Guest Column

ANC superslate: now or never

2017-05-18 11:42
‘ANC officials have no executive powers’ – Bongani Mabusela. Picture: Nosipiwo Manona

‘ANC officials have no executive powers’ – Bongani Mabusela. Picture: Nosipiwo Manona

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Bongani Mabusela

"Unity is the bedrock with which the ANC was founded, we must nip the growing elements of factionalism in the bud, we must create one ANC slate.”

These are the wise words of one Cyril Ramaphosa, current ANC deputy president and contender to succeed President Jacob Zuma in December 2017. These words were uttered during the first of many ANC Provincial Congresses due to happen in the course of the current year.

Thus far, it appears both the media and punditocracy have not latched on to the profound meaning of the words uttered by the deputy president of the ANC. Since the Polokwane Conference in 2007, South Africa has become used to the spectacle of members of the once glorious African National Congress slugging it out for positions within the movement. Analysts have been borne from the ugly mudslinging and seeming predictability of the ANC.

As we approach the home stretch towards the elective conference in December 2017, it is perhaps opportune that Mr Ramaphosa has seen fit to speak out in public about the need for the ANC to embrace unity in concrete terms, beyond the public expressions of disapproval about conduct unbecoming of ANC members which have become denuded of any meaning, especially when uttered by one the senior leaders of the party.

Ramaphosa makes a profound point when he calls for members of the party to ditch the zero sum slates as their impact on the ANC has only been to erode the standing of the party in the eyes of its members, and to alienate those who support the historical mission to free the masses of our people from the yoke of poverty.

In this, the year of OR Tambo, it has been sad to watch one scandal after another rock this movement that many, including OR himself, gave up their youth, and in some cases, their lives to see the realisation of a long-held dream for all South Africans, and black South Africans in particular, to assume their destiny in their own hands. In this, the Year of OR Tambo, the ANC’s voice as a leader of society has become muted due to the rear-guard action that most of its members have had to play in order to stake legitimacy for the party they so love, knowing fully well that they could be fighting a losing battle due to the organisation’s tendency to self-destruct.

As a young person charged with the responsibility to assist with re-establishing structures of the Youth League in Nelson Mandela Bay, I am particularly saddened by the lost opportunity which we, as members and leaders of the ANC, have failed to seize to educate the youth about the meaning of Oliver Reginald Tambo. Such meaning transcends the African National Congress and speaks to the values that this stalwart of our movement sought to infuse in the South African body politic, through compromise, deliberation, and the never-ending task to reach out to the other side to arrive at a common destination.

A difficult task been made more difficult by the constant need to react to an oppositionist agenda which seeks to paint the movement as a whole as one corrupt entity that is beyond any salvage due to the brazen attempts by some senior leaders to disregard party structures in pursuit of ends that do not advance the interests of our people and the movement as a whole.

Given the inevitable yet entirely avoidable irrelevance of the African National Congress, all members of the African National Congress must seize the opportunity to shift our current party discourse away from who is positioned to assume what position to asking the question; what conditions will ensure the survival of the ANC beyond the elective conference?

What actions can leaders and members take today that will ensure that young leaders such as myself and many other committed comrades will have the opportunity to inherit a party that remains relevant to the deeply entrenched challenge of structural poverty that still afflicts the black majority 22 years into our revered democracy. Failure to do that will render the ANC irrelevant to South African society. If the party persists with the practice of voting blocks of people into positions of responsibility purely based on their faces and factions, the dream will be deferred.

Assuming any of what I have said above to be valid, the only question left to answer is which of the two senior leaders will subject themselves to the revolutionary duty of sacrificing self-interest for the benefit of the party? Who among the two has enough humility to accept that they can do more for this movement and the country by accepting that their time to lead may never come because the survival of the party and the thriving of this nation demands that we put our self-interest aside in order to assure future generations of a party and country worth inheriting.

In saying all the above, I fully expect that revolutionary morality is not enough on its own to convince those who back some of these slates about the need to clean up our act so that we can all share in a bright a future.

I fully accept that even within my own region in Nelson Mandela Bay, there is no consensus on what will move us forward towards the realisation of our common ambition for the ANC to re-establish its role as a progressive and motive force for change in South Africa. Yet, I believe that a conversation about compromise and our state of being as a party will do much to advance our common interest and ensure that when all is said and done, there is a clearly identifiable ANC in place which continues to cherish the hopes and dreams of people such as OR Tambo. After all, 2017 is the Year of OR Tambo.

- Bongani is the convenor of the Nelson Mandela ANC Youth League regional task team. He writes in his personal capacity as an activist of the Congress Movement.

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