It’s up to ANC’s party branches
Now that branch meetings are commencing, the challenge is how they will face the difficult realities facing a party with divided loyalties
SEPTEMBER has arrived and in accordance with the May 29 decision of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), the nomination process for candidates to serve as national officials and additional members of the NEC are proceeding at branch general meetings (BGMs).
The process that is unfolding will be critical for the future of the ANC as there is no need to deny that the party is going through an excruciatingly difficult time.
There are deep divisions and internal policy and other differences that have spilled over into the public domain are fought out on public platforms, in social media, on TV screens and on the front pages of national newspapers.
The organisational discipline of democratic centralism that has in the past served the ANC well, to deal with organisational and policy differences internally, no longer holds.
Perhaps more than any other factor it was adherence to the discipline of democratic centralism that helped the ANC to traverse the difficult years of exile. It survived in a manner that few liberation movements under similar circumstances were able to achieve.
However, it seems that the great practitioner of the delicate balancing act of “unity through internal democracy” in the broad church of the ANC, OR Tambo, was correct when he warned: “Comrades, you might think it is very difficult to wage a liberation struggle. Wait until you are in power. At that stage you will realise that it is actually more difficult to keep the power than to wage a liberation war.”
With his usual astuteness, Tambo foresaw that the terrain of struggle for determining the decisions of governing – especially with regards to economic policy – would be accompanied by efforts by the descendants of the white colonialists in the current form of white monopoly capital, to entice those who are entrusted by the ANC with the governing power – to change the economic power dynamics, through making them cobenefactors in the existing status quo.
This process commenced even before our first democratic elections on April 27, 1994, and proceeded apace thereafter.
Specific government departments such the Treasury, Mineral Resources and Land Affairs, together with the incumbent national ministers and provincial MECs, were targeted.
Possibilities of personal advancement and enrichment for themselves and their families opened up in a manner that they could not have hoped for in their wildest dreams during the harsh days of the Struggle.
Much is being written about state capture, but in reality this is the real story of the certain and comprehensive capture of comrades, who slowly but surely became so entangled in the capitalist system that they were previously committed to fight.
Sadly they have become its captive servants and fight with whatever means available to keep the current system intact.
The reality is that they now seem to find that they have more in common with white monopoly capitalists on whom they rely for their continuing advancement, than the toiling and poor masses whom as ANC members they ought to serve.
It is this process of the capture of the small, but emerging black bourgeoisie and many in the black middle class who are aspiring to join the ranks of their black bourgeois role models, that leads to a situation where the former collective loyalty to the ANC has been replaced by a stronger loyalty to personal material advancement, and resulting in the disintegration of an adherence to democratic centralism.
In fact, it is even too simplistic to describe the manner, in which ANC policy battles are now fought outside the organisation in the public domain, simply as illdiscipline.
In reality, those who are captured by their new masters, to whom they have pledged their loyalty and discipline.
While they are still inside the ANC, and parade around in ANC colours, they are agents for white monopoly capital within the ANC. As I have written before: they have become the enemy within.
Understanding this reality helps to explain why they so easily, seamlessly and publicly, join organisations that represent those interests and actually feel quite justified and comfortable in doing so.
Now that the BGMs are commencing, the challenge is how the ANC branches will manage this reality.
As the NEC statement pointed out, the national elective conference is the “supreme ruling and controlling body of the ANC” and 90% of the party delegates that will having voting rights at the conference will be drawn from the branches.
The huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the party branches are summarised as follows in the NEC statement:
“The branch general meetings must do the following:
• Further discuss and consolidate policy proposals arising from the national policy conference to concretise their branch positions towards the 54th national conference;
• Nominate branch delegates as per their allocation to attend as full participants at the conference;
• Nominate candidates to serve as national officials and additional members of the NEC
• Ensure gender parity in the representation to national conference.
Importantly, after having set out these duties of the branches, the NEC committed itself to act in accordance with the resolution of the 2015 national general council to outlaw slates, and it reaffirmed the central role of the party branch as the basic unit of the ANC.
I have a firm belief that the vast majority of branch members continue to have an unwavering commitment to the Freedom Charter as the foundational document of the ANC and thus also want to see the implementation of the second phase of the national democratic revolution through a comprehensive programme of radical economic transformation.
The majority of grassroot ANC members are poor and live in communities daily suffering the burden of unemployment and poverty.
Furthermore, the majority of these ANC members are the youth and women. These party members have a vested interest to support policy positions that will address their plight and to back a candidate for the ANC presidency that shows a commitment to them.
Whatever their disappointments with the ANC in terms of poor service delivery, and having failed to adequately address the plight of the black (especially African) poor, the majority of ANC members (and in fact the vast majority of poor black South Africans) know that their only hope for a better life continues to be with the ANC.
But then it must be an ANC that is able to self-correct and return to the essential foundational promise of the Freedom Charter, namely that “the people shall share in the wealth of the country”.
There are many dangerous indications that the ANC has the potential to disintegrate into civil war within the organisation, thereby literally tearing itself apart.
The recent wave of political killings in KZN, and now also the court ruling that set aside the KwaZuluNatal provincial elective conference, are only the most recent manifestations of this danger.
This is a fate not to be even contemplated and protecting the unity of the ANC has now become the most important priority that every truly committed ANC member should be seized with.
A huge responsibility rests on the shoulders of the BGMs. It should be compulsory for every candidate to expressly and unequivocally commit themselves to accept and actually implement all policy resolutions.
The only way that the ANC is going to get through this difficult period is if every candidate and every ANC member – and especially every voting branch delegate at the national elective conference – accepts the proposals that I have made as a bare minimum for maintaining the organisational integrity and unity of our beloved liberation movement.
TOP STRATA: Deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe chairperson Baleka Mbete, President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize at an NEC meeting.