An Open Letter to the branches and the delegates at the 53rd National Conference of the ANC
First, I would like to make it clear that I am writing you this letter on my personal capacity as an ordinary citizen who is deeply concern with the disturbingly unfolding state of anarchy in our beloved country, South Africa (SA).
By virtue of the African National Congress (ANC) being the ruling party in SA, preparing itself for an elective conference in December 2012, I felt compelled to write you this lengthy letter to convey my views to you, as the future of our country for the next five years lies with you at the branches and the conference.
My views are limited to a minimal volume of information that I have had at my disposal when I wrote you this letter and the fact that I may be unfamiliar with the internal processes of the ANC. However, I stand doggedly firm on what I perceived to be a gospel truth, unless otherwise proven by those having encyclopedic access to a wealth of institutionalised bodies of knowledge, which are inaccessibly out of reach to me, by virtue of being an ordinary citizen.
In part, the contents of this letter relate to the statement made by the secretary general (SG) of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), affiliated union of the ANC’s tripartite ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Ivirn Jim, speaking at the 9th NUMSA’s National Conference, he said:
“We do not agree that we should fold arms while a crucial formation like ANC is assembling the leadership. The leadership of the ANC is the leadership of the country.”
Contrary to the view held by the ANC that it will rule SA everlastingly, the ongoing series of poor service delivery protests, the wildcat labour unrests and the exponential upsurge of graft, tells a different story. The ANC’s days in power are numbered. It may not be within a foreseeable outlook or within our lifetime, but certainly, nothing is forever in life. The ANC’s period in power will come to and.
I know that President Jacob Zuma has dispelled the notion that the protests herald the end of ANC in power. He should be reminded and sternly warned that these protests, he takes for granted, are vastly subjugated by an oligarchy of jobless protesters, crying out for half-a-million jobs he promised to create in 2009, but failed to do so.
In the article, “How to fix South Africa” published in The Africa Report journal magazine, Dr Mamphela Ramphela said, “We as citizens have become spectators.” However, to fully “…exercise our stewardship of Constitution” as she said, rudimentary problems such as political education, information poverty, and media literacy should be resolved to readily prompt active citizenry.
As long as these problems are not resolved, the culture of violence, chiefly characterised by, inter alia, streets barricaded with burning tyres and passing by cars pelted with stones, brutally uncivilised killings in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), local community libraries burnt down, and irreparable damage to public property, will remain the only means through which our problems can be solved.
As I write this letter, the ANC’s nomination process is still underway. Hitherto, only Zuma has made his intention clear to run for the second term while Kgalema Motlanthe is still cagey whether he will run for presidency or not. However, having appeared publicly alongside the expelled ANC Youth League (ANCYL) Julius Malema and addressed the rallies organised by the league in which he impugned the contextual merits of the Second Transition, attributed to Zuma’s campaign for the second term, he hinted at running for presidency.
He has the support of Limpopo and Gauteng Province respectively, while Zuma, unsurprisingly, has the backing of his homebirth KZN, which supports him because he is a Zulu and comes from the province. It is tribally provincialised politics of this nature, without any vision envisaged or the best interest of our country at heart that hold SA ransom.
At an organisational level, the second term for Zuma without the blessing of the ANCYL will further deepen the party into an irreconcilable factionalism unless he accedes to the league’s demands, which inter alia include reinstatement of Malema. He failed to unite the ANC Post-Polokwane. In fact, under him, the ANC is more divided than it was under Mbeki.
At the government level, he will further paralyse and anarchise the state apparatuses into a complete kleptocracy. His election as the President of the Republic of SA (RSA) in 2009 was the big mistake ever since the attainment of democracy in 1994. His re-election will be a disaster.
On the other hand, Motlanthe will not bring any change either other than restoring the dignity of the office of the President and Parliament alike, irredeemably tainted by the Zuma’s ignominious ill-deeds, which have downgraded the office and Parliament to the lowest moral grounds.
It is under his presidential tenure we have heard a Member of Parliament (MP) rudely telling others to shut up while Parliament is in session. It is under his presidential tenure we have seen the opposition parties staging walkouts in protestation against the ANC’s abuse of Parliament.
It is under his presidential tenure we have seen the most important event in our political calendar, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) glamorously turned into a fashion show, not capturing the essence of the event anymore.
It is under his presidential tenure we have seen the ANC stubbornly forging ahead with the controversial Protection of the State Information Bill and the proposed e-tolling system, grossly disregarding the groundswell expressed against the Bill and system respectively.
It is under his presidential tenure we have seen a sitting President not only disrespect the judiciary system, or acting in contempt with the court’s ruling, but willfully mislead the Parliament.
It is under his presidential tenure we have seen the South African government betrayed the stance taken by the African Union (AU) and acted against the wills of the African Continent on Libya by voting in favour of the so-called ‘no-fly zone’ to institute regime change in Libya.
It is for these reasons that the report released by the National Planning Commission (NPC) points out that the Parliament has failed to carry out its most basic role of overseeing the chain of accountability.
Much has been said about the faction-ridden ANC to an extent that some insinuated that the party has deepened into a hollow of leadership crisis. It cannot be said that the party with great leaders like Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Trevor Manuel is in leadership crisis. It is simply hijacked by an oligarchy of visionless demagogues, solely interested in serving themselves, their families, and friends at the expense of the ANC.
Media reports came into being that Zuma viewed Dr Dlamini-Zuma as the main hurdle that could thwart his bid for the second term and thus he threw his weight behind her for AU chairpersonship to get rid of her, hence he even pledged some money at the eleventh-hour to tilt votes to her favour. By so doing, he polluted the AU with money laundering politics of the ANC.
The loss of Dr Dlamini-Zuma is a big blow for the ANC and out country. Her ministerial record of accomplishment is the best. She turned around the worst performing Department of Home Affairs to receive unqualified audit report for the first time in 16 years.
Manuel on the other hand, having served as the Minister of Finance for more than a decade, his ministerial record of accomplishment too speaks volume of him. In 1994, he was selected a ‘Global Leader of Tomorrow’ at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Tasked with heading the NPC, he knows the South African contemporary problems like the palm of his hands. However, he is haplessly overlooked for the ANC Presidency, disadvantaged by his skin colour or maybe his struggle credentials are not reputable enough to be considered even for the Deputy President.
The hype, with which the 53rd National Conference is expected, heightened up inter alia the call for nationalisation of mines; expropriation of land without compensation; the infiltration of the young leaders into the ANC hegemony and the expulsion of Malema.
In essence, the calls have embroiled the ANCYL with its mother-body into an ideological debate. However, the debate has failed to shed light on a variety of contentious issues. Instead, it swirled primarily around Malema’s persona.
Nationalisation of mines is regarded as the sensitive issue that could possibly drive investors away from SA. To allay perceived fears, President Zuma repeatedly assured the investors that it is neither the policy of the ANC nor the government to nationalise the mines. But the league unwaveringly bases its argument on the statement reportedly made by Nelson Mandela in 1990. According to Ian Taylor, in his “Stuck in Middle GEAR: South Africa’s Post Apartheid Foreign Relations” book, he said, “Nationalization of mines, Banks and the monopoly is a policy of the ANC and a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable.”
But the existing literature indicate that he did backtrack on his stance after he was chastised at the WEF in 1992, Davos, Switzerland by the leaders whose countries were led by the Communist parties.
Moreover, the league argues that its call is derived from the Freedom Charter’s (FC’s) declaration: “The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth”, which further states that:
(i) the national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
(ii) the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
(iii) all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;
(iv) all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and enter all trades, crafts and professions.
Notwithstanding the sensitivity of the subject, the debate still rages on, in part, set alight by the wildcat mine strikes. Media reported that the miners’ monthly salary before deductions fell within the region of R 3000.00.
The figure raised the eyebrows on the exploitation of mineworkers in SA and absolved the refusal of some African leaders to fully embrace the process of globalisation, underpinned by global economy, to which our fragile economy is fully integrated to, has resulted into a global capital system. The process, within the context of Africa, has cryptically manifested itself into economic re-colonisation of African Continent. China, the biggest trade partner of Africa, is dumping its substandard goods at the Africa’s fragile market.
George Soros, in his “Towards a Global Open Society” article, discusses the five key deficiencies of the global capital system, resultant from the process of globalisation, namely:
(i) unevenly distributed benefits;
(ii) financial markets, especially international markets inherently unstable;
(iii) instability not confined to the financial system;
(iv) undue concentration of power and preservation of stability;
(v) disregard of values and social cohesion
To confine myself within the context of this letter, I will only discuss the first deficiency with respect to FC’s (i) and (iii) sub-declarations.
The first deficiency contradicts the sub-declaration, “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people.” The question the leaders you nominate to lead the ANC and the delegates at the conference have to answer is, “How do South Africans benefit from their own heritage, the mineral resources?”
The communities, within which the mine companies trade in, are abjectly poor. What are these companies doing to ameliorate their living conditions? This question too, the leaders you nominate to lead the ANC for the next five years and the delegates must answer.
One of such recycled leaders, nominated by the KZN for Deputy President is Cyril Ramaphosa, who by virtue of being the shareholder at Lonmin and the member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) has conflict of interests, as revealed in the e-mail he sent to Lonmin.
Preserving his own business interests, he characterised the lonmin striking miners as ‘criminals’ and thus called for a ‘concomitant action’ to deal with the criminals, which reminded me one of the brightest African minds, Dr Wafula Okumo, in his “Afro-Pessimism and African Leadership” article, he said:
“African leaders are enthusiastically enriching themselves at the expense of each other. In view of this shameful reality, one is justified to ask this question: what is the difference between these Africans looting their own people and the European imperialists?”
The deficiency also relates to the third sub-declaration, “All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.” In reality, workers generally are underpaid in SA irrespective of their qualifications, experience or work rates.
Workers, especially in the private sector, as attested by the 2011 Census report, are not paid in accordance with their qualifications, skills, or experience but according to their skin colours. You find workers with the same qualifications, experience, and skills working for the same company, doing the same job but their salaries differ according to races.
There are many experienced professionals with University degrees and diplomas whose monthly packages before deductions fall within the R12, 500.00 region demanded by the miners, which makes it ever so difficult to make ends meet with forever increasing households debts and the standard of living in general.
Without necessarily nationalising the mines as such, but to close the economic gap between the poor and the rich, the government has to step in, conduct salary audit and enforce regulatory measures to strike the balance. The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has failed to redress the economic divide. Instead, it only benefited a clique of overnight millionaires and billionaires like your Khulubuse Zuma, Duduzane Zuma, Malema, Tokyo Sexwale among others.
The onus therefore lies with you from the braches and the delegates at the conference to discuss these factors and others, in search of inclusively everlasting solutions to address the contemporary challenges facing our country and the ANC. The nomination process and the conference give you the opportunity to come to terms with the five inevitable realities, in view, are facing the ANC and our country in recent period:
(i) absence of exemplary leadership;
(ii) oligarchy of visionless demagogues;
(iii) the role and relevance of the Alliance
(iv) withdrawal of charges against Zuma compromised the fight against corruption and
(v) futility of the BEE and cadre deployment policies
In this regard, the first inevitable reality the branches and delegates at the conference have to come to is to acknowledge and admit that the current crop of ANC leaders are not exemplary enough to inspire the young leaders to follow in their footsteps.
In the ANC of today, stuck in nostalgic politics, there are no young visionary leaders emerging through the ranks of the party anymore; hence, leaders like Ramaphosa are being recycled for Deputy President.
Zuma, on the other hand, has led Malema astray with his political shenanigans. When Mbeki sacked him as the Deputy President in 2005, he claimed that he was a victim of a “systematic abuse of power.” Malema too, claimed victimhood on his dictatorial leadership when he was expelled from the ANC in 2012.
When Zuma appeared in court on rape and on corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering charges, a series of night vigil rallies outside courtyards were organised. His supporters burnt down the T-shirts bearing Mbeki’s image, accusing him of using the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to thwart his presidential ambitions. The group called the Friends of Jacob Zuma (FJZ) was formed to cover his legal costs.
When Malema appeared before the ANC’s National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) for sowing divisions within the party and appeared in court on corruption charges, the night vigil rallies were organised outside Luthuli House and court respectively. His supporters burnt down the T-shirts bearing the image of Zuma, accusing him of instituting disciplinary charges against him, because the league took a resolution not to support him for the second term. The group called the Friends of the Youth league was formed.
Zuma founded his own Jacob Zuma RDP Trust in 1995 and Malema too founded Ratanang Family Trust. They used the trusts secretly to solicit cash from a network of businesspersons in return for government tenders and favours.
To inoculate himself from the corruption stigma, Zuma attended various church services and he was ordained with an honorary priest. Malema too, attended the same church service, accompanied by Floyd Shivambu. Zuma, notoriously known of Mshini Wami trademark, dispelled the existence of homosexuality in his Zulu culture while Malema, notoriously known of singing Dubula iBunu, dispelled the existence of hermaphrodite in his Pedi culture.
In the wake of xenophobic attack in 2008, Zuma grandiosely went to Alexander to placate the angry community members, not necessarily out of a genuine concern as such, but merely to transmogrify himself with the masses on the ground. He was showered with praises for showing leadership while Mbeki was heavily criticised for not showing the necessary leadership.
Malema similarly went to Marikana amid the crisis. Sadly, instead of being praised like Zuma for showing the necessary leadership, he was accused of using the situation to score political points. The similarities drawn give credence to an assertion Zuma led Malema astray.
The second inevitable reality the branches and the delegates at the conference have to come to terms with is to acknowledge and admit that, having falsely transmogrified himself as the victim of Mbeki’s “systematic abuse of power” due to the party’s electoral system which tilts in favour of demagogues and populists, politics of sympathy brought him into power without any vision envisaged.
With the system in place, even a toddler can lead the ANC today; you do not need to envisage any vision, you must be a populist, demagogue, rehearse political choreography, or resort to name calling politics to appease the gullible members of the ANC to vote for you.
In the article, “The worst shall govern” published in the Sowetan newspaper, on March 12, 2012, Prince Mashele said, “If Zuma did not incarnate victimhood in the faction-ridden politics of the latter-day ANC, nothing exceptional would have propelled him to the fortuitous heights he now occupies.” His first terms comes to end and he is bidding for the second term, still without a vision envisaged except corruptly squandering the taxpayers’ hard-earned money with impunity in his homestead Nkandla and infiltration of Zulus into his Cabinet.
He distanced himself from the Second Transition document, saying his was merely adding input on the party’s internal discussions. If he is re-elected to serve for the second term, our beloved country will endure the most of his visionless presidency for another five years until 2019. His successor will face a mammoth challenge of redressing the systematic failures of his entirely futile government.
More than anything else, he relishes the glamorous status of occupying the highest office and the accolades attached to it. He does not see that he is deepening our country into a hollow of crisis. He has not finished his first term yet, but already the education system has collapsed. The only hope the poor have to escape from the trenches of poverty. Yet overly so, he accentuated the utmost importance of education in his four SONAs he delivered since 2009.
Unlike his predecessors, who understood it that presidency is not about enriching you, your family or friends, it entails serving the people of South Africa. Zuma confuses presidency with chieftaincy; hence, he prioritises his homestead Nkandla like a chief owing it to his people. Only his family, relatives, and friends like the Gupta’s family will celebrate and cherish his legacy, as for the vast majority of South Africans, his legacy will remain a melancholy.
Since the use of taxpayers’ money on Nkandla hogged the media, both Jackson Mthembu and Mike Maharaj are trying in vain to justify the unjustifiable. I must say including the workaholic President’s speechwriters, they have the most difficult job in the planet. Whenever Zuma spoke without a speech, they have to come and do a serious damage control.
I was disappointed but not taken aback though, to see our President at the Presidential High Level Dialogue on Economy, instead of adding his input on an open forum like other panelists, he was reading from the paper notes prepared for him. However, it is always the case with our speech-bound President, even at the world forums or summits like G8, he always reads from the notes prepared for him, even where it is unnecessary. You will see how other leaders impatiently wait for him to finish reading his speeches.
How do we expect our President to add valuable input on global matters while he is scared of taking part in a public debate with the opposition party leader? With Mbeki at the helm, we knew that our voice was well-represented on global matters. Sadly, that audible voice is now muted.
The third inevitable reality the branches and delegates at the conference have to come to terms with is to acknowledge and admit that the obsession of the ANC with presidency while it overlooks other equally important positions like the secretary general (SG) and head of police, currently occupied by the communists, has shifted the centre of power to the ultra-leftists.
In 2007, Mbeki reminded the South African Communist Party (SACP) that in its pursuit of socialist revolution, the ANC does not dictate to it the policies it should adopt, programmes of action to implement and which leaders to elect. He stood firmly opposed to these demands.
The same goes to the trade union federation cum political party, COSATU, its role in the Alliance is twofold; that of a player and a referee. As a player, it dictates to the ANC which policies to adopt, the programmes to action to implement and which leaders to elect. When the same policies adopted by the ANC and the programmes of action it implemented backfire, its preferred leaders underperform, or implicated in corrupt dealings, it switches to the role of a referee. The ever so stuttering Zwelinzima Vavi, runs to the media, criticises the ANC, the role ought to be played by the opposition parties.
Interestingly, both the SACP and COSATU held their respective conferences earlier this year. The ANC did not dictate to them which policies to adopt, leaders to elect or align itself with anyone to tilts the results to its favour. However, the opposite happens.
COSATU, misleadingly, has grandiosely projected itself as the civil organisation. It is no longer representing the interests of the working class. It is now everywhere, even where it has no bearing. In fact, it is equally blameworthy for turning SA into a banana republic. After the Marikana massacre, it said it does not blame the government, instead of blaming itself for playing politics of the stomach at the expense of the poor workers.
Without necessarily condoning a culture of violence as such, but workers, by pelting Vavi’s car with stones, they served the cause of justice, and refusing to be represented by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) during the wage negotiations, workers have finally realised that COSATU is now a political party. The outbreak of the wildcat labour unrests attests to an incontrovertible fact that our labour system needs to be depoliticised.
City Press reported that the same COSATU, trenchantly opposing the implementation of the e-tolling system has secretly benefited from the same system through Kopano Ke Matla. It claims that it did not know about the system.
On Sunday, November 18, 2012, City Press reported that COSATU intended to meet with Motlanthe to convince him not to contest Zuma for ANC Presidency. I thought the decision for a certain leader to compete or not lie solely with the branches of the ANC, not COSATU.
If COSATU was equally concern with unbearable working conditions and minimal wages of its hard-working members as it is with the political affairs of the ANC, our country would not have been anarchised by the wildcat labour unrests. It is more concern with the political interests of Zuma than those of its members.
The fourth inevitable reality the branches and the delegates at the conference have to come to terms with is to acknowledge and admit that the election of Zuma as the President of RSA in 2009 without having stood trial to clear his name in the court of law has seriously compromised the fight against corruption.
When Mokotedi Mpshe dropped the charges against him, he said it is not an acquittal, which means that our sitting President still has to clear his name in the court of law, attested by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in March 2012. The fight against corruption cannot be won while the sitting President still has to clear his name in the court of law and those found guilty of corruption are not facing the wrath of law.
They are suspended with full pay or released from their positions without having to reimburse the money they have corruptly squandered with hefty interest rates or have their ill-gotten assets forfeited to recover the lost money. In this regard, the Public Protector (PP) Thuli Madonsela set example by ordering the On-Point Engineering to repay the money it received from the corrupt dealings.
In essence, the public has lost confidence in the state anti-graft bodies such as the NPA. The loss of confidence in these institutions has led to the office of the PP being inundated with voluminous cases of corruption for investigation. Nonetheless, the cases her office investigated hitherto with limited resources correlate with the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released in 2011 by the Transparency International in which SA scored 4.0 from the 5.1 in 2007 on the scale. The lowest score ever since the index was founded in 1995.
SA fell to the 64th position from the 54th of the most corrupt countries. In the Sub-Saharan region, it fell two places to occupy the seventh position, with Botswana being the least corrupt country in the region. The figures absolved the statement made by Stephan Robinson in 2010, that with Zuma at the helm, “The truth is that corruption is now prevalent that South Africans have lost capacity to be shocked by it [anymore].”
To restore the public confidence to state’s anti-graft bodies, useless institutions, such as the NPA should be disbanded and replaced with a new body consisting with new personnel. How would the NPA enforce the law when it is in contempt with the court order itself? I do not buy the argument that Michael Hulley refused to hand over the transcripts. A mere logic dictates that it should have the copy of the transcripts at its disposal, which intensifies the growing view that the so-called spy tapes are non-existed.
The fifth inevitable reality the branches and the delegates at the conference have to come to terms with is to acknowledge and admit that the BEE and cadre deployment policies have dismally failed. The BEE policy has seriously corrupted the tendering system, tempting even the companies that subscribe to a fair bidding process into solicitation of bribe to win government tenders.
As for cadre deployment, the fact that 13 out of 283 (5 per cent ) municipalities received clean audit is evident enough that the policy has failed.
By Molifi Tshabalala
This is an edited version of the letter that will appear in the book, “An Anthology of Open Letters: The Views and the Voices of Ordinary People in South Africa” to be published sooner.