by Dumisani Hlophe 16 April 16 2015 14h16

Transformation will take place through an election process within normal democratic elections, writes Dumisani Hlophe.

Johannesburg – Let me be alarmist to the ANC government: The seeds for regime change are already sown in South Africa. How long these will take to germinate, grow and come to fruition is not known. But they are sown.

These seeds are drawn from the following: the disintegration of Cosatu; service delivery protests; the rise of politically non-aligned radical student movements; the emergence and growth of the EFF in campuses and its land programmes; and the continued state of hunger, landlessness, joblessness, and inequality.

The sum total of this indicates that the political liberation centre with a historical mandate for transformation is either increasingly getting divorced from its constituency, or losing grip.

The utility of the tripartite alliance is in the provision of leadership and guidance to formations and organisations concerned with transformation. Once the alliance begins to disintegrate, the ensuing political formations away from the alliance become vulnerable for all sorts of agendas against the ruling party.

Since these formations have left the ruling party, their mobilisation point of departure is actually the dissatisfaction with the ruling party. For example, Numsa has become a major critic of the government’s National Development Plan. Similarly, Zwelinzima Vavi has criticised what he calls a “sweetheart union”. This is a direct reference to the ruling party’s relationship with what is left of the Cosatu leadership.

At this stage, what should be paramount to the ANC is not to save the castrated Cosatu, but the political evolution of those who are leaving Cosatu. The next nexus of politics in South Africa will be determined by those who have left Cosatu, and the alliance.

While they are currently not directly competing for state power against the ruling ANC, that’s where they are heading to.

The United Front, the offshoot from Numsa, is not as yet marketed as a political party, but it bears all the hallmarks of party political branding.

It claims to be fighting neoliberalism. Doing so directly means fighting the ANC as the custodian of the government’s economic policies. It strives to establish a socialist dispensation. It is for this reason that it is not merely mobilising the working class, but also communities.

The proliferation of community-based service delivery protests creates a fertile ground for the United Front to mobilise.

Thus, while Irvin Jim may have expressed anger against the media for labelling the United Front as a political party, all indications are that the UF is pregnant with political ambitions. The quest to establish a socialist dispensation is inherently a quest for regime change. It is an agenda which is not different from that of the EFF.

However, in the immediate term, the United Front is not in a position to declare itself a political party. The EFF has aggressively closed the leftist socialist space within which the United Front could operate from as a political party. Moreover, as a would-be political party, it does not have the mass numbers to effectively negotiate a higher stake for its leaders with a possibly existing political party – the nearest one being the EFF.

For now, the United Front’s challenge is to build its mass base. The mobilisation will probably be around workplace issues, but also community-based delivery issues.

Thus, the immediate efforts are not election-orientated, but the eventual outcome is actually to contest for the elections and become a ruling party.

This is the same way that Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) lost power in Zambia in 1991. Internal leadership squabbles are cited as but one of the issues that led to the fall of UNIP.

In Zambia, mass protests started in 1985.

It was initially started by workers with the involvement of students. With time, they progressed to a political movement and calls for the transformation of the state.

The result was the demise of Kaunda.

The disintegration of Cosatu therefore is actually the plantation of seeds of labour movements that will organise against the state. The emergence of radical student movements that are not located within the mainstream political parties is another seed. In the long run, the question will be asked by the emerging radical student movements as “who is responsible for lack of transformation”.

The fact that the students’ radical activism is happening outside student movements aligned to the ruling party is indicative of lack of confidence in the ruling party. This should ring alarm bells within the ruling ANC. Similarly, the willingness by the landless to occupy unused land and readily face the state force must equally worry the ruling party.

These seeds of regime change, at face value, seem like unrelated separate groupings, and isolated events. The conglomeration of these seemingly independent formations may actually be misleading.

They give the impression that they are purely local in nature. However, history shows that they eventually evolve into a national coalition and contest national election, and in some instances, dethrone the ruling party rich in liberation tradition.

They provide fertile ground for elites with national political ambitions to emerge and collapse them into one major national movement. Given the nature of the link between political power and control of state resources, these elites will always have domestic and foreign interests willing to fund them against the ruling party.

This will not be different from how some rebels within the continent wear new uniforms, have new weapons, and new military vehicles. The simple fact is, someone out there is willing to fund them.

The difference in the South African case is that the regime change will not be a military programme. It will take place through an election process within the normal periodic democratic elections.

However, since this will not just be a change of government, it can justifiably be termed a regime change.

This is because when such a change of government happens, it is likely to be accompanied by a whole range of changes: institutional, policies, and to some extent, constitutional changes. The high levels of populism that will accompany such a change will necessitate some serious and drastic changes.

On a daily basis, the seeds of regime change are being sown, and there are enough individuals irrigating and fertilising for such a regime change.

The eventuality of a possible regime change might happen before Jesus returns.

* Dumisani Hlophe is a political analyst with the Kunjalo Centre for Development Research. Twitter: @KunjaloD

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star


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