, bundled up with bad choices by the leadership, saw Zambia fall from being the richest sub-Saharan country during independence to experiencing chronic food shortages in the 1990s.
Only absurdity will dismiss the decline that the ANC suffered through the polls as meaningless, especially in the 2016 local government and the 2019 general elections. Internal rifts on who should lead the party contributed to the proliferation of breakaway parties in opposition to the ANC government, clawing considerable share of the votes. The 2021 local government elections will be a test for South Africans’ tolerance for pain inflicted by a party that is all too happy just to issue statements on how embarrassed and disgusted it is about corruption, yet doing little about it.