The centre is not holding
THE diagnostic report presented by the secretary-general of the ANC to the policy conference currently in session in Soweto is a breath of fresh air when it comes to an official analysis of what is really ripping the movement apart.
Without repeating the brilliant analysis at the centre of the report, it is now an indisputable fact that, quite frankly, the centre is not holding. It is the strangest thing if you consider all the polemic gymnastics that the ANC leadership, including Mantashe, do in public (in trying to project the centre as holding still); but the report confirms everything that many members, supporters and civil society have been saying for months to an ANC that has decided to close its ears.
The era of denials is upon the ANC once again, and this report is concrete proof of that. Those who jump to the blind defence of the ANC had to go to ground after this report was tabled, and will soon ascribe the report to the faction that they would claim Mantashe represents.
No surprises that some of them even tried to block the report from being tabled at the conference, for spurious reasons of tradition. Thankfully, they lost; and, hopefully, they will lose during the policy discussions that are ongoing.
In summary, the report has touched on two critical matters that Mantashe himself has previously characterised as the narrative of naysayers – state capture as well as policy uncertainty.
Let’s deal with the policy uncertainty upfront. When Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Tony Yengeni went on a policy tangent about land redistribution, the PR machinery went into full drive, assuring us that there was nothing untoward.
The reality is that the ANC has no idea what to do with this hot potato.
In the opening address, the president couldn’t bring himself to talk about the heart of the policy matter: expropriation of land without consultation. He didn’t even venture into his random call for black parties to work together to resolve the issue of land. Mantashe bemoans this spinelessness in his report when he lambastes the ANC for not having a proper position on this question.
One hopes that this means the ANC will emerge out of the conference with a lot more clarity than just lamentations of how land-hungry black people are.
Closely linked to this is the muchvaunted slogan of radical economic transformation. The report indirectly dismisses this slogan for what it is. Mantashe points out that the ANC has had no strategy to make this call a reality. This is damning.
What is even more damning is the assertion by Mantashe that the vocabulary of the ANC, such as reference to the national democratic revolution, has all but disappeared under the yoke of ideological collapse as well as branch and membership weaknesses.
It is alarming that, while there is this acknowledgement that the branches are weak, the president sought to cast aspersions on veterans who made this observation a key argument on why the constitution of the consultative conference has to be different from a normal conference, made up of the very branches that everyone agrees are weak – and, in many instances, corrupted and bought. Clearly, Zuma doesn’t share this diagnosis of what is wrong with the ANC.
The second area was to focus on state capture directly, more than any other pronouncement of the ANC’s national executive committee before. Mantashe makes no bones in pointing out that the obfuscation on this matter must stop. The use of regime change to fudge the issue receives a clear dressing-down.
Use of white monopoly to divert from the state capture issue was also condemned by the report. This sails very close to what the Gauteng provincial general council noted, through provincial leaders Paul Mashatile and David Makhura, much to the irritation of the implicated ANC faction.
Even more damning was the observation that there is a tendency – in response to serious allegations – for people to say “bring the evidence”, whereas the evidence is there for all to see, and its sidestepping through bland denials makes the ANC look like it’s not willing to deal with corruption. Another direct reference to Zuma’s egg dance on issues of corruption.
The suggestions made to deal with these centre around organisational unity, but this is woefully inadequate. Let’s take a brief look at some of them and what they mean:
The looming motion of no-confidence, the necessary judicial commission of inquiry and the daily Gupta leaks are all mentioned in the report, but are missing in the way forward. This damps the report but opens the door for the solutions to come from the conference floor.
We wait with bated breath.
ANALYTICAL: ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has spoken out on various issues at the current policy conference.