The ANC, which once pur­sued a just, non­ra­cial, non­sex­ist, eq­ui­table and demo­cratic so­ci­ety, has been set on a per­ilous tra­jec­tory and into an un­en­vi­able state of de­spair by its lead­ers

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Frank Chikane voices@city­press.co.za TALK TO US

In her poem On the Pulse of Morn­ing, late AfricanAmer­i­can poet and civil rights ac­tivist Maya An­gelou wrote: “His­tory, de­spite its wrench­ing pain, can­not be un­lived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” For his part, in his May 10 1994 in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela pledged that our coun­try shall “never, never and never again … ex­pe­ri­ence the op­pres­sion of one by an­other, and suffer the in­dig­nity of be­ing the skunk of the world”.

Man­dela’s solemn pledge was a vo­lu­mi­nous state­ment about 350 years of wrench­ing pain, and an af­fir­ma­tion of our de­ter­mi­na­tion to build a new so­ci­ety founded on an en­tirely dif­fer­ent logic and value sys­tem.

Two weeks be­fore that, on April 27, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of South Africans had given the ANC an over­whelm­ing man­date to gov­ern in pur­suit of a just, non­ra­cial, non­sex­ist, eq­ui­table and demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

But lo and be­hold, to­day the dom­i­nant lead­er­ship of the ANC has put the party and the coun­try on a per­ilous tra­jec­tory and into an un­en­vi­able state of de­spair. In fact, we are al­ready “suf­fer­ing the in­dig­nity of be­ing a skunk of the world” again, and are now re­liv­ing the wrench­ing pain that we ex­pe­ri­enced in the past.

Those who are in­volved in this project of lead­ing the ANC to its own demise have plugged their ears and have ig­nored any ad­vice or warn­ing to change course.

The top­i­cal ques­tion within and out­side ANC cir­cles is, how did we get here? What does our cur­rent state say of the care and courage – or lack thereof – with which we have han­dled the free­dom for which many fought and died?

To an­swer these ques­tions, vet­er­ans and stal­warts of the ANC will hold a na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence from Novem­ber 17 to 19. The con­fer­ence will draw a large num­ber of lead­ers from the ANC, its al­liance part­ners and struc­tures of the Mass Demo­cratic Move­ment as a whole.

The con­fer­ence fol­lows the vet­er­ans’ sus­tained and hon­est at­tempts to en­gage con­struc­tively with the lead­er­ship of the ANC so that, to­gether, we can be­gin ef­forts to re­solve the challenges fac­ing the party and the coun­try. These at­tempts, sadly, fell on deaf ears and were met with ob­struc­tion.

The lead­ing and dom­i­nant fac­tion of the elected lead­er­ship did its best to frus­trate the vet­er­ans by ques­tion­ing their bona fides, hurl­ing in­sults and ob­scen­i­ties at them or oth­er­wise out­sourc­ing this lowly func­tion to peo­ple with lit­tle, ques­tion­able or no his­tory in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Worse still, they ques­tioned the vet­er­ans’ very right to ex­press them­selves as mem­bers of the ANC and cit­i­zens of the repub­lic.

As the challenges wors­ened, the elected lead­er­ship’s pos­ture ap­peared to change, at least at the level of pub­lic re­la­tions. They agreed to meet with the vet­er­ans and took on board sev­eral of the sug­ges­tions con­tained in the doc­u­ment ti­tled For the Sake of our Fu­ture, in­clud­ing the con­ven­ing of the na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence be­fore the ANC’s re­cent na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence. What fol­lowed, how­ever, was noth­ing short of a cir­cus as the elected lead­er­ship kept the vet­er­ans busy in meet­ings in­tended to hood­wink them into be­liev­ing that there would come a no-holds-barred con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence.

As we move closer to this un­prece­dented assem­bly of ANC cadres and civil so­ci­ety in post-apartheid South Africa, we would do well to dis­cuss the causes of how we ar­rived where we are; to ap­pre­ci­ate the enor­mity of the chal­lenge be­fore us and agree on what is to be done to re-en­er­gise the na­tion’s col­lec­tive ca­pac­ity to act as the masters of our des­tiny, and thus re­cap­ture our coun­try.

Notwith­stand­ing claims to the con­trary by some in the lead­er­ship, the ANC and the coun­try have been on a course to the abyss for more than a decade. Claims and cliches of “a good story to tell” are man­i­festly con­tra­dicted by daily tragi­com­i­cal episodes of a cen­tre that is an­ti­thet­i­cal to the pub­lic good.

Since 1994, pres­i­dents, sec­re­taries-gen­eral and other lead­ers of the ANC have de­cried the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of ca­reerism and cor­rup­tion. In 1997, in his po­lit­i­cal re­port de­liv­ered at the 50th na­tional con­fer­ence in Mahikeng, Man­dela, in his ca­pac­ity as party pres­i­dent, noted that “many among our mem­bers see their mem­ber­ship of the ANC as a means to ad­vance their per­sonal am­bi­tions to at­tain po­si­tions of power and ac­cess to re­sources for their own in­di­vid­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ingly, they work to ma­nip­u­late the move­ment to cre­ate the con­di­tions for their suc­cess.” Do you think it’s too late for the party’s lead­ers to mend their ways? Has SA al­ready fallen over the cliff? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word WARNED and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

By then, ca­reerism had “cre­ated such prob­lems as divi­sion within the move­ment, con­flicts based on dif­fer­ences among in­di­vid­u­als, the en­cour­age­ment of rank in­dis­ci­pline lead­ing to the un­der­min­ing of our or­gan­i­sa­tional in­tegrity, con­flict within com­mu­ni­ties and the de­mor­al­i­sa­tion of some of the best cadres of our or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

Man­dela also pointed to the emer­gence of “var­i­ous in­stances of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing our own mem­bers, in­clud­ing those who oc­cupy po­si­tions of author­ity by virtue of the vic­tory of the demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion. These have sought ei­ther to steal pub­lic re­sources or to ex­port fi­nan­cial tributes from the peo­ple in re­turn for ser­vices to which the peo­ple are en­ti­tled, and which those in author­ity are legally and morally obliged to pro­vide.”

From 1997 on­wards, re­ports by the ANC pres­i­dent and sec­re­tary-gen­eral de­voted suf­fi­cient time and space to ca­reerism, cor­rup­tion and their man­i­fes­ta­tions. Man­dela con­fessed that “we, our­selves, have … al­lowed the space to emerge for … op­por­tunists to pur­sue their counter-revo­lu­tion­ary goals, to the detri­ment of our move­ment and strug­gle”. The ANC had, in the three years from 1994 to 1997, “found it dif­fi­cult to deal with [these ail­ments] in a de­ci­sive man­ner”.

The ANC had also “ac­quired many mem­bers who have no ex­pe­ri­ence of strug­gle”, and “very lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of the challenges of fun­da­men­tal so­cial trans­for­ma­tion”. The re­port ar­gued for “con­tin­u­ous po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion of our mem­bers, to en­sure that they be­come real mem­bers of our or­gan­i­sa­tion and not mere card car­ri­ers”.

There were sub­jec­tive and ob­jec­tive rea­sons for the gen­eral fail­ure to deal de­ci­sively with these and other challenges be­fore and since 1997. The suc­cess that was reg­is­tered by a sus­tained lead­er­ship an­ti­cor­rup­tion nar­ra­tive on the one hand and the im­por­tance of so­cial sol­i­dar­ity on the other; the em­pha­sis on lead­ing by ex­am­ple; the im­por­tance of pru­dent fis­cal man­age­ment; the im­per­a­tive for bridg­ing the dis­tance be­tween the lead­ers and the peo­ple; the es­tab­lish­ment of the Direc­torate of Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions; and plac­ing em­pha­sis on rea­soned de­bate rather than un­sub­stan­ti­ated opin­ions and gut feel­ing. Set­ting our sights on pol­icy mat­ters over per­son­al­i­ties and other mea­sures later fell vic­tim to party machi­na­tions as ca­reerism and cor­rup­tion ma­tured a decade later. This would lead to a plethora of mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing con­se­quences.

Firstly, the party’s in­sti­tu­tional cul­ture and out­look would change from one fo­cused on re­solv­ing abid­ing na­tional challenges – such as the legacy of colo­nial­ism and apartheid – to one of feather­ing the nests of the lead­er­ship, their fam­i­lies, friends and as­so­ciates. In this con­text, a pro-ANC po­lit­i­cal rhetoric would be sus­tained for as long as it re­mained a pop­u­lar or­gan­is­ing cur­rency, es­pe­cially dur­ing elec­tions.

Se­condly, those who are lead­ing this project that is threat­en­ing to de­stroy the ANC would have to at­tract to them­selves and the state ma­chin­ery peo­ple with lit­tle or no civic and po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness. These would, by in­stinct or in­struc­tion, act at vari­ance with key con­sti­tu­tional and other le­gal pre­scripts, as well as so­cially per­mis­si­ble norms and val­ues. Where this would guar­an­tee the peo­ple in whose in­ter­ests the op­er­a­tives act, the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of their mis­deeds would mean the even­tual eclipse of the ANC’s pres­tige and stand­ing among the peo­ple, the con­ti­nent and the world.

Thirdly, the crude na­ture of the project and the raw and vul­gar dis­po­si­tions of the per­son­al­i­ties would in­evitably mean that the rhetoric must of­fend against ra­tio­nal and log­i­cal po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic propo­si­tions about the func­tion­ing of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, the state and a so­ci­ety as di­verse as South Africa. As one has as­serted, the pre­vail­ing logic is one of self-in­ter­est as op­posed to the pub­lic good. A small but sig­nif­i­cant in­di­ca­tor of this is op­po­si­tion to the pre­sen­ta­tion of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s “di­ag­nos­tic re­port”, which sought to dis­cuss or­gan­i­sa­tional and, by im­pli­ca­tion, state challenges by some del­e­gates at the re­cent na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence.

Fourthly, cor­rup­tion mu­tates po­lit­i­cal par­ties into mafia car­tels, which must link up with the sim­i­larly du­bi­ously in­clined else­where at home and be­yond borders. The state ceases to be an en­tity for and about the peo­ple, and in­stead acts for and on be­half of the cartel.

At the Mahikeng con­fer­ence, Man­dela ob­served that fail­ure to deal with the challenges he dis­cussed would re­sult in “op­po­nents of our move­ment and our revo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tives … in­ten­sify[ing] their own of­fen­sive to pro­mote their ob­jec­tives, which are op­posed to our goal of cre­at­ing a bet­ter life for all”.

The cur­rent de­bate about “state cap­ture” must also be un­der­stood in this con­text. In fact, it could be said that the cor­rupt el­e­ments within the ANC sur­ren­dered the state, lock stock and bar­rel, to the cap­tur­ers rather than the other way around. No won­der there is no ag­gres­sive ef­fort to stop the cap­ture of our state en­ti­ties.

Fifthly, the mafia op­er­ates on ruth­less­ness. The con­tin­u­ing sense­less slaugh­ter of mem­bers and lead­ers of the ANC, par­tic­u­larly in KwaZulu-Natal, and the hooli­gan­ism in ANC con­fer­ences and func­tions are a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the mafi­ari­sa­tion of the ANC. Par­tic­i­pants in these mer­ce­nary ac­tiv­i­ties would do well to re­mem­ber that there is no hon­our among thieves. Those who visit harm on oth­ers and buy votes like com­modi­ties know no loy­alty and have no moral com­punc­tion. They have not hes­i­tated to sur­ren­der state or­gans to spe­cific fam­i­lies and have fa­cil­i­tated il­le­gal out­flows of bil­lions of rands at the ex­pense of the peo­ple of South Africa. They have also not hes­i­tated to pun­ish those who re­sist their project with all the means avail­able to them.

Sixthly, the com­bi­na­tion of these fac­tors has meant that the econ­omy must bleed and scream as the fo­cus is one of loot­ing rather than cre­at­ing new wealth and a bet­ter life for all cit­i­zens. The me­te­oric rise in the na­tional debt from 27.8% in 2008 to the cur­rent 52% must be un­der­stood in this con­text.

The un­named pro­tag­o­nist in Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel The Beau­ty­ful Ones Are Not Yet Born ex­pressed pro­found dis­ap­point­ment at the post-colo­nial project in terms that few of my gen­er­a­tion would have imag­ined, much less an­tic­i­pated in demo­cratic South Africa: “So this was the real gain. The only real gain. This was the thing for which poor men had fought and shouted [and died]. This was what it had come to: not that the whole thing might be over­turned and ended, but that a few black men might be pushed closer to their masters, to eat some of the fat into their bel­lies too. That had been the en­tire end of it all.”

As in much of the con­ti­nent’s post-colo­nial ex­pe­ri­ence, we are walk­ing back­wards to­wards the wrench­ing pain of our his­tory; the very treach­er­ous steps Man­dela vowed we would never again take. Ex­cept for those who have taken a stand, the cur­rent lead­er­ship shall not be able to ex­plain how it per­mit­ted the ANC to mu­tate it­self out of ex­is­tence. It will not be able to ex­plain how this move­ment, whose con­sis­tency and loy­alty to the cause of our peo­ple in­serted it so firmly in the hearts and minds of mil­lions through­out the past cen­tury, was de­railed from its cause. Those who have openly cham­pi­oned this project will leave the un­en­vi­able bur­den to their chil­dren to ex­plain what their fore­bears did to the peo­ple’s move­ment and the coun­try.

It re­mains to be seen if the solem­nity of this ob­ser­va­tion con­sti­tutes enough of a warn­ing for the lead­er­ship to mend its ways and al­low the peo­ple to re­claim the legacy of the move­ment.

The vet­er­ans’ con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence is a de­ter­mined at­tempt to break ranks with the post­colo­nial de­tour that the dom­i­nant lead­er­ship of the ANC has been sin­gle-mind­edly in pur­suit of. It is about the re­birth of the dream of a truly just, non­ra­cial, non­sex­ist, pros­per­ous and demo­cratic South Africa.

We owe it to our chil­dren.

Chikane is church leader, a for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral in the pres­i­dency and sec­re­tary of Cab­i­net, and is part of the ‘101 plus’ vet­er­ans and stal­warts. He will be writ­ing reg­u­lar ar­ti­cles for City

Press in the lead-up to the ANC’s De­cem­ber con­fer­ence

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