The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
High level clouds. Mild.
I am a supporter of the party but not a card carrying member.
In the past few days, I have encountered a few ANC (African National Congress) NEC (National Executive Committee) leaders and the first time I have seen any of them, I have said to each one of them, without even greeting, “Why aren’t you guys doing the right thing?”
They all laughed, perhaps at the brazen nature of the question, or they did not expect that I would ask the question even though they must have known I was thinking it. I don’t know. I only ran into five of them on different occasions since the decision by the ConCourt. So, what I am about to say must not be seen as if I am saying a sample of five represents the majority of the NEC.
The response from all of them was the same. One said, “We know what the right thing is, but we can’t just act on emotion. Politics is about numbers. We have to make sure that we have the numbers. Without them we can’t do much.” Of course he is right. Numbers got Zuma the presidency, it will be numbers that get him out of it.
Those of you who know what the right thing to do is, speak to those who are on the fence and convince them to come on your side and remove President Jacob Zuma from his position as country president. Even as ANC president. The longer you delay, the less faith the people will have in you and your leadership and whether you have the balls to lead. This will result in people either not voting, deserting the party all together or joining other parties because you would have lost all trust and respect. The very survival of this great organisation needs you. You have reached a point of no return. You are at a crossroads. If Zuma will not move, Zuma must be moved.
Local government elections are coming up soon. To make it clear, if Zuma is still president, the ANC is going to experience a greater decline than it anticipated. Of course it won’t lose the elections, but it will be in for a shock. In January 2014, I wrote an article called, I criticise the ANC but I will vote for it. In the column I wrote the following:
“One of the big issues the ANC faces is that many people are unhappy with the leader of the party and not necessarily the party itself.
I have had to separate the party from the person who leads it.
There is a perception that the ANC looks out for the interests of individuals first, namely President Jacob Zuma, rather than those of the country. This has to change. Judging by what has happened in the recent past, the question potential ANC voters are asking is: can the ANC be trusted to put the country first?
The ANC is capable of changing as history has demonstrated. Nelson Mandela and his generation orchestrated the removal of then ANC president, Alfred Bitini Xuma, for not helping the movement with the urgency needed at the time. Xuma’s apologetic stance would have cost the ANC support as the sentiment on the ground was that it was time for more militant tactics in the fight against apartheid. The leadership of the day responded to the mood.
One of my favourite TV series is The West Wing. In the show, Senator Arnold Vinick is running for president, and is played by Alan Alda. At one point, while he polishes his shoes, he is listening to a much younger man who works at the White House. The young man is irritated by the senator’s apparent lack of trust for thinking the White House has a secret agenda.
The senator says to the young man: “The founding fathers didn’t base a government on trust. They could have designed a government based on trust and our ability to govern fairly but they knew that power corrupts. So they invented checks and balances. It was genius. The founding fathers did not want me to trust you, they did not want you to trust me.””
The checks and balances were the Public Protector who was insulted and ignored. Then the ConCourt ruling made it absolutely clear that the PP was absolutely right.
In 2014, I said I have had to separate the party from the person who leads it. I now can longer bring myself to do so.
This time, I would not just criticise the ANC, I would not vote at all. There are many people who will withhold their votes in the local government elections precisely because of the ANC’s continued need to protect the president. Party leaders, we are the ones who need to be protected from him. Protect the party.
I have said before that the ANC needs to change before it is forced to. It was never a perfect organisation, the ANC is not beyond repair. The truth is we have people who are in leadership positions within the ANC who are contributing heavily to the weakening of the party, all in the interest of self-preservation, not the preservation and growth of the ANC. Yet the ANC continues to harbour and protect the very people who are eating away at it. It must be saved from them. And one of those people is the person of the president.
We desperately need you to rise up and do what it right. I am asking you to save the ANC. What will you say to your children and grandchildren when they ask you as a former NEC member, “Where were you when the ANC destroyed itself?” How will you answer? The beginning of the destruction or reconstruction of the ANC is in your hands. If you let Zuma destroy it by prolonging his stay, in the not too distant future, the ANC will only be something we read about in history books. And history will not forgive you for it. We keep seeing people’s fathers and mothers defending something that should not and should never have been defended. We have lost respect for people we once respected. Regain our respect and admiration. It’s not easy to do the right thing. It is precisely for this reason you must do it. Because it is hard. Leadership is not easy.
Let me quote something I wrote when I wrote about the ANC document called Through The Eye of a Needle talking about leadership in the ANC.
One of the points the document makes is this and I quote, “Those in leadership positions should unite and guide the movement to be at the head of the process of change. They should lead the movement in its mission to organise and inspire the masses to be their own liberators. They should lead the task of governance with diligence. And, together, they should reflect continuity of a revolutionary tradition and renewal which sustains the movement in the long-term.”
From the one paragraph we can already see the many flaws in our leadership:
The people have not been inspired to be their own liberators; the state has made sure that the people are dependent on it. Thus, the party remains as their liberator and shackles them to itself.
Some areas of government have been led well and the task of governance has been done diligently, unfortunately there is less than desired.
The sustainability of the movement at this rate is questionable.
Point 35 of the document says, “A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people”. Unfortunately, many of our leaders are interested less in improving their capacity to serve, and more in increasing their chances to lead again. There is a big difference between the two.
Point 37 of the document then goes on to say, “A leader should lead by example. He should be above reproach in his political and social conduct – as defined by our revolutionary morality.
Through force of example, he should act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the national democratic revolution includes not only being free of corrupt practices; it also means actively fighting against corruption.”
Having looked at all the points presented on the ANC document it is clear that the ANC does not apply this rigour when selecting leaders. This document might as well be burned, for no one follows its guidelines.
In my estimation, the document was written to ensure that not just anyone could become a leader because they think they can lead the movement; they should lead because they have ticked all the boxes. Being an ANC leader was meant to be difficult, not easy – for leadership is not easy.
The title of the document is taken from the Book of Matthew chapter 19 verse 24 in the Bible. A rich young ruler asks Jesus what he needs to do to get to heaven. Jesus tells him what to give up. The young man leaves because he is not prepared to give these things up, then Jesus says to the crowd, “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
The needle Jesus was speaking of is not the same as the one you think of. The “eye of a needle” Jesus spoke of was a gate in Jerusalem, which only opened after the main gate to the city was closed at night. A camel could only pass through a smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed and had to almost crawl to enter. Therefore, a leader should be willing to let go of his baggage in order to be worthy of leading the ANC.
In an earlier verse Jesus says, “Not everyone can accept this word.”
Sacrifice Zuma to save the ANC, don’t sacrifice the ANC to save Zuma. I implore you.
- This column was first published here. Follow Khaya on Twitter.
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