Mantashe: it’s do or die for ANC
Infighting biggest liability
THE ANC policy conference that started today is a do-or-die matter for the party that is desperate to regain its waning status as a glorious movement.
This was the bold admission by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday, after stalwarts of the party, on the eve of the fiveday event, ditched it.
“It is (a matter of life and death) in a sense that you have an organisation that is going through a very difficult period and you have a policy conference.
“You sit with your veterans and stalwarts, you quibble about the form, rather than the content (of the conference),” Mantashe said in a wide-ranging interview with The Star yesterday.
“On the basis of the form, they walk away. That is a reflection of the health of the organisation and we must be open about things that reflect directly on the ANC and be able to come up with responses,” he added.
Mantashe said the biggest liability the party faced today was infighting, which started as far back as 2005.
Many ANC members, he added, regarded their factions as more important than the organisation itself.
Mantashe was today due to present behind closed doors a “diagnostic” report which will delve into the serious problems besieging the ANC.
He admitted that they had not been able to forge unity among their structures and that they were also grappling with enforcing discipline.
Most of the problems started in 2005, when branches of the ANC revolted and pushed for then deputy president Jacob Zuma to be reinstated, after he was fired by then president Thabo Mbeki, in the wake of corruption allegations.
Since then, Mantashe said, they had struggled to unite the fractured party.
The situation was made worse by the loss of technical capacity at Luthuli House, the ANC’s Joburg headquarters, since they deployed their best cadres to the government after 1994.
“The capacity of the ANC was almost destroyed at the point of ascending to power because when we ascended to power, we took everybody with content to government and left the party empty.
“So we are coming here with the ANC that has been grappling with losing capacity that is in government, which is ANC capacity,” he said.
“The problem is not in that technical capacity; the problem is in the political divisions and fights. This is why, to me, it is quite important to trace that from 2005.
“The biggest liability to the ANC is the divisions of ANC structures where people believe factions are more important than the body itself,” he added.
Mantashe reiterated his stance that the problems besetting the party could not be blamed only on Zuma, and also could not be resolved by the removal of the president.
There were fears that responding to calls within and outside of the organisation to remove Zuma could lead to a split in the party, similar to that of Cope, which was formed after Mbeki was recalled.
Mantashe said even stalwarts such as Andrew Mlangeni could not share how to deal with calls for Zuma’s removal.
“The only person who can deal with that issue is Tat’u (Andrew) Mlangeni, who has been in the ANC since 1945 and served under seven different presidents.
“Therefore we are building experience as we walk on that issue.
“When you sit where I am sitting, you do an analysis of what would happen if you remove a sitting president of the ANC, who still has a lot of visible support within the body of the organisation.
“You can take a position to be correct in the public and fire him (Zuma), and hope you will deal with the chaos that will follow, or be cautious of the possibility of chaos with that removal, which is a reality. “We have been saying let’s manage this thing more carefully than being agitated by convenience,” he added.
The party would also be going to the conference against the backdrop of an ailing economy, which threatens to derail the National Development Plan and the fight against unemployment, inequality and poverty.
Mantashe said these pressing issues could not wait for the party’s elective conference in December and would be dealt with in the next few days.
“The fact that we are in recession can’t wait for December. The fact that we have been downgraded can’t wait for December. The fact that unemployment has grown can’t wait for December,” he said.
The party’s national working committee and national executive committee had also battled with disciplining some of its members.
Mantashe said that if the party pursued discipline the way that had been suggested, “there would be nothing left”.
“Actually, half the time you always blame the integrity commission, that it is not doing its work.
“I can tell you that people who have been asked to step aside by that integrity commission, that number is too high because it reflects the health of the organisation,” he said.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma failed to table a proposal by ANC stalwarts for a separate consultative conference to confront the various crises facing the ANC.
This was the accusation by ANC stalwart Murphy Morobe, explaining to The Star why they have decided to boycott the party’s policy conference starting today in Nasrec, Joburg.
The stalwarts, among them all remaining members of those imprisoned after the Rivonia Treason Trial, wanted a consultative conference to discuss what they call the crises plaguing the ANC.
The party’s national executive committee (NEC) announced earlier this year that the first two days of the policy conference would be set aside for the consultative conference the veterans had called for.
But there has been a fallout as the stalwarts wanted the consultative conference to be separate from the policy conference.
Morobe told The Star they had a meeting with the ANC’s national working committee last year, informing the structure that they wanted a separate event.
“We then met with the president and other members of the Top 5, who wanted us to explain our motivation for the separation of conferences so that he, the president, could take this back to the NEC. We gave the president our motivation,” Morobe explained.
“But, from all we have heard, that discussion was not taken back to the NEC, which restated its position that it is not separating the conference.”
He added that the policy conference would have benefited from a separate consultative conference as key points would have been raised, which would have assisted the formulation and implementation of the party’s policies.
“The consultative conference is a conference with a very different emotion; people will fight there, people will want to scratch each other’s eyes out. You can’t do that today, and then tomorrow you discuss policies nicely,” Morobe said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a briefing held by the stalwarts in Joburg yesterday.
The group – which is a structure not recognised by the ANC – contended in a statement that the “ANC is rapidly losing the legitimacy and trust of our people”.
“The longer the crisis in our movement and country... the deeper the crisis will become.”
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told reporters yesterday that the stalwarts – who were invited to the conference by the party – were missing an opportunity by failing to attend.
Mantashe accused them of trying to run the ANC parallel to the party’s NEC, the highest decision-making body in the party.
Meanwhile, the party’s alliance partners are likely to put on ice calls for Zuma to step down.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said: “We are invited guests and can only participate within the parameters of the gathering.
“If you are invited to a wedding, you cannot arrive there and say you want to conduct a funeral,” Mashilo joked.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla echoed these sentiments.
“We need to come out of the conference feeling that the ANC can be trusted to implement its policies.
“If the ANC don’t acknowledge that the 2016 local government election was a message from the electorate to change, then they are in trouble.”
CRUNCH TIME: Flags outside the hall at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Joburg where the ANC’s fifth national policy conference is taking place.
IN HOT SEAT: ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe
NO PROPOSAL: President Jacob Zuma