You are warned: Branches take charge

2017-10-22 06:07
It was a battle of the voices between groups of ANC delegates, some singing pro-Zuma songs, at the party’s policy conference, held at the Nasrec Expo Centre between June 30 and July 5. Picture: Leon Sadiki

It was a battle of the voices between groups of ANC delegates, some singing pro-Zuma songs, at the party’s policy conference, held at the Nasrec Expo Centre between June 30 and July 5. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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In less than two months from now, nearly 5 000 delegates from ANC branches across the country will gather in Johannesburg to elect a new leadership.

The entire country, the continent and the rest of the world will be watching the conference’s proceedings with keen interest to see whether the delegates will elect leaders who will be able to pull back the ANC from the precipice – or allow it to tip over the cliff to its demise.

This is because the ANC is the governing party, and what happens in the ANC has a direct impact on their lives.

South Africans have learnt from the experience of the past few years that wrong choices made at an ANC conference can be devastating for the country.

This week’s Cabinet reshuffle is the latest indication of the level to which the country has deteriorated, where such appointments are about the short-term tactical interests of the president, rather than that of the ANC and the country.

Besides, the masses of our people have lost trust in the president. Anything he does is seen as part of manoeuvres to secure his interests and future.

Secondly, the masses expect better from the organisation of Langalibalele Dube, Albert Luthuli, OR Tambo, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Nelson Mandela (to mention just a few), as do the congress alliance partners.

They still hope that the conference delegates will save them from the pain they have been going through in the last few years.

They hope that the delegates will remember the blood of many who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. They hope that Solomon Mahlangu’s words that his “blood will nourish the tree … of freedom” were not in vain.

It cannot be that those of us who were lucky to survive the tyranny of apartheid act in ways that poison the freedom for which the 22-year-old Mahlangu and thousands more laid down their lives.

Excluded veterans struggle on

The veterans of the liberation struggle – now ranging in ages between their sixties and nineties – held their second ANC Veterans’ League Conference last week.

They came in their wheelchairs and with their walking sticks, some with rugged faces, to express deep concern about what has become of a glorious movement now “characterised by diminishing fortunes”, to borrow from former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s appraisal of his country during the 1970s and 1980s.

They talked about their pain and suffering in the post-apartheid society, for which they made great sacrifices. Some talked about the depth of poverty that affects them, including access to medical care and transport to visit medical centres.

This, they say, happens while some of their leaders in government are busy enriching themselves at the expense of the people.

Many more felt that they were almost forgotten and disregarded by their movement, especially the younger generation who, in some instances, act as gatekeepers, making it difficult for them to participate at branch levels.

What was encouraging and inspiring is that the veterans conference decided that veterans are no longer going to be spectators as their movement is destroyed and the future of the country put at risk.

They resolved to assume their natural and constitutional responsibility to make a “full and rich contribution to the work of the ANC, the movement and the life of the nation” as prescribed in the ANC constitution.

They were of the view that their voice must be heard – even beyond that of the other leagues of the ANC – to give direction to the movement and the country.

They also looked forward to participating as delegates at the conference to ensure that the ANC changes its trajectory that is antithesis of the interest of the people.

The pain South Africans have been going through has not affected them alone, but has had an enormous impact on many Africans in a manner that South Africans have not understood.

During the continent-wide anti-colonial struggle, millions across Africa embraced our South African struggle as their own.

Our success would become theirs.

Thus, newly liberated African states adopted the position that their individual independence would have meaning only when the rest of the continent was free.

In his address to the nation on Freedom Day, March 6 1957, Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, said: “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.”

The struggle against apartheid and the post-1994 promise naturally gave many Africans hope for a better future for the continent.

Responsibility for freedom

As branches meet to prepare, as well as nominate delegates who will represent them at the conference, they need to know that they have a heavy responsibility on their shoulders.

They are the last bastion of defence for the ANC and the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.

This is also the last opportunity for the branches to reclaim their right to determine how leaders should behave once elected.

Lastly, it is their last opportunity to restore the confidence of our African brothers and sisters, investors and the rest of the world that we are back on course to reposition the country as well as participate in the renewal of the continent.

Delegates have the responsibility to free the country from corrupt and compromised leaders.

They have a responsibility to free the country from leaders who are part of the project to capture state organs and state-owned entities to advance their own interests rather than those of the people.

Delegates cannot afford to elect leaders who are meant to continue the trajectory we are on as a country to protect corrupted and compromised leaders and individuals at the expense of the interest of the people.

This includes defending the indefensible and sacrificing the ANC on the altar of corruption.

We must avoid slates of leadership like that of the 2012 Mangaung conference, which populated the national executive committee (NEC) with leaders who were only meant to guarantee the survival of this project at all costs – irrespective of how irrational and unconstitutional their actions were.

It is this behaviour that has put the ANC at opposite poles with the masses of the people. Some of the leaders went further and participated in advancing the project.

The worst part of the Mangaung outcome was the fact that the majority of those who were elected depended in one way or another on the president in terms of their jobs and livelihood.

Some even went further to present themselves as the “henchmen” of the president and in most instances advised the president poorly in a bid to show their unwavering loyalty. The handling of the Nkandla matter is a case in point.

State capture and silencing

The conference must combat the tsunami that severely compromised the ANC’s credibility as a genuine representative of the people, and turned the party into a vehicle for self-enrichment and a laboratory of all sorts of political perversions.

As I indicated in my last article two weeks ago, it is this dominant faction within the NEC which ensured that the NEC defended the indefensible in relation to the Nkandla matter to the extent of violating the Constitution of the country and compromising Parliament.

It ensured that the officials of the ANC and the NEC failed to act decisively on the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

It also ensured that the leadership failed to act on matters that affected the president, even in the face of the Integrity Committee’s findings and recommendations.

The colossal failure to act on the overwhelming evidence of criminal activity and behaviour involving some Cabinet members, officials from the criminal justice cluster and key players within state owned entities is the best indication of the level to which these entities have been captured.

It is this failure and silence from government that has made the people of this country feel that they do not have a government or leadership.

In fact, talking to some of the leaders makes one feel like criminal elements went into the ANC and captured some of the leaders to serve the interest of these criminals.

Those who are not willing to play along are tied up – hands and feet – and bundled into one part of the house with their mouths taped to ensure that their voices are not heard.

Here, the tradition of “democratic centralism” is effectively used to silence the reasonable voices representing the views and feelings of the people.

The same strategies were used to try and silence the veterans and stalwarts of the movement, without success.

Some have been made to pay a heavy price for taking a stand, but they were prepared once more to make sacrifices for the freedom of our people.

They were determined to do whatever is possible within the law to save the ANC from the dominant leadership that is bent on achieving their objectives of looting the state at all costs – even if those costs include destruction of the ANC.

To ensure that the ANC leadership is not cowed to submission, the veterans’ conference proposed that the NEC of the ANC must not consist of more than 50% of employees or political appointees of government.

This comes close to the wisdom of the King report on corporate governance.

A leadership that consists of an overwhelming number of executive officials of government who cannot think independently to represent the interests of the people.

Those who are eternally beholden to the president are bound to act in an uncritical way, including supporting the president at all costs – even if it means breaking the law.

The challenge genuine members of the ANC are facing is that the tsunami that hit the leadership at national, provincial and regional levels has not spared the basic organ of the party – the branch.

The rot was thrust down to local levels through bribes, corrupt activities and patronage to ensure that delegates who are elected by branches to represent them at the national conference vote for a particular person or slate instead of representing the interests of the people.

If they fail to corrupt or compromise the electoral system at a branch level, they intercept those who are elected and buy their votes.

The other way is “gatekeeping” to ensure that those who are not pliable are kept out of the conference. They even stop them from getting into the buses to attend the conference.

The worst is simply producing fake membership, as has been reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

Members of the ANC are warned that if they allowed the delegates to be compromised and corrupted they will produce a leadership that will be rejected by the masses of the voters.

Voters will make sure that they do not ascend to power in the 2019 national elections.

ANC members are warned that any leader who ascends to power by buying votes or corrupting the electoral system is untrustworthy.

They clearly have no moral qualms or conscience when it comes to preserving the sanctity of the demographic process.

The experience of the past few years shows that they are prepared to sell the family silver and take the proceeds thereof offshore, leaving the country in dire straits.

Those who are willing to be bought must expect to be sold no sooner than they have been bought.

This is for the simple reason that the nefarious logic which inspires the corrupt to buy votes knows no loyalties.

“There is no honour among thieves,” as the expression goes.

The ANC leadership has failed to save the ANC from the clutches of those who are determined to use it to achieve their personal interests.

The membership of the ANC, including those who are not necessarily card-carrying members, are the only ones who can save the party.

The challenge, though, is that branches are no longer rooted in the communities they serve.

The branch now has its own life outside the people. It is used to pursue personal interests.

The time has come

Evidence in this regard is that, whereas conference support for the current leadership increased from 60% or so in Polokwane in 2007 to 70% in Mangaung in 2012, the support in national elections decreased dramatically from 69% in the 2004 elections to 65.9% in the 2009 elections and then to 62.15% in 2014.

The risk now is that the ANC may slip far below the 50% mark, as happened with Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg municipalities.

The time has come, and it is now, for all ANC members and supporters who care about the future of the country, to go to the nearest branch of the ANC and demand that they represent their views at the conference and not those of compromised leaders who are campaigning to secure their personal interests and those of their families, friends and factions.

The time has come, and it is now, for the communities and the masses of the people to demand that the branches do the right thing, or they will not have their votes in 2019.


Can the ANC be saved? Can ANC members take back the branches?

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