WHITHER THE ANC?
Come December, ANC leaders will be seeking new terms through delegates they themselves have described as infiltrated by thieves, write Mavuso Msimang and Thami Ntenteni
During the August 2016 local government elections, urban voters deprived the ANC of the governance of the municipalities of the Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg metros. This effectively terminated control by the party of liberation of the strategic and economically crucial cities that host the country’s legislature, the executive and business capitals.
Many thought this would signal a wake-up call for the ANC and cause it to embark on a programme of sorely needed corrective action. Instead, the leadership announced that it accepted collective responsibility for the organisation’s disastrous electoral performance, and retreated, clothed in its insularity, to some recess where it supposedly did some serious introspection. Neither its broad membership nor society at large has any clue as to the content of this conclave save for touted platitudes about “engaging the structures” as well as “renewed commitment to fighting corruption”.
Alarmed by the citizens’ declining confidence in their organisation, ANC veterans proposed the convening of a consultative conference where members, alliance partners and other progressive formations of society would find each other, engage in serious course correction and work towards retrieving, at the least, some of the lost values that had once made the ANC a leader of society.
The most the leaders of the organisation managed to do was permit the veterans a handful of tokenistic meetings. Shamelessly, our current leaders, such as they are, publicly reneged on their earlier commitment to participate in the envisaged conference. Continuation of the effort seemed totally pointless yet, “For the sake of our future”, as the veterans’ founding document says, the grey hairs persisted but to no avail.
The veterans should have known better. In an article written by Floyd Shivambu, deputy president of the Economic Freedom Fighters, back in 2015, and published by the Daily Maverick, he raised the alarm about the pervasive influence of the Gupta family on the leadership of the ANC. He wrote: “[Finance minister] Nene was removed to open space for the Gupta syndicate to loot state resources for private enrichment.” He went on to say: “The Guptas have established a solid network inside the ANC and have disproportionate and decisive influence in what happens in the ruling party and the state ... In their network of influence they have the premiers of the Free State and North West provinces, chairpersons and CEOs of state-owned companies.” How spot-on he was, now that we all know.
Shivambu observed tellingly that, as ANC Youth League leader, “Malema was privy to the reality that the Guptas would call individual members of the ANC national executive committee to tell them which ministerial position had been given to them, prior to the official announcement by Mr Zuma”. Fikile Mbalula, Shivambu cites as an example, “was told by Atul Gupta that he was going to be minister of sport before [President] Zuma announced the decision”.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the SA Council of Churches (SACC) unveils its Unburdening Panel report which revealed, among other things, “the systematic patterns of government wrongdoing”, and refers to “observable trends of inappropriate control of state systems through a power elite that is pivoted around the president of the republic that is systematically siphoning [off] the assets of the state”.
In its 2017 triennial conference in Benoni, the SACC meeting unanimously resolved that the democratically elected government of South Africa “has lost its legitimacy”. It resolved to call for the dissolution of Parliament and for fresh elections “to secure a fresh mandate based on acceptable values and on integrity”. The conference also resolved to convene a national convention “that includes a broad base of South Africans to reflect on these matters”.
In a document titled Saving the Soul of the ANC, Reverend Frank Chikane, a member of the stalwarts and veterans of the ANC, makes the observation that “The soul of the ANC is under severe attack, not from external forces as we would have thought, but from its own members and leaders ... it is clear that the greatest threat to the soul of the movement is from its own members and leaders who are being corrupted and transformed into self-serving agents.”
Fate sometimes works in marvellous ways. Recently published #GuptaFiles, a collection of between 100 000 and 200 000 hacked emails, lay bare the extent of the Gupta family’s influence and control over the state and state institutions such as Eskom, Denel, SAA and several others. If there was any scepticism about the veracity of the statements by Shivambu and the SACC and the thrust of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report and other documents, proof positive of the rot lies thick in the contents of these emails.
Lest it be forgotten, the ANC’s own presidential report of 2005 identified corruption and patronage as posing a grave risk to the delivery of services and the eradication of poverty. It concludes pointedly that membership of the ANC becomes an easy route of access to state power which in turn “makes membership of the ANC an attractive commercial proposition”. It is from this contaminated membership that the leadership expects to renew its tenure in office, come December 2017.
ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa recently told his audience in Mthatha that divisions in the ANC were not based on politics but “on money, because we are fighting about money and nothing else … money is used to buy votes”. Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, master of doublespeak, has said: “There are three things that will destroy the ANC [as] we know it. One is corruption, thieves. We have no shortage of them. The second is factionalism, where members of the ANC are loyal to different leaders.” It seems only two examples sufficed for Mantashe.
Despite overwhelming evidence of corruption and the treasonable pillaging by the Guptas of assets that belong to South Africans, including many poor ones, President Zuma claims that he is the victim of vilification by “white monopoly capitalists” – and their agents – who are angered by the president’s programme for the “radical transformation of the economy”. Ironically, Malusi Gigaba, newly installed as finance minister, says there is actually no difference between the so-called radical economic transformation and the “inclusive growth” strategy pursued by ousted finance minister Pravin Gordhan and approved by Cabinet. Call it what you like, he says, it’s the same difference. All of which begs the question why anyone would be fooled by the president’s cynical, diversionary sloganeering.
Come December 2017, the ANC leaders will be seeking to renew their five-year tenure of office on the back of delegates the deputy president and the secretary-general describe as infiltrated by thieves and self-seekers, and people whose votes are bought with money. It’s a crying shame.
The veterans and stalwarts, the increasing number of conscientious national executive committee leaders and their colleagues in Parliament, as well as concerned citizens, must join hands and work together to build the South Africa they deserve.