Revolution: rewind, reform, run and hide – or reboot?
What does that make the current ANC, SA Communist Party and Cosatu-led alliance? It seems to be a movement that has lost its way. While it has a radical vision, has delivered democracy, a radical Constitution, and ensured the delivery of basic services, social welfare and the beginnings of transformation, the weaknesses and failures of the current ANC leadership are undermining these gains. The leaders of the ANC lead by bombastic claims to legitimacy. The movement is no longer directed by the revolutionary national democrats and democratic socialists, but by a small, voracious elite who hold their material interests as the method of maintaining power in the organisation.
This leadership has made the democratic revolution grind to a halt. It has made the interests of the nation secondary to the interests of a few individuals and families, some of whom are not even South African.
The balance of leaders have their heads buried in the sand. Class formation has captured the leadership of the ANC, and those who have not aligned themselves with the programme of the new elite sit quietly.
What is the response?
There seem to be four responses to this situation in our organisation. One is to hark back nostalgically to the ANC of the past and try to wish it back into existence. As one sage political activist said, in the middle of the road crossing from the parliamentary precinct to a luxury hotel: “Comrades, that ANC you keep talking about, of Oliver Tambo, of Chris Hani, of Dora Tamana, face it, it’s gone! It’s never coming back!” The politics of reminiscence.
The second response is to think that a process of reform of the movement can happen gradually, slowly educating cadres to become principled revolutionaries and relying on a kind of magic that will ensure the values and principles written in the historical documents of our organisation will enter these cadres by a process of osmosis in the milieu of the sick, twisted, warped and perverse capitalism that is the product of colonialism and apartheid, and supercharged by globalisation. This is politics as ritual, a kind of magic or muti.
The third response is to ignore reality and blame all the ills we face on the opposition, on enemy agents, on anything and everything from pixies to the Illuminati! The run-and-hide-from-reality approach.
The fourth view is to recognise the challenges we face as being part of the success of the democratic revolution. This is about owning the changes we have brought about in terms of race, class, gender, differently abled people, youth and the elderly. It is a position that accepts that it is right that we have black millionaires, but wrong that we still have poverty. It accepts that it is right that we have universal social grants, but wrong that so many are still reliant on them. It accepts that although we have built houses, they are not of the size and quality we want our people to live in. It is a position that is uncompromising about corruption, nepotism, a poor work ethic and a two-tier society with one world for the rich and another for the poor. It is a position that understands that these successes, successes of the ANC, have created new challenges, and that we need to grasp the fact that this means we in the ANC have to change the way we organise, mobilise, debate and contest ideas, elections and practise governance. This is the revolutionary approach to politics. This is an ANC-led revolution. It must lead it. To do so, it must be the first to proclaim there are no holy cows. Even the ANC itself cannot be a holy cow.
It is the timidity of leaders that is the problem. The Constitution does not prohibit nationalisation, land reform, income grants, aggressive redistribution of wealth or compensation for the effects of apartheid.
Each of us might have different views about why this is so. Those who never supported the ANC will blame it. Those who have lost power to others in the ANC will blame the current leadership. Those in power now will blame the former regime and even, bizarrely, “enemy agents”.
We have had 26 years to change people’s lives in a substantial way and we have squandered the time. The former National Party dragged out the negotiations process and encumbered us with a system of provincial government and protections for the ill-gotten gains of colonialism and apartheid that is costly, ineffective and simply a further obstacle for taking government closer to the people. The ANC in government adopted policies that stifled growth and led to the exacerbation of the infrastructure backlog apartheid bequeathed us.
What do we have to do to move beyond this crisis and restore hope and movement towards the society defined in our Constitution? We must identify, promote and support a calibre of leaders who don’t steal public money, who don’t lie to their people, who stand up for the poor, the weak and the exploited, and who fight for political, economic and social justice. The ANC must lead this national dialogue.
Instead, members of the ANC are being whipped into line by a leadership that is caught up in trying to cover up for its indiscretions, and to protect its continued incumbency, to see the damage being done. Even worse is the possibility that they do not even care.
Dexter is an ANC member What do you think the ANC can do to set SA back on the path envisioned in the Constitution? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword ANC and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
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HEAR NO EVIL President Jacob Zuma and the ANC’s top brass launch the party's election manifesto in Port Elizabeth earlier this year. The party risks losing the municipality in the local government elections in August