A voter casting her vote
A voter casting her vote
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2024 South Africa Elections: The ANC dilemma, an African problem

In 1994, the world watched with bated breath as South Africa emerged from the shadows of apartheid to embrace a new dawn of democracy.

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Nelson Mandela, a symbol of resilience and hope, became the first black president, embodying the aspirations of millions. 

The air was thick with optimism and joy; finally, black South Africans saw the promise of equality and prosperity. The transition from apartheid to democracy was more than a political shift; it was the birth of a new era.

However, 30 years later with almost all the optimism shattered and South Africa now groping for solutions to a myriad of problems like most African countries, the big question on the minds of many people, is what went amiss? 

The beginning

I recall a conversation on January 10, 1994, with F.W. de Klerk at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. His optimism was striking. He suggested that sooner than we thought, black South Africans might yearn for a white government again.

To him, political power was being ceded temporarily while economic dominance remained firmly in the hands of whites and a few fortunate blacks. This strategy, he believed, would enable a resurgence of white influence in South Africa and beyond.

At the time, I dismissed his views as overly cynical, simplistic, and shortsighted. However, the events of the last two decades have given me cause to pause, making me reflect deeply on his words.

De Klerk knew it before, and he told us about today's election. How could he have been so right? Because the agreement he struck with the ANC, which the world applauded and rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for him and Mandela, was structured to give the ANC temporary political power while whites kept economic power.

The realignment of priorities and politics, based on a value system entrenched with money-making, cronyism, corruption, and materialism, began to eat deep into the political fabric of the ANC.

For me, as someone who participated in the events of 1994 with so much hope and vigour, last week's elections in South Africa have been disheartening. The African National Congress (ANC), once the beacon of hope for millions, is now a fractured entity struggling to maintain its relevance. 

Cracks in ANC

The cracks in the ANC mirror a broader malaise affecting not just South Africa but the entire African continent. Many of our democracies are failing. The statement Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah posed on March 6, 1957, looms large: "The black man is capable of managing his own affairs".

The writer with the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa

The writer with the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa

Over the past 20 years, the promise of 1994 has steadily dissipated. Corruption, mismanagement, and sickening opulence flaunted in front of poverty-stricken people who are only remembered at election time when they are given T-shirts and, if lucky, a food parcel, have plagued the ANC.

This has led to growing disillusionment among South Africans, particularly the black youth. The economic disparities that apartheid entrenched have not been adequately addressed, and for many, the dream of equality remains just that—a dream. Unemployment is rampant, at over 50% among the youth, and opportunities are scarce, feeding into a cycle of frustration and hopelessness.

The South African disappointment is palpable across many African countries. The youth across Africa are losing faith in their leaders and institutions. The sense of despondency is spreading, and with it, the belief that African nations might never fully realise their potential. South Africa's predicament should serve as a wake-up call to the continent's politicians and elites.

The legacy of colonialism and apartheid cannot be an eternal excuse for the failures of governance and leadership. It is imperative for African leaders to adopt a forward-looking approach, addressing the root causes of discontent and striving to fulfill the promises made to their people.

Despite the grim picture, there is still hope. The youth, though disillusioned, are also resilient and innovative. They are the key to Africa's future. To harness this potential, African governments must prioritize education, job creation, and good governance.

Transparency and accountability should be the cornerstones of governance. Corruption must be tackled head-on; perpetrators punished and jailed, and their loot seized and returned to the state. Resources should be equitably distributed to ensure that all citizens benefit from the continent's wealth.

Furthermore, it is crucial to foster a sense of unity and purpose. Political leaders should rise above petty rivalries and work collaboratively towards the common good. The African Union and other regional bodies have a significant role to play in mediating conflicts and promoting peace and stability.

In conclusion, the ANC's struggles are a microcosm of broader challenges facing Africa. The optimism of 1994 may have dimmed, but it has not been extinguished. As we reflect on the lessons of the past, let us reignite the spirit of hope and determination that once propelled us towards freedom.

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African leaders must seize this moment to make meaningful changes, ensuring that the sacrifices of the past were not in vain and that the dreams of the future can still be realized.

The journey ahead is fraught with challenges, but with collective effort and unwavering resolve, Africa can rise to meet them. It is time for a renewed commitment to the ideals of justice, equality, and prosperity for all.

Let the recent elections in South Africa be a clarion call to action, reminding us that the future of our continent lies in our hands.

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