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

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Opinion & Analysis - CARL NIEHAUS Carl Niehaus is a for­mer mem­ber of the NEC of the ANC and a NEC mem­ber of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion (MKMVA)

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.

PIC­TURE :THAPELO MOREBUDI

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.

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