The F-word: Equip South Africa, not just the ANC

2012-04-14 11:45

The ANC document on organisational renewal must rank among the loftiest the party has had since it became a governing party.

It must rank with the Freedom Charter for its boldness in articulating a future for the party and its membership.

“Going forward, the ANC needs to adopt a comprehensive cadre policy and a 10-year programme of action to build a contingent of new cadres who are politically conscious, professionally competent, conscientious and disciplined.

“We should also take practical steps to raise the levels of education among ANC members and leaders, as the advanced productive forces and agents for change. In particular, we would invest heavily in the ideological and academic training to produce a new type of ANC youth who have the values, skills and competencies necessary for building a national democratic society,” says the document.

Elsewhere the document says “we should undertake a campaign to wipe out illiteracy and improve the level of general education in the ranks of our movement”.

Glorious stuff. If the ANC gets it right, its membership will be something to envy. I can imagine parents sending their children to join the party just so they are part of this impressive project.

What a pity though, that the ANC, a party in national government and in eight of the nine provinces, thinks that these life-improving ideals should only be limited to their members and not society as a whole.

According to its own numbers, the ANC has over a million paid up members in a country of about 50 million. This means, by the most conservative estimate, that one in 50 people belongs to the ANC. While it’s obvious many ANC leaders enjoy the democratic dividend, the vast majority of South Africans are still waiting.

That is why the party has the type of membership that requires it to note “we have too many grassroots leaders and public representatives whose leadership potential and effectiveness is hampered by the fact that they cannot read or write”. This is in a document drafted 18 years since it got into power.

The mind boggles. The ANC recognises the poor levels of education and illiteracy in the party but does not locate them in the society it rules. If it recognises this is a societal problem rather than a party-specific problem, why then does it not seek a cure that doesn’t first ask whether one is a member of the ANC?

It is inconceivable that the millions of young South Africans who are not party members or interested in politics are happy to stand on street corners all day talking about Pirates and Chiefs when they could be contributing to “building a national democratic society”.

Why should the young of our country be content with washing cars they will never afford through honest means, or wait for a social grant, if the party in power in the country and one that claims to represent their interests, has the wherewithal to inculcate for its members “values, skills and competencies necessary for building a national democratic society?”

The skills levels in the ANC reflect those in society. If we were awash with skills the ANC – the broad church and microcosm of South Africa – would be too. If the ANC is still interested in a “Better Life for All” and not only for its members, it should make the desired outcomes of the campaign a national project rather than a party political call.

But if the ANC limits these opportunities to its membership, it will not only fail the millions who support it without ever joining a branch (about 11 million voted for it in the last election, meaning 10 million are not members). Its own historical mission of liberating all South Africans and not only its members will have been done a grave disservice.

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