Guest Column

Thulas Nxesi: ANC's year of reckoning has come

2017-12-15 16:44
Thulas Nxesi (Picture: Rapport)

Thulas Nxesi (Picture: Rapport)

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Thulas Nxesi

Let me state upfront: I am both a member of the Central Committee of the SACP and also a member of the ANC national executive. I write in my personal capacity.

I was struck by the words of US Democratic Party candidate, Doug Jones, in his victory speech this week when he stated that Alabama had stood at a crossroads, and that the electorate had chosen the right road. Today the ANC stands at that same crossroads, politically and morally.


The ANC and the alliance were built on the principle of unity – uniting the majority of the oppressed and their organisations in the struggle against apartheid and for democracy and freedom. It was a unity based on principle and an agreed programme of action, and it proved a mighty weapon in bringing down the apartheid regime. 

We still aspire to that same unity to drive forward socio-economic transformation. But of late the term ‘unity’ is used as a fig leaf to shield the actions of corrupt individuals and networks. 

Unity needs to be based on clear principles, not simply accommodating and preserving each other at all cost, even where the principles of the organisation have been violated. Such false unity is superficial and unsustainable. If not based on principle, it only serves to preserve the immediate unity of the organisation, but in the longer run it serves to discredit the ANC as the societal leader it has always been. 

This superficial unity cannot claim to be based on revolutionary consciousness and conviction but is driven by expediency and self-interest.

Patronage and Corruption

The growing crisis within the ANC – that has been confirmed in all major political and organisational reports of the organisation from the time of Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe – to today has been the issue of patronage and corruption. 

If we need reminding, the court judgment this week clearly points to the presence of massive corruption and state capture in the body politic – now mirrored by growing evidence of corruption in the private sector, the Steinhoff scandal being the latest example.

Truly, the ANC elective conference stands at a crossroads. Any leader who is capable of taking us forward must be unambiguous and direct in addressing the issue of corruption within our ranks and must be committed to investigating and punishing those who colluded in state capture and the theft of state resources. Those who are compromised either directly or by association will not assist us in this respect.

Danger of populism 

We need to highlight the real dangers of populism and empty rhetoric which appeal to the emotions but are based on unsubstantiated, unresearched policies which lack practical detail. Such policy slogans will fail and will result in further disillusionment and cynicism.

State capture has diverted and destroyed economic resources on a massive scale, reflected in our decline into junk status and falling economic indicators. Radical sounding slogans will not turn this around. South Africa needs a leadership committed to the hard slog of halting state capture and placing the country on the road to recovery and inclusive growth – clearly a precondition for socio-economic transformation and combatting unemployment, poverty and inequality. Let me not be misunderstood: transformation must be an integral part of inclusive growth.


The ANC has been rightly commended as very progressive for its leading role in establishing constitutional democracy. It should think very clearly on how it pronounces itself on the matter of the judiciary which remains key to safeguarding that very democracy.

It is also time for some honest, critical self-reflection on the role we have played in Parliament and as the executive. As cadres of the movement we have not held leadership sufficiently to account. And yet, there are some who now denigrate the judiciary when it is forced to step into the vacuum created by our own political failings, in order to safeguard constitutional principles. If, as a gardener, you fail to put a fence around your garden do you blame the cows, when they get into your garden? 

The various court cases and their resultant implications should be studied carefully. Leaders involved in corruption cases raise clear moral issues – but they also have very real political repercussions. 

If the public perception is that the ANC itself is corrupt because of elected leaders going to court to face embarrassing revelations this is not going to assist us in the lead up to future elections. There are also very real consequences for economic growth and jobs.

Capital, whether white or black, foreign or internal, is less likely to invest where there is evidence of lack of good governance and clean government.

Again, in this respect, the ANC elective conference stands at a crossroads. We have to convince our own people, as well as a wider public, that we have a leadership which is truly committed to fighting corruption and state capture. No one will believe our promises of transformation and a better future for all unless we deal with this terrible stain on the legacy of our liberation movement. There is no historical precedent for being both corrupt and revolutionary at the same time. The ANC is facing a credibility and legitimacy crisis, truly a crossroads has been reached. 

Even if we come with the best, most radical policies, if we do not deal with the stench of corruption, people will see it for what it is: as radical looting. 

In Zimbabwe, when land redistribution ended up with ministers and cronies being the main beneficiaries at the expense of the people, also compromising food security, it led to a legitimacy crisis of government.

If the ANC is to re-establish its covenant with the people, it must be honest. It must convince the people that it is truly committed to turning the tide against corruption and state capture and it must choose leaders with the credibility to lead the charge. This is the year of reckoning; do or die; sink or swim. We are standing at the crossroads.

- Thulas Nxesi is national deputy chairperson of the South African Communist Party.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    corruption  |  anc  |  anc elective conference


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