Masualle says ANC lost people’s touch
Party needs to be part of the challenges and debates affecting communities
Phumulo Masualle believes the ANC has talked more about renewal than it has demonstrated itself ready to renew itself. Instead, it has lost touch with society it once lead.
He accepts that there are far too many individuals who have sought ANC leadership positions just so that they can enrich themselves and feather their own nests.
“From the 54th national conference we spoke about this I think we did not exert ourselves enough. I think, if anything, we paid lip service to this.
“We have to see an active renewal process of the ANC that is championed by the leadership collectively and transcends throughout the structures of the ANC and bringing the ANC back to the people.
Masualle accepts that this is not going to be “a very nice exercise because to uproot some of the tendencies will take exposing, fighting and voting them out of the ANC and to bring back the culture of activism within the ANC”.
He retains optimism the ANC will defeat the current challenges because it has done so in the past. “A movement like the ANC, even in the past, it would have moments of heightened activism. There would be a lull and you could see this as a decline and say if we continue on this path, it is actually going to be the decimation of the ANC.”
Masualle says those who use their proximity to office for self-enrichment harm other ANC members.
“It is not everyone else who benefit from the way things are. Only a few. It still leaves the majority who are struggling in many ways who find themselves victims of things that perhaps the ANC been focused, they would not be exposed to.”
It is for this and other reasons he has raised his hand to be elected as secretary-general of the ANC, replacing the currently suspended Ace Magashule.
He would prefer that his current boss, president Cyril Ramaphosa be replaced by Dr Zweli Mkhize. He blames the Ramaphosa leadership for not actively working on uniting the party after the divisive conference five years ago.
He had hoped that the ANC outcomes – that of mixing leadership from the various slates – would have served as the basis for consolidating unity. “I don’t think we did well. In fact, we failed hands down because we kept to the divisions that were there before.”
He says the tendency that after conference, those elected look after those who supported them regardless of what they do has been the source of a lack of discipline in the ANC.
“We will need a leadership to do as we were taught in the ANC. Once you are elected, those who supported you and those who did not, all belong to this organisation and must receive from you, the same treatment.
“In fact, those who did not support you should sometimes be the ones who you give greater attention to so that they appreciate that you are their leader as well.”
On the social front, the ANC will need to stop focusing so much on itself and start being part of the challenges and debates that affect communities.
“It is undeniable that we are on a very steep decline on a number of fronts. Our electoral performance, we have been losing quite significantly in the more urban centres. Some even refer to us a rural party. We are losing touch with some of our key constituencies.
The party will also need to fix its relationships with its historical partners and allies.
“Our relations with Cosatu are at an all-time low. The Communist Party is talking about going it alone. We have not had a vibrant ANC Youth League over a long time. The Women’s League is getting moribund,” says the current deputy to minister of public enterprises.
He blames the lack activism on an ANC that sees itself as a governing party than an activist organisation.
“We have made serious mistakes conflating the ANC with government.
“The ANC is unable to express itself independently of government. What we used to be in the past which was a rallying point of all the democratic forces, we have now become government outside the ANC. The ANC is a shell. Masualle says the party needs to build a strong organisation independent of the government and be the rallying point for like-minded entities when engaging with issues affecting society at any given time.
‘‘ Things are not looking good for the organisation
“Let’s take GBV for example. It is a very pertinent issue these days. But have you heard the voice of the ANC or visibly seen the ANC except on national marches here and there?
“This is what we have lost over time. The result is that we are changing the character of the organisation.
“There are people who say they have been members of this organisation for a long time but they cannot identify with what they see. This is what renewal was intended to confront.”
Masualle says it was looking at the dire state of the ANC that convinced him to accept nomination for the powerful party position.
“Where things are right now, things are not looking good for the organisation. We need a cadreship that will be able to contribute to leading the ANC out of the current state of decline it has reached.”
For that to happen, the ANC needs people who are able to weave between the different thoughts and points of view prevalent within the ANC and the ability to reach all of them.
Masualle believes that having traversed the various strands of the organisation, from being an organiser of workers, a leader of the Communist Party, student and youth activist, he should be better placed than most for the main office at Luthuli House.
“I bring to the office a fair understanding of the workings of government.
“I have served as a MP, provincial legislature, different portfolios in the executive of the province, premier all that gives you a fair amount of the span of work that the ANC, given the mandate it receives from the mandate, what is expected and what are the instruments available.
“When the SG is equipped with this kind of knowledge, it makes the work of the ANC
much easier,” he says.