At­tack­ing the stal­warts won’t solve ANC’s woes

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Mavuso Msimang voices@city­

In the course of de­liv­er­ing his open­ing address at the ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence last weekend, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma put aside his pre­pared speech and un­leashed a no-holds-barred in­vec­tive against the stal­warts and vet­er­ans of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Sub­se­quent protests by some of the se­nior lead­ers, among them na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Lindiwe Sisulu and Gaut­eng ANC chair­per­son Paul Mashatile, sus­tain the hope that not all is lost. In these chal­leng­ing times, our lead­ers need to re­mind them­selves of the maxim, “Qui tacet con­sen­tire vide­tur” – si­lence im­plies con­sent.

Here was a man who leads a deeply fis­sured or­gan­i­sa­tion com­pound­ing its woes by ma­li­ciously at­tack­ing a group of peo­ple whose only crime was that they con­tin­ued to in­sist on the ANC se­ri­ously and ex­pe­di­tiously tack­ling a cri­sis that has seen it in­ex­orably lose the con­fi­dence and trust of the na­tion – a cri­sis that has cost the ANC its hard-earned po­si­tion as a re­spected leader of so­ci­ety.

The peo­ple Zuma de­ri­sively refers to as “so-called lead­ers” in­clude up­wards of 175 in­di­vid­u­als, 101 of whom signed the doc­u­ment: For the Sake of our Fu­ture, which is in the pub­lic do­main. (Many more vet­er­ans who were not sig­na­to­ries are re­quest­ing to be in­cluded.) To qual­ify to be an ANC vet­eran, one must be at least 60 years of age, and have been a mem­ber of the or­gan­i­sa­tion for at least 40 years.

In the South African his­tor­i­cal con­text, pretty much all the vet­er­ans have made a con­tri­bu­tion of some sig­nif­i­cance, how­ever lit­tle, to the free­dom the coun­try achieved in 1994.

De­spite Zuma’s charges that this group con­sid­ers it­self too im­por­tant to be mem­bers of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s branches, it just so hap­pens that all the vet­er­ans with whom this writer has a per­sonal ac­quain­tance­ship are, in fact, ANC branch mem­bers, and in good stand­ing.

Zuma and ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe have both ac­cused the vet­er­ans of spurn­ing the two days the ANC lead­er­ship had set aside for hold­ing the con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence the vet­er­ans had been re­quest­ing since October last year. Man­tashe calls it “a lost op­por­tu­nity.” They also ac­cuse the vet­er­ans of look­ing down on ANC branch mem­bers.

Strange that, con­sid­er­ing that, in clause 15.1 of the vet­er­ans’ For the Sake of Our Fu­ture doc­u­ment, they say: “Among oth­ers, the rad­i­cal po­si­tions the or­gan­i­sa­tion should take must in­clude: open and trans­par­ent dis­cus­sions by mem­bers of branches and other struc­tures and in open pub­lic meet­ings fa­cil­i­tated by the vet­er­ans.”

This is what Zuma said about the vet­er­ans to the pol­icy con­fer­ence del­e­gates: “The branches, they think is just riff-raff. They want the dis­cus­sions to be on a high level.”

Man­tashe, quoted in The Cit­i­zen, said: “We could not agree how we talk to del­e­gates, and said they [stal­warts] won’t talk to del­e­gates of poor qual­ity, and they wanted to talk to ANC lead­er­ship... If you say branches are of poor qual­ity, you are blam­ing the vic­tims.”

The pres­i­dent says some­thing no one quite un­der­stands and the sec­re­tary-gen­eral cre­ates a straw man and then deftly de­mol­ishes, with feigned wis­dom, a case that was never made to be­gin with. So much for lead­er­ship in­tegrity.

For the record, in their email of June 9 this year, ad­dressed to Man­tashe, the stal­warts and vet­er­ans said: “The stal­warts ex­pressed con­cern that the Novem­ber 2016 de­ci­sion of the [na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee] re­quir­ing that the first two days of the pol­icy con­fer­ence would be ded­i­cated to the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence, pre­empted any dis­cus­sion on a num­ber of crit­i­cal fac­tors, not least the need for there to be an op­por­tu­nity for branches and other struc­tures of the ANC to con­sider the For the Sake Our Fu­ture doc­u­ment prior to the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence, and to crit­i­cally re­flect on the out­comes of the con­fer­ence.”

This is at vari­ance with Man­tashe’s claim that the vet­er­ans ex­clu­sively “wanted to talk to ANC lead­er­ship” or that they have scant re­gard for branch mem­bers.

The view of the vet­er­ans has al­ways been that the con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence would be the cul­mi­na­tion of an ex­ten­sive stake­holderen­gage­ment process.

The ANC lead­er­ship ob­vi­ously saw it dif­fer­ently, if at all. It is im­por­tant to eval­u­ate the state­ments made by Zuma and Man­tashe about the vet­er­ans against re­cent state­ments made by Fik­ile Mbalula and Jessie Duarte, who main­tain that there was never any agree­ment with the stal­warts and vet­er­ans on the hold­ing a con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence. Nei­ther Zuma nor Man­tashe dis­tanced them­selves from these ut­ter­ances.

When all has been said and done, the pol­icy con­fer­ence has come and gone, with Zuma tri­umphantly call­ing for a united ANC. Hearty con­grat­u­la­tions, Mr Pres­i­dent!

How­ever, a num­ber of key items await the im­per­iled ANC’s res­cue agenda. These in­clude, among oth­ers:

The de­vel­op­ment of a ruth­less strat­egy to root out the en­demic cor­rup­tion en­gulf­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion and the state;

Deal­ing de­ci­sively with the phe­nom­e­non of “crim­i­nal state cap­ture” – the SA Coun­cil of Churches’ Un­bundling Re­port, the aca­demic study, Be­trayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Be­ing Stolen, and the #Gup­taLeaks would be good source doc­u­ments;

How to get the ANC lead­er­ship to ex­tri­cate its par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from be­ing in breach of the Constitution; and

Mod­ernising the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mem­ber­ship re­cruit­ment strat­egy and its in­ter­nal elec­toral pro­cesses, and so on.

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