Lend wise el­ders an ear

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Lead­ers of the gov­ern­ing party are in­creas­ingly tak­ing note of a steady stream of be­hav­iour on the part of its mem­bers which ap­pears “alien” to the ANC. They speak of the ur­gent need for the party to rid it­self of con­duct un­be­com­ing if it is to sur­vive and thrive, and con­tinue to run South Africa.

The con­duct re­ferred to in­cludes dis­plays of open and brazen cor­rup­tion, the buy­ing of branches, ill-dis­ci­pline, dis­rup­tive be­hav­iour at meet­ings, the emer­gence of per­son­al­ity cults and the pub­lic ex­change of in­sults among mem­bers.

The most re­cent show of bad form has to do with mem­bers den­i­grat­ing party veter­ans and stal­warts, who have dared to of­fer coun­sel that is not in line with the think­ing of cer­tain group­ings.

The ANC’s na­tional lead­er­ship has had its fill deal­ing with this dis­turb­ing trend, but seems pow­er­less to in­stil aware­ness among its in­creas­ing num­bers of rogue lead­ers of the stature of the party’s grey-haired brigade.

Just the other week, the ANC had to shout down Kebby Maphat­soe, chair­per­son of the Umkhonto weSize Mil­i­tary Veter­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion and him­self a vet­eran – of hurl­ing in­sults, that is – for de­scrib­ing ANC stal­warts as “empty tins” af­ter they spoke out about the cur­rent state of the party and the di­rec­tion the coun­try is tak­ing.

Not to be out­done, last week­end ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine ar­ro­gantly told the stal­warts to shut up be­cause “we don’t owe you any­thing” and “you don’t have spe­cial mem­ber­ship”. He made the ex­tra­or­di­nary claim that he and his ilk may have done a bet­ter job than the veter­ans had they been around in the 1960s, when the armed strug­gle com­menced.

And, speak­ing on the same plat­form as Maine, eThek­wini mayor and re­gional chair­per­son Zandile Gumede called the veter­ans “amafake”.

Those who have de­clared open sea­son on the stal­warts seem to have the back­ing of the man on whose be­half they make th­ese slurs. He him­self has taken to throw­ing shade at the veter­ans, and has ques­tioned their stand­ing within the struc­tures of the ANC – an un­think­able thing for a leader of a lib­er­a­tion move­ment to do.

Crowds of ANC sup­port­ers cheered as th­ese in­sults were fired, thick and fast, at a gen­er­a­tion which gave its all for the re­pub­lic. This is an odd­ity, and an em­bar­rass­ing trend in the ANC – an or­gan­i­sa­tion steeped in tra­di­tion, which could hith­erto tap into the aura of its lib­er­a­tion strug­gle cre­den­tials to re­tain pop­u­lar sup­port.

Un­til th­ese dis­rup­tions, the ANC was renowned for jeal­ously guard­ing its own­er­ship of lib­er­a­tion strug­gle icons. Many will re­call re­cent in­ci­dents il­lus­trat­ing this, such as the party throw­ing tod­dler tantrums when the DA at­tempted to ap­pro­pri­ate Nel­son Man­dela’s legacy as part of its elec­tion cam­paign, and when it fiercely op­posed the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ claim­ing Solomon Mahlangu as one of its icons.

How strange to now find promi­nent party mem­bers dis­own­ing some of its most ven­er­a­ble re­cruits. Even stranger is the fact that th­ese veter­ans are be­ing called out for try­ing to re­di­rect the ANC from the rocky road it is travers­ing to a smooth path lead­ing to a bet­ter place. It is most un­nat­u­ral to re­ject one’s el­ders for per­form­ing the role which el­ders are meant to.

All so­ci­eties need a group of el­ders who can be called upon for coun­sel when the go­ing gets tough. From na­tions to or­gan­i­sa­tions and sports clubs, from vil­lages to fam­i­lies, all re­quire the wis­dom of el­ders. Even if it comes un­so­licited, this wis­dom is in­valu­able. And heaven knows just how badly this coun­try and the gov­ern­ing party needs that wis­dom right now.

The ANC and, by ex­ten­sion, South Africa are blessed with pre-em­i­nent el­ders who con­tinue to live by the courage of their con­vic­tions. Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als led one of the world’s most cel­e­brated free­dom strug­gles, hav­ing armed them­selves with the best in­tel­lec­tual tools at their dis­posal. They serve as a repos­i­tory of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence, which we should be ea­gerly tap­ping into.

This is not to say they are in­fal­li­ble. We should not wor­ship them for the sake of it, but rather, re­spect their good in­ten­tions and hon­our their words of wis­dom be­fore they de­part our world.

In con­trast, those who seek to re­duce their sta­tus be­tray just how morally want­ing they are.

In re­ject­ing and den­i­grat­ing our es­teemed el­ders, such in­grates are work­ing to cre­ate a na­tion of imidl­wembe, or po­lit­i­cal ban­dits. Al­ready in­tel­lec­tu­als have been de­monised and re­li­gious lead­ers who have spo­ken out have been roundly re­buked. Calls by hon­est party mem­bers and state of­fi­cials for pro­bity have been met with de­ri­sion. And in­sti­tu­tions which have stead­fastly ful­filled their man­date have been termed rogue.

The as­sault on veter­ans marks an­other step to­wards the creation of a mdl­wembe so­ci­ety. The ANC has turned a blind eye to other con­duct un­be­com­ing, but the abuse of veter­ans should raise alarms and be re­garded as sac­ri­lege by the ANC, given that th­ese are at­tacks on its own his­tory.

It all goes to show just how far party mem­bers’ morals and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tives have slid.

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