Challenging a dissenting opinion

2008-02-29 00:00

One of the focal points of the African National Congress's struggle for liberation was the fight for freedom of expression. The ANC has always understood that allowing differing opinions is healthy for our fledgling democracy.

The ANC also understands that the robust engagement, necessary for all of us to grow cannot be a one-way street, but should be characterised by the contestation of ideas and the exposure of the shallowness of some of the arguments.

While we do not want to, and will not, control what the people say, we believe that the ANC should engage robustly in the public debate in our country, particularly if that debate serves to enlighten some of us. The article by Percival Ngcobo titled 'The ANC has deserted us' does nothing to make a positive contribution to our country's discourse. In fact, it is a misleading display of Ngcobo's ignorance about the movement of the people - the ANC.

Eccentric American teacher and writer Amos Bronson Alcott once said: 'To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.' It is even worse when this ignorance is splattered on the pages of a newspaper for everyone to see. Then the ignorance becomes really dangerous because, if left unchallenged, it assumes the fa?ade of truth.

Contrary to popular belief, the ANC conference held in Polokwane in December was not only preoccupied with electing new leadership, but dealt seriously with the sharpening of our strategies and tactics in dealing with the ills that continue to afflict the majority of our people.

The conference was held in the full glare of the media with the general public witnessing the developments as they unfolded. We are yet to find evidence of the alleged infighting and bullying tactics that Ngcobo talks about because they would have shown themselves at our conference.

Ngcobo presents his accusations as facts. All views are presented as absolutes and there is no nuanced analysis.

He says our municipalities are a shambles and that our movement has been infiltrated by career politicians who use their positions of power to enrich themselves. The fact of the matter is that it is the ANC government that has, over some 10 years, rebuilt the system of local government to cater for the needs of all of our people, not a select few. Granted, when you are creating something new, especially given the history of our country where the majority of our people were excluded from the decision-making processes that affected their very lives, there will be challenges. But to assert that all of our municipalities are non-performing is a gross exaggeration.

Ngcobo also fails to mention that it is the systems and procedures laid down by the ANC government that expose the challenges facing some of our municipalities.

As for the politicians who enrich themselves, Ngcobo must provide evidence of this and the ANC will take proper action.

When the ANC came into power, one of the projects that received attention was the issue of public participation in decision-making processes. The izimbizo campaign has become the hallmark of our government's outreach programme. The ANC in government, led by the president, has traversed all corners and nooks of our country to witness first-hand how our people live and what their needs are. These imbizos take place in all sorts of weather conditions and in the full glare of the media. Therefore, the assertion by Ngcobo that the cadres of our movement are out of touch with the aspirations of our people is a figment of his fertile imagination.

Since 1912, the ANC has been with the people. It has not deserted its historical mission. The ANC is a tried-and-tested movement, and a servant of the people. That is why the South African voters gave it a resounding mandate in 2004 to lead them to a better life.

We invite Ngcobo to acquaint himself with the policy documents of our movement, including the resolutions of our conference so that he can comment from a position of knowledge. In the meantime, the ANC will defend his right to express his views freely.

* Michael Mabuyakhulu is the treasurer of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and MEC for Local Government, Housing and Traditional Affairs.

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