ANC tells veterans: Forget it
ANC leaders used a meeting with party veterans to tell them that they would not be getting a special consultative conference as promised earlier and that their criticism of the party was exaggerated.
The veterans were reprimanded for being too harsh on the current party leadership and were reminded that President Jacob Zuma’s ANC national executive had done sterling work to regain lost ground since the outcome of the municipal elections in August last year.
Members of the national working committee also indicated to the veterans that the recent by-elections that the ANC won demonstrated that the party was “on the path to recovery”.
The meeting, attended by Zuma, party chairperson Baleka Mbete, treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, also made it clear that the concerned groups’ proposed national consultative conference was dead and buried.
The group consisted of ANC elders, former leaders and military veterans. They had proposed a national consultative conference to rescue the ANC from a deepening crisis. They blamed poor leadership for the erosion of the ANC’s electoral support, saying the results pointed “to the frightening prospect of the potential demise of the ANC”. On Monday, the ANC would have none of it. “So that there’s no confusion,” ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba told the elders, “the national executive and the working committee never at any stage agreed to hold a national consultative conference”.
“What was agreed upon was to set aside two days before the policy conference to discuss the issues raised by the stalwarts,” said Matuba, according to minutes of the meeting. She was seconded by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.
The ANC had agreed to extend its upcoming June policy conference by two days to accommodate the disgruntled group’s proposal.
The concerned group subsequently requested that the policy conference be separated from the consultative conference – which would then be held at an earlier date.
ANC Youth League president Collin Maine reminded the elders that the national executive was the highest decisionmaking body in between conferences and that once it had taken a decision, everybody was expected to toe the line. “There will be no delinking of the national consultative conference from the policy conference,” Maine is quoted in the minutes.
Maine further told the concerned elders that “there is nowhere in the Constitution where provision is made for a national consultative conference”.
Only two members of the committee, which included Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, differed from their colleagues, saying that the national executive committee had agreed to a national consultative conference.
Zuma, who at the last meeting with veterans and stalwarts on January 16 promised that he would send their request back to the national executive for review, no longer mentioned his commitment and instead spoke of a joint preparatory committee consisting of three members who would prepare for the two-day meeting, “whatever you call them”.
Zuma said that, since the concerned groups came into existence as vehicles to engage the party leadership, the establishment of the preparatory committee would render these structures obsolete and they would disband as they would had fulfilled their mission.
However, the veterans and stalwarts left the Monday meeting on the verge of pulling out of the planned extended policy conference as it became clearer that their proposals would not be approved.
City Press has seen messages exchanged between disgruntled members of the group. Those veterans who still hold a view that the Zuma executive could be “persuaded by reason” were told by others to accept that “there is no way of saving the ANC and the country under the current leadership”.
A member of the stalwarts group, Omry Makgoale, told City Press that “those who are apologists say we should participate. But it would not help and it would be a fruitless effort, because the policy conference would be attended by the same slate that attended the 2012 Mangaung national conference [when Zuma was elected for a second term].”
The veterans’ leader, Siphiwe Nyanda, said it was “as if issues that concern us do not concern the ANC”.
“It is like they are accommodating us to come along, but they do not believe it is important that we have this national consultative conference,” said Nyanda, referring to the ANC’s position that the issues the veterans wanted to raise at a national consultative conference would be dealt with in the two days allocated at the start of the policy conference.
He said: “I am not happy; there is a reluctance on the part of the present leadership to attend to these matters that affect the ANC.”
Zuma, according to Nyanda, said at the last meeting that he would “go back to the ANC national executive committee and check if they could find it within themselves to accommodate our views”.
“We were asked for reasons ... and as far as we were concerned, we had given them valid views that the earlier we had an understanding about the challenges facing us, the better.”
Nyanda said the veterans and stalwarts collective would soon meet to map a way forward, and he was personally not convinced that the ANC’s proposed arrangement would be helpful.
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