ANC shows who’s boss

2010-09-20 00:00

SINCE 1994 the ANC has straddled the divide of being both a liberation movement and a political party. The one thing that struck me in the build-up to the national general council (NGC) that starts today is how much the ANC has moved forward to claim its mantle as a political party.

Political parties represent specific interests, and the ANC on the eve of the NGC is clearly showing where its interests lie. Part of the preparation for this week’s event was spent on a business exhibition. Various breakfasts have also been planned, with government ministers, particularly in the finance sector, meeting members of the business community.

A look at how provinces dealt with the discussion documents also shows specific interests emerging. All the provinces have supported the nationalisation of mines in one form or another, with calls for more research and debate on the issue.

Similar support was given to the proposed media tribunal, with some provinces calling for more investigation into how this can be done effectively without necessarily gagging the media.

However, if you look at the reponse on the discussion document on general leadership of the party, not much emerges; this at a time when the party has come in for much criticism, even from its own alliance partners, on factionalism, self-interest and a growing political elite.

The Sunday Tribune’s breakdown on the leadership discussion shows: KwaZulu-Natal — did not discuss the issue; Eastern Cape — the issue did not feature prominently; Limpopo — “did not entertain the issue as it was felt the ANC’s leadership was already represented by different generations”; Gauteng — “No discussion as chairman Paul Mashatile stressed the NGC was on policy and not leadership issues”. The Western and Northern Cape did not debate the issue and there was also minimal debate in North West and Mpumalanga.

Interestingly, President Jacob Zuma’s Cadre Bill also attracted little support. The bill proposes an amendment to municipal laws to prevent political office bearers from being employed at municipal level. Local government has long been the ANC’s Achilles heel.

This is where cronyism and the abuse of the tender system have been rife, resulting in a breakdown of service delivery. One has only to look at our own Msunduzi Municipality to see how an entire organisation collapsed because of the serving of narrow self-interest.

A perusal through past discussion documents shows the ANC recording its rich history and proud traditions of selflessness dedication to the poor and the greater good.

Its not that the party won’t continue to do good and it will definitely revive its struggle credentials during the upcoming local government elections. Much will also be made of that history when the organisation celebrates its centenary in 2012. However, right now it seems narrow interests dominate.

This is not necessarily a bad thing and it is what political parties do. It is just that in the case of the ANC, it does seem that the organisation is squandering its very rich and caring legacy.

William Gumede, writing about why liberation movements make bad governments, makes a point about lost opportunities. He says dominant African independence and liberation movements have not made optimal use of the legitimacy bequeathed by the liberation struggle to create equitable economies, quality democracies and ethnically inclusive societies.

With the ANC’s liberation mantle steadily becoming tarnished, the good news is that civil society is waking up from its slumber.

A heartening development last week was the coming together of business, legal and intellectual leaders to promote the Constitution and fight against corruption, greed and the growth of a self-serving political elite. The group symbolically met at Liliesleaf Farm, were South Africa’s leading liberation heroes were captured. They launched the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, a non-racial, non-party political grouping. Members of the council include such luminaries as academic Barney Pityana, author NJabulo Ndebele. businessman Bobby Godsell, activist and writer Dr Mamphela Ramphele and trade union stalwart Emma Mashinini.

In Pietermaritzburg, where beleagured residents feel that they are being made to pay the price for corruption and maladministration in the municipality, there is a move afoot to form residents’ and ratepayers’ associations.

Babs Sithapersad said it has been difficult getting people out in their numbers, largely because of apathy. However, a meeting last week at the Northdale Civic Centre saw a long queue forming of people who want to sign up for an association.

Even the non-government sector is waking up. The NGOs in the Free State Welfare Sector won a case they took to court against their provincial Social Development Department over subsidy delays. Their KZN counterparts are considering a similar legal challenge.

We live in interesting times!

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