An unprecedented string of scandals has led to a haemorrhaging of support for South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) that can only be reversed with a thorough purge of the leadership, according to analysts.
With its former chief whip in prison, his successor accused of sexual harrassment and its deputy president under a cloud after his financial adviser was jailed, the party that has dominated power since the end of apartheid appears intent on dragging itself through the mud on a weekly basis.
"This puts the party in as bad a position as ever before," says political analyst Frederik van Zyl Slabbert. "There is no cohesive control. The leadership is just giving speeches about corruption and everything, but there is no action; nothing is being done. The only solution, which seems to be hard for the party leaders, is to fire the corrupt officials and get Luthuli House [ANC headquarters] in order. Period."
Aubrey Matshiqi, an analyst at the Johannesburg-based Centre for Policy Studies, says the conduct of ANC bigwigs is damaging public faith in South Africa's fledgling democracy. "It undermines the confidence of the voter, undermines the image of politics and politicians in general. People are no longer having confidence in the party's moral authority," he says.
Matshiqi says if the party is unable to clean up its house, then voters who have previously given their overwhelming backing to the ANC as a result of its leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle may look elsewhere. "If this tendency is not arrested soon, it may be beneficial to democracy, giving people a chance to look at reliable alternatives to the ANC," he says.
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