A father-and-son reunion

2012-12-23 10:00

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Shaka Sisulu sits down at Mangaung for a chat with his dad, parliamentary speaker and ANC veteran Max Sisulu

At the ANC’s conference in Kabwe (1985) and Morogoro (1969), what were the big issues?

In Morogoro and Kabwe, like any conference, the big thing was about the ANC’s ability to face its problems head-on.

In Morogoro, for instance, there was an impatience in the membership – people wanted to go home and fight.

In Kabwe there were issues of ill-discipline – in fact, many issues – and at each conference the ANC has had the ability to recognise its problems and become introspective about them.

And then we have also documented all of our failures and shortcomings, as well as our proposed solutions, for posterity.

What of the movement’s record in dealing with these problems?

Problems are inherent in society. Political organisations reflect the issues of society. Hence, like society, they go through ups and downs.

Overall, the ANC has fared well historically in dealing with its challenges.

Can the ANC survive these new challenges that come with power and money, and social distance?

Why wouldn’t it survive? This is a mass democratic movement with regular elections.

People will exercise their rights to ensure that the ANC remains legitimate.

The issue is legitimacy.

The ANC has to work to remain legitimate.

And comrades may disagree on many fronts, but are able to work together in the best interests of the ANC and the people.

That is one of the ANC’s strengths.

When under pressure, it rises to the top. When the chips are down, everyone goes back to defend their organisation, whether the threat is on the outside or inside, or both.

But how did the movement get to this point?

One of the reasons is that leaders today aren’t tested.

Yesteryear leaders were tested because they were targeted just for being a leader of the ANC. Not so today.

We are quite conscious of this. Hence we emphasise political education and discipline.

While some parties have never had a conference since the day they started, they can tell you the dates, content and issues to be discussed at our conferences – because it is in the open. And because of that, everyone knows where to locate us and where to bring their axes.

Are electoral conferences not undermined by the ‘slates’ as witnessed in this conference?

You know, any election has a line-up. They are called candidates. There is nothing unusual about this.

What we don’t want to see, however, is a situation where it’s driven underground.

We want people to have preferences, to open it up so that people can challenge a Zuma or a Cyril for their positions.

Right, Mangaung in a nutshell?

As vibrantly colourful as our national flag. It was emotional.

We had thorough, frank discussions about matters that matter most: how to improve the lives of our people.

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