Sav­ing the ANC

As for­mer cadres of Umkhonto weSizwe, we will not al­low our move­ment to walk into a mass grave, writes

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

The out­come of the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions in Au­gust 2016 left me aghast. I never imag­ined that the ANC would find it­self in the op­po­si­tion benches and cer­tainly not in a city such as Jo­han­nes­burg or Pre­to­ria where the seat of govern­ment – the Union Build­ings – lies. I was not alone.

There were oth­ers with whom I had shared the trenches be­fore 1994 who were con­cerned. They had watched other de­vel­op­ments.

For ex­am­ple, a few weeks after the elec­tions they watched on their TV screens as events un­folded out­side Luthuli House where mem­bers of the Umkhonto weSizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion (MKMVA) had gath­ered.

They assem­bled out­side Luthuli House in Septem­ber last year in mil­i­tary uni­form saying they were there as the peo­ple’s army, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), hav­ing an­nounced to the world that they were fol­low­ing bat­tle or­ders to de­fend the “black, green and gold”.

Those they were de­fend­ing the ANC against were a group of un­happy ANC mem­bers and sup­port­ers who had ar­rived to hand over a mem­o­ran­dum to the party’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Gwede Man­tashe.

Many watched with alarm, fear­ing the day would end in vi­o­lence. Were we go­ing to see for­mer mem­bers of MK in phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion with ANC mem­bers and sup­port­ers? A num­ber of for­mer se­nior com­man­ders of MK had be­come in­creas­ingly wor­ried about the state of or­gan­i­sa­tion of the ANC and, in par­tic­u­lar, the role that the MKMVA was play­ing in the po­lit­i­cal life of the ANC.

We were in­un­dated with calls and queries on a daily ba­sis. Com­man­ders, you led us be­fore MK was dis­banded. You are our se­niors. Are you just go­ing to sit back and do noth­ing? What are you go­ing to do?

To do noth­ing was not an op­tion. That is not the MK way. As one of the MK na­tional coun­cil res­o­lu­tions reads, in part: “… through­out the his­tory of our move­ment, and par­tic­u­larly in times of cri­sis, MK has con­trib­uted to find­ing solutions.”

Now it ap­peared to again quote one of the coun­cil res­o­lu­tions: “MKMVA had be­come in­volved in fac­tion­al­ism and sought to style it­self as the po­lit­i­cal voice of the Umkhonto weSizwe com­mu­nity, dis­tort­ing both the his­tory and val­ues of MK.”

How did I as the last chief of staff – or “Bra T” God­frey Ng­wenya, the long­est-serv­ing re­gional com­man­der in An­gola in ex­ile – rec­on­cile the val­ues and prac­tices we had been taught with what we saw on our TV screens?

A steer­ing com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished with other se­nior com­rades such as Tha­bang Mak­wetla, Dipuo Mve­lase, Tony Yen­geni, David “Dam­buza” Mal­ada and many more. We sought to bring these con­cerns to the at­ten­tion of MKMVA lead­er­ship with the as­sis­tance of the of­fice of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the ANC. These ef­forts failed. As did fur­ther ef­forts for a na­tional assem­bly of for­mer MK mem­bers to be con­vened by the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s of­fice.

We felt it was im­por­tant to pro­ceed and so we did. On De­cem­ber 17 last year, we con­vened the Umkhonto weSizwe na­tional coun­cil at Nas­rec in Jo­han­nes­burg. The event was at­tended by over 1 000 for­mer MK mem­bers, in­clud­ing min­is­ters, deputy min­is­ters and mem­bers of the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) of the ANC. On Monday, we met with ANC of­fi­cials, the so-called top six, to re­port on the coun­cil and present the coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

These res­o­lu­tions had been kept con­fi­den­tial un­til this meet­ing. We did not want to com­mu­ni­cate with our lead­ers through the me­dia. The res­o­lu­tions are now pub­lic and per­haps, as ex­pected, the one that has taken the me­dia (in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia) by storm is one that has been wrongly in­ter­preted as a coun­cil res­o­lu­tion call­ing on the [ANC] NEC to dis­band. A more care­ful read­ing of this res­o­lu­tion in fact re­veals that a strong feel­ing was ex­pressed at coun­cil that the NEC should step down at the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence, fol­lowed by all struc­tures of the ANC. That this is­sue would not be wel­comed by our com­rades among the top six is some­thing we were painfully aware of.

How­ever, our duty as lead­ers of coun­cil was not to wa­ter down res­o­lu­tions, but rather to en­sure that the man­ner in which they were drafted and com­mu­ni­cated re­flected the mood of coun­cil. Coun­cil was dis­ci­plined. But it was an­gry. Make no mis­take about this. The of­fi­cials’ view was that dis­solv­ing struc­tures when the ANC was fac­ing such se­vere chal­lenges would weaken the or­gan­i­sa­tion, not strengthen it.

The ap­proach had been tried be­fore, and had not worked. In many in­stances, one landed up with some­thing far worse.

Our dis­cus­sions with ANC of­fi­cials this week were there­fore open. They were frank, ro­bust and to the point. More im­por­tantly, the of­fi­cials wel­comed our ap­proach. Na­tional chair­per­son, Baleka Mbete, in fact said that were it not for this ap­proach, the lead­er­ship of the ANC would have been de­prived of vi­tal in­for­ma­tion. They dis­agreed that the NEC should dis­band, but were open to a forth­right, truth­ful con­ver­sa­tion. This hon­esty and tough­ness were what they ex­pected, they said, from those who had oc­cu­pied se­nior po­si­tions in MK.

The of­fi­cials gen­er­ally ac­knowl­edged the huge re­source the ANC had in for­mer MK cadres, in whom many years of po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence had been in­vested. An un­der­tak­ing was there­fore made to en­sure that for­mer MK mem­bers were fully in­volved in the ANC prepara­tory com­mit­tee for the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence and na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence.

It was also agreed in prin­ci­ple that both the Vet­er­ans’ League and MKMVA con­fer­ences be brought for­ward and prefer­ably take place be­fore the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence. Both events would pro­vide vi­tal in­put to the con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence and pol­icy con­fer­ence. There was also an in-prin­ci­ple agree­ment that for­mer MK mem­bers should be in­volved with the work of the na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee’s or­gan­is­ing and po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tees. Deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte un­der­took to ar­range plan­ning meet­ings with these struc­tures and the steer­ing com­mit­tee.

The of­fi­cials com­mit­ted to lend­ing their au­thor­ity to en­gage­ments be­tween the steer­ing com­mit­tee and ANC struc­tures.

One of these en­gage­ments took place on Tues­day when the steer­ing com­mit­tee met the lead­er­ship of MKMVA. The out­come of this dis­cus­sion, again a very pos­i­tive one, will be dis­cussed in a joint me­dia con­fer­ence next week.

There is a long way to go, but we are not dis­cour­aged. On the con­trary, we are en­cour­aged by the wel­com­ing spirit with which we were re­ceived this week. We are mind­ful of the hard work, but are deter­mined to not walk into a mass grave with any­one who seeks to bury the ANC. We are here as for­mer MK cadres not to bury the ANC, but to help save it.

Nyanda was the last chief of staff of MK

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