No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
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Ace Magashule after the result announcement at the ANC 54th national conference . Picture: Elizabeth Sejake
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Since the ANC's December conference I heard the secretary general (SG) mentioning several times that he is not a coward.
The last instances were during the SABC interview and when he addressed mourners at a funeral service in the Free State. He made the same assertion a number of times in national executive committee (NEC) meetings as the Free State provincial chairperson.
To me, not to be a coward simply means that the SG is a brave man, a very brave man. His recent utterances at the ANC106 celebrations rally in KwaZulu-Natal made me better understand his famous assertion we've been bombarded with, namely "I am not a coward".
Addressing the KZN rally the SG made this startling remark: "We will get back the ANC that we know, it's a matter of five years, comrades, we must work hard." No one can be blamed for thinking that the SG is making reference to the 2022 ANC national conference.
Effectively, what he was insinuating is that they have lost the ANC in the last conference but will get it back in five years. I know many members and leaders of the ANC that took umbrage to this deeply troubling remark.
This remark is profound, because of both time and space. It was made at the time when the SG was under severe pressure because of the Estina corruption investigations and the space he found himself was KZN, which was the anchor province to the failed presidential bid by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
This was not a mere runaway statement or a slip of the tongue by our brave SG but a calculated launch of the 2022 leadership campaign. Hardly two months after the national conference, the SG opens the leadership race for 2022 and thereby invites ANC members to "work hard" and go back into factional trenches.
This is depressing and disheartening, and in essence reactionary as it goes against the grain of the post-conference call for unity and renewal. To rescue the situation the national leaders of the ANC must formally and publicly retract this outlandish statement.
Bravery, unlike fear, is a special attribute, but not exclusively in the domain of the SG. Fear is a universal feeling, but it takes brave men and women to overcome it. One does not overcome fear through reckless impulse, but by being motivated by a much bigger cause worth the sacrifice.
This makes me think of the dock statement rendered by Nelson Mandela on behalf of the Rivonia Trialists. After the guilty verdict they were naturally consumed by fear of being executed by the apartheid state, but their unwavering commitment to the overarching vision of a free and democratic South Africa eroded that fear.
Nelson Mandela went on to say that "if needs be, we are prepared to die" for freedom. Today we fondly and with deep appreciation remember them as brave cadres of the movement who showed true courage and overcame fear. This was moral courage as it was rooted in the broader vision of freedom.
Other examples of such courage are Ernesto Che Guevara, Petrus Linda Jabane (Lion of Chiawelo) and Solomon Mahlangu, who when confronted with the real prospect of death, never showed weakness but stood tall and defied the odds.
These revolutionaries conquered fear as they were driven by revolutionary eagerness to overcome injustice and not by false courage or crude bravado.
After the last conference the ANC leadership embarked on what they coined as the 'revolutionary pilgrimage' to reconnect the ANC with its founding values. At the heart of the revolutionary pilgrimage is the urgent need to unite the ANC from the ravages inflicted on it by the processes towards the conference and the years of degeneration and political mishandling.
The outcomes of the conference demonstrate that the branch delegates openly defied factional slates. They forced the two lobby groups to work together to renew and strengthen the ANC. Any form of revulsion to this mandate given by the ANC branches represents saddening political bankruptcy and a false show of courage.
To a thunderous applause, the SG warned the rally attendees, "you must not eat McDonald's, it will make you fat". This assertion is disconcerting as those who supported the current president were mockingly referred to as the "McDonald's people" and those that supported Dr Dlamini-Zuma as the "Indian curry people".
When the SG made these unfortunate and disparaging McDonald's remarks, my first impression was that he used the KZN platform to actively demobilise support for the ANC president.
This is uncalled for, as the internal contradictions generated by the leadership preferences of the two groups were resolved by the conference. Anyone that perpetuates the pre-conference differences is undermining the sovereignty of the national conference and the elected leadership collective.
The struggle to build unity requires from leaders an extraordinary degree of political maturity and bravery that is driven by revolutionary goals and not individual whims.
Connecting the call not to support McDonald's and taking over the ANC in the next five years suggest that our brave SG is openly launching the 2022 leadership contest hardly two months after the national conference.
Bravery is not an exclusive attribute to the SG as there are multitudes of ANC members who possess the attribute. However, I get a sense that their bravery is moulded by unwavering commitment to the revolutionary principles of freedom and a better life for all, not bravado.
It is imperative for all ANC members to direct their bravery to building unity and not to prematurely launch a leadership contest that will deepen and cement divisions in the ANC. The false show of courage, which is driven by the fear of the unknown and eagerness to protect and expand the Gupta treasures will land the ANC on a slippery slope, which is likely to reverse the revolutionary gains made over the years.
The call for unity is not a product of fear, but an imperative driven by the need to put the ANC on a progressive trajectory not only for the ANC's sake but for the people of South Africa. There can be no radical economic transformation with a divided ANC. So, all brave members of the ANC who are driven by the historic mission to redress the past socio-economic injustices must make a fervent call for unity.
The starting point of the call for unity is to urge all ANC members to support the elected leadership. Zealously and untimely launching the 2022 campaign will not help the ANC but will definitely soil the legacy of this leadership and particularly the 16th secretary general.
As recently demonstrated by comrades Bheki Cele and Zizi Kodwa's sharp criticisms, there are many brave cadres within the ANC ranks that are ready to defend the ANC against any form of hoggish and neonatal behaviour.
Leaders must use the leadership privilege to put the ANC in a better position for the 2019 general elections and not to divide and weaken the ANC for their own 2022 uncontrolled ambitions.
- Dr Zamani Saul is the provincial chairperson of the ANC in the Northern Cape.
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