The process of the various political parties holding regular, peacefully contested leadership elections at party congresses in South Africa, is a good indicator of just how fit any party is to govern the country.
COPE, in its short life-span, could never convene a legitimate Congress (or what it called an “Elective Conference”).
And now the same thing is happening to the EFF.
Heralded a short while ago as the “real challenger” to the ANC, the EFF is battling to hold its provincial congresses, that are supposed to precede its National “People’s Assembly” in mid December.
We read that in Kimberley recently, “chaos erupted during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Northern Cape conference, as members armed with bricks, machetes and pangas tore into each other, trashing the venue and leaving a trail of blood”.
In Gauteng, Julius Malema disqualified one of his internal critics, Lufuno Gogoro, from running for the provincial chairmanship.
Gogoro, whose supporters were also expelled from the Congress, has now hired a team of lawyers to obtain an interdict setting aside the Gauteng outcome and preventing the EFF’s national People’s Assembly from proceeding.
In the Eastern Cape a disgruntled EFF faction sought to hijack their provincial Assembly, and the police were called in to deal with “an attempted coup” by those unhappy with the current leadership.
And in the Free State the EFF has already split, with disgruntled members starting up a rival populist party called the New Economic Freedom Front.
ANC congresses are controlled by the promise of patronage from the winner to his supporters after the election. But when the ANC loses power, and is no longer able to offer jobs, contracts and other perks to hold their party together, the system will unravel.
The in fighting in the Western Cape, in the run-up to the ANC provincial congress, is so intense that controversial ex-ANC councillor, Andile Lili, claims he was shot in an assassination attempt orchestrated by rivals to prevent him from standing for the ANC’s provincial leadership at their forthcoming congress.
So what makes DA congresses different? Why are they able to have strong electoral contests that are held peacefully and produce legitimate results?
It is not because DA members are inherently better people than members of other parties. It is because they practice what they preach.
The DA applies a simple but profound concept, universally described as constitutionalism and the rule-of-law.
Translated into everyday language this means: they have a democratic process of drawing up the rules, and then they stick to them.
This makes the DA work, in many different ways.
When it comes to elections, it means they are free and fair and produce outcomes that all accept, even if it is not what everyone wanted.
And those who won, commit to playing by the rules, and being open to challenge at the next election.
It is time for change in South Africa, both at local government level as well as in Parliament.