Disdain and indifference are the hallmark of ANC-SACP rule – Business Day, 23 February 2015

ALMOST everywhere the African National Congress (ANC) and its increasingly influential partners in the South African Communist Party (SACP) go, they leave a trail of destruction. Parliament, whose white-anting started with its first speaker, Frene Ginwala, and the torpedoing of the arms deal investigation, is but the latest wreck.

By John Kane-Berman 

ALMOST everywhere the African National Congress (ANC) and its increasingly influential partners in the South African Communist Party (SACP) go, they leave a trail of destruction. Parliament, whose white-anting started with its first speaker, Frene Ginwala, and the torpedoing of the arms deal investigation, is but the latest wreck.

The trail is long: the standing committee on public accounts, the intelligence services, the National Prosecuting Authority, Eskom, the police, the defence force, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, municipalities all over the country, large chunks of the public service, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Airways and other state-owned enterprises, nursing and teacher colleges, the agricultural extension system, the National Health Laboratory Service, and now, it seems, the South African Revenue Service.

The mining and agricultural sectors, as well as property rights, are next in line, along with private healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. So are independent schools in Gauteng, which are to be subjected to a witch-hunt on the pretext that they are racist. Renewed ANC-SACP attacks on the press are already starting. The judiciary’s turn will come.

What is at work here is a totalitarian control mind-set, against which the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) issued warnings even before the ANC and the SACP came to power. In 2013 President Jacob Zuma sat on his hands while his party shouted down the Western Cape premier at an official function. Not long ago, he endorsed his party’s campaign to make that province ungovernable and supposedly thus "liberate" it from an opposition party whom the voters had chosen in preference to his own. Now Zuma chuckles as heavies frog-march his own progeny now in the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) out of Parliament.

The only thing wrong about our warnings was timing. The ANC-SACP alliance has taken longer to impose its ideology than we anticipated. Part of the reason is resistance — the "fighting back" that it was once fashionable to condemn. Attempts in the Thabo Mbeki era to control the judiciary were fought off. Warnings of resistance have so far staved off attack on critical nongovernmental organisations. Some of the worst features of draft expropriation legislation have been watered down.

Parliament’s presiding officers were within their rights to remove the EFF after its persistent disruptions during Zuma’s state of the nation speech, but the use of armed men to do so has caused so much outrage more and more are waking up to the antidemocratic nature of the ruling alliance. Jamming cellphones and manipulating media coverage merely add to the outrage.

The ruling alliance’s disdain for Parliament is now beyond doubt. So is its contempt for accountability. What is not yet widely enough appreciated is another key characteristic of ANC-SACP rule: sheer callous indifference.

We had early warning of this in Mbeki’s attitude on HIV/AIDS, which his party endorsed. The same callousness infuses so much of what the government does — or fails to do: public hospitals and schools that do not work, communities pervaded by crime, incompetent municipalities riddled with corruption, contaminated water supplies, labour law that ignores the despair of the unemployed, and land restitution that usually involves little more than dumping people. The destruction of institutions goes hand-in-hand with the destruction of opportunity, of promise and of hope. For many "the good story to tell" is a nightmare.

Zuma’s repudiation of accountability for the millions spent on his private estate is but the tip of an iceberg of cavalier disregard for the consequences of his policies and his party’s indifference to the plight of millions of ordinary people. Far from being the "broken man" the Democratic Alliance claimed he was last week, Zuma comes across as a laughing cavalier.

• Kane-Berman is a consultant at the IRR.

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