Guest Column

ANC NGC: How the media got it wrong

2015-11-06 14:07

Philani Mavundla

The NGC of the African National Congress has come and gone and there had been a lot of predictions about how “nasty” it was going to be, with the succession “battles” being the core business of the delegates as compared to policy direction and focus on the economy.

What is striking is that none of the esteemed members of the press have ever bothered to write back to us as a nation to admit that they got it wrong; not for the first time and definitely not for the last. As far as the ANC is concerned, whoever does the analysis, the political advice and the decision to write such ill-informed material does not deserve a salary.

Let me state that I write as Philani Mavundla, an ordinary member of the ANC. I feel compelled to voice my opinion as a member, knowing that the authority to pronounce on policy positions of the ANC resides with the elected leadership. But the nation is talking; the nation is daily being bombarded with distortions and misinformation by the opposition on the one side and their agents in the media on the other.

I refuse to believe it seems they took a conscious decision to develop a narrative for the ANC and the country. They attempted to set the agenda for the delegates of the ANC going to the recent NGC. Their goal was for the ANC to shift its focus from its agenda and focus on what was circulating in the media, or for the ANC to stick to its agenda and incorporate the right wing media agenda into our deliberations. The ANC chose neither and were handsomely rewarded for that.

The first reward we got was that nothing was reported about the NGC because the ANC refused to be bulldozed by an unelected opposition who masquerade as independent but work tirelessly to fight and destroy the ANC. The second reward we got was in the wording; how we were presented.

Those who were not brave enough to ignore that the NGC ever took place chose to take the battle to the terrain of semantics. I noted very interesting trends. When some “blue party” met in Port Elizabeth this year, they all paraded its resolutions as “the vision”, yet the ruling part of the country met in Galagher Estate and its resolutions were reported as “the ANC’s wish list”. This was by no means an accident in terminology but a deliberate psychological warfare directed at the ANC, its members and supporters to get demobilised and lose hope, while redirecting the nation to now start thinking about the “blue vision” from this alternative party and reject this party with a wish list.

Succession debate

Then there is the succession debate which is all over the newspapers. Again, there is a concerted effort to plant names of who is likely to succeed President Jacob Zuma as President of both the ANC and the country come 2017 and 2019. Some have stated quite openly that this is only about two possible candidates; Comrades Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. They have stated as a matter of fact that the latter is the ONLY woman “ready” for this position. And that Comrade Cyril will most likely not be elected because he is not a woman.

I must admit the ANC Women’s League has made us all to ponder this question and we have to face this as a debate worth entertaining. The good thing is that it makes us focus on Dr Dlamini-Zuma, not as a former wife of the President, but as someone with a long history in the ANC.

Some have already begun to ask questions about what message it would send to have the President being succeeded by his former wife. They claim this wouldn’t auger well for our democracy. I’ve never heard worse hogwash than this. The fact that she is Chairperson of the African Union Commission and a former Health and Foreign Affairs Minister should be sufficient; this is someone not desperate to ride on the back of the President in order to be affirmed as a leader. All she needs is the support of ANC branches and a good team to tell the story of how South Africa has always been ready for a woman President. We have a lot of them; Lindiwe Sisulu, Baleka Mbete, Naledi Pandor, Jesse Duarte etc.

I am sure many men in the ANC support her too. This is to dispel the fallacy of the phenomenon called the “Premier League”. Let us reject it as a non-starter and an affront to democratic practice in the ANC that three men leading provinces whose combined membership is less than the membership of Eastern Cape alone, can dictate to us how the ANC elects its leadership including that of the leagues.

Yes, in the ANC over time there emerges small groupings of people who wield tremendous influence such that the total size of provincial membership is not taken into account, but none of the rest of the Provincial Executive Committees of the rest of the six provinces would take it lying down that they are “commanded” by this clique.

Common vision

The three Provincial Chairpersons, who happen to be premiers, have every right to share a common vision for the ANC and the country and to strongly canvass for it. Why are the rest resting on their laurels and not putting their views across? Surely it can’t be a crime in the ANC to discuss, lobby and influence one another. The question is how do we do this.

The memberships in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape is sufficient to win a national conference vote in the ANC. But is this the correct method of uniting and ensuring cohesion in the ANC? No. Hence the notion of geographic spread, gender equality as well as continuity and change in the ANC.

There are many men whom we hardly talk about in the ANC; Jeff Radebe, Joel Netshitenzhe, George Mashamba, Charles Makola etc, but as members in branches we are bound by the protocols of the ANC. Once the leadership debate has been officially opened we will voice ourselves and ultimately vote for the leadership collective of our choice.

Out of all the provinces, there has never been so much pressure than there is on KwaZulu-Natal. The one reason being that it has always demonstrated unity in national debate and leadership succession and the second being that currently, it is the home province of the sitting President and his possible successor Dr Dlamini-Zuma. The recent developments of our conferences; both of Ethekwini and the province being postponed and brought forward, respectively has projected quite a worrying feeling.

Remember this is the province whose membership since 1991 has been rising steadily, whose contribution to the ANC electoral support since 1994 has been rising. When the President and Secretary General spoke about our membership statistics and how we have dropped everyone went into shock mode. I too, am worried but I would be the first to say come 2016 the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal will increase its electoral support and win more municipalities.

When we talk about membership “in good standing” we do not consider those whose membership is in “grace period” and those who have not yet renewed and those who migrate and not transfer their membership to their new branches. This means members of the ANC must adopt a new “know your membership status” Imvuselelo Campaign in order to remain in good standing.

Educating the public

I wish again to challenge those who predict our demise, to write back to us after the Local Government elections next year. Remember, the prophets told us that the 2010 NGC would be a test for President Zuma and the ANC. We passed that test. They predicted that we would get less than 60% of the national vote, again we proved them wrong. They predicted “blood on the floor” at the recent NGC, they ate humble pie and again they predict that we will lose some metros and even said we will lose to the DA. We will defeat them again.

Today they predict a split in KZN and again they will be proven wrong. I just felt I must state the obvious, but since the nation is being bombarded with anti-ANC propaganda it is important for us to educate the public and continue to stand behind the leadership of the President, our Deputy President and the entire collective.

- Philani Mavundla is an ordinary member of the ANC, in eThekwini.

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