By: H.M. Okumu
When more than 10 political parties came together to form the Jubilee mega party at the onset of the 2017 elections many people were shocked by this surprise move which was spearheaded by President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. More than a year down the line and it doesn’t seem like it was such a bad idea. The vehicle that is Jubilee weathered the storm and was deemed by the electorate as a roadworthy machine to run the country for the next 5 years.
In recent times the magnanimity of the Jubilee Party has drawn it to close resemblance to South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC). ANC is South Africa’s governing party and has been in power since the transition to democracy in April 1994. The organisation was initially founded as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912 in Bloemfontein, with the aim of fighting for the rights of black South Africans. The organization was renamed the ANC in 1923.
While the organization’s early period was characterized by political inertia due to power struggles and lack of resources, increasing repression and the entrenchment of white minority rule galvanized the party. All of which are similar to the power struggles that gripped the Jubilee Party as a result of the merger. After the establishment of apartheid, its aversion to dissent by Black people and brutal crackdown of political activists, the ANC together with the SACP formed a military wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation/ MK) in 1961. This is perhaps they key difference between Jubilee and ANC as ANC presented itself as an anti establishment instrument while the Jubilee has coloured itself as a pro development party.
In the South African national elections from 1994 to 2004 the ANC had consistently risen in electoral popularity. With the 2009 elections the party suffered a drop in popularity that was repeated in 2014. This time period also coincided with the presidency of Jacob Zuma. The rise in popularity is very similar to Jubilee’s rise in popularity towards the 2017 elections and thereafter. In recent times there has been infighting in Jubilee as some members from Rift Valley have been uncomfortable with the alliance between the Party leader and the Former Premier. Similarly, in the late 1920s the ANC’s leaders split over the issue of cooperation with the Communist Party (founded in 1921), and the ensuing victory of the conservatives left the party small and disorganized through the 1930s.
In the 1940s, however, the ANC revived under younger leaders who pressed for a more militant stance against segregation in South Africa. The ANC Youth League, founded in 1944, attracted such figures as Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Mandela, who galvanized the movement and challenged the moderate leadership. Under the presidency of Albert Luthuli, the ANC after 1952 began sponsoring nonviolent protests, strikes, boycotts, and marches against the apartheid policies that had been introduced by the National Party government that came to power in 1948. This approach to presenting itself as a youth sensitive party has also been adopted by the Jubilee Party in recent times causing the party membership to grow rapidly.
In 1960 the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which had broken away from the ANC in 1959, organized massive demonstrations against the pass laws during which police killed 69 unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville (south of Johannesburg). At this point the National Party banned, or outlawed, both the ANC and the PAC. Denied legal avenues for political change, the ANC first turned to sabotage and then began to organize outside of South Africa for guerrilla warfare. In 1961 an ANC military organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), with Mandela as its head, was formed to carry out acts of sabotage as part of its campaign against apartheid. Mandela and other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 (the Rivonia Trial). Although the ANC’s campaign of guerrilla warfare was basically ineffective because of stringent South African internal security measures, surviving ANC cadres kept the organization alive in Tanzania and Zambia under Tambo’s leadership. The ANC began to revive inside South Africa toward the end of the 1970s, following the Soweto uprising in 1976, when the police and army killed more than 600 people, many of them children.
The administration of F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC in 1990, and its leaders were released from prison or allowed to return to South Africa and conduct peaceful political activities. Nelson Mandela, the most important of the ANC’s leaders, succeeded Oliver Tambo as president in 1991. Mandela led the ANC in negotiations (1992–93) with the government over transition to a government elected by universal suffrage. In April 1994 the party swept to power in the country’s first such election, winning more than 60 percent of the vote for seats in the new National Assembly. This is close to Jubilee’s huge electoral in the last two general elections.
Mandela, who headed a government of national unity, was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994. Like Mandela, President Uhuru Kenyatta has also embarked on a strategy of unifying the country first by initiating the celebrated the March 9 handshake. Similarly the “coalition” of sorts that has sprung between ODM and Jubilee post the handshake is similar to when in 1996, the ANC entered into an alliance with its previous rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party, led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Mandela stepped down as ANC president in 1997, and in June 1999 his successor, Thabo Mbeki, became the second black president of South Africa. This is what is hoped of Jubilee, that Uhuru will step down and Ruto will take the mantle of leadership of the party and the country from him. ANC celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2002 and continued its domination of South African politics, this is hoped to be the future of Jubilee as well.
So as we look at these similarities, it paints a picture of a classic old dog, new dog dilemma. Whereas the new dog is like the old one in many ways and should learn from the old dog. It must avoid the old dogs enemies and try to discover it’s own signature bark or else there is always the sad possibility that thieves will use the same trick they used to distract the old dog to distract the new one.