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The ANC can make mistakes

16 October 2012, 08:11


Floyd Shivambu 

More often than not, and recurrently during elections campaigns, we as activists of the ANC always re-assure the masses of our people that the ANC does not make mistakes, and it is instead individuals who make mistakes. This we often say when our vocabulary and thinking capacity falls short of providing convincing and adequate reasons on why and how the ANC has failed to meet its promises and aspirations of bettering people's lives in the face of conspicuous consumption and ostentatious values amongst its most senior of leaders. As activists of the ANC, we at all times carry the obligation to tell the truth, claim no easy victories and take the masses with us on everything we do and say. Not telling the truth is not only counter-revolutionary, but a recipe for disaster which will lead to the demise of the ANC as a fighting liberation movement.

Here we discuss in the most candid and truthful form, the crisis of leadership the ANC is confronting in the current conjecture due to narrow bonarpatist presidentialism. To understand this, we need to unravel the open secret of bonarpatist method of presidentialism which since formation has been characteristic of the ANC leadership. It is an open secret that whilst there have been attempts to deal with rabid presidentialism in various parts of history, the ANC has dismally failed to adequately deal with it. The phenomenon of presidentialism, of a supreme leader whose words, actions and mistakes are sacrosanct has somewhat become synonymous with leadership of liberation movements in the African continent wherein the elected President of a liberation movement is considered the Alfa and Omega of wisdom and knowledge of what is to be done. This is invariably influenced and grounded on the pre-colonial and indigenous forms of African leadership wherein those who led clans, tribes and other communities were considered as socially, intellectually and biologically of higher value than the rest of the led people.

Now due to this phenomenon, various individual leaders of the ANC have had profound influence on its direction, methods of engagement and forms of tactics adopted in various political battles in the war to create racial, social, gender, and economic equality amongst all South Africans. Each leader of the ANC had a massive impact and influence on how the ANC is viewed and understood in society. Here are some of the central hallmarks of ANC Presidents since its formation and what they are remembered for:

1st President John Dube was a religious leader and an educationist whose programmes were financed by white missionaries. This had impact on the ANC character on fighting for inclusion of the 'civilised' and educated few because the President believed that inclusion is the way to go. At some stage he left the ANC to form in iKhongolose yase Natal due to his insecurities and fears of the direction of the ANC. 2nd President Makgatho Sefako was progressive on the land question, and the ANC became vocal on the land question. 

3rd President Z.R. Mahabane was man of the cloth and sent petitions to the Queen, but came back in his second term to rebuild the ANC after it had collapsed under Pixley ka Isaka Seme. 4th President J.T. Gumede introduced progressive internationalism and said he saw a new Jerusalem when he returned from the Soviet Union, and altogether introduced the ANC to progressive internationalist movements and ideological telescope that held the movement together post 1960s banning of all political formations calling for dismantling of apartheid. 5th President Pixley ka Isaka Seme did not help the ANC, but sowed divisions, despite having played an important role at the formation of the ANC. His sense of entitlement and narrow tribalist vision muzzled the ANC and almost strangled it to death.

6th President Xuma did not agree with the radical programme of action and lost the support of the ANC Youth League, but was elementary in the revision and modernization of the ANC after a very difficult moment of divisions. 7th President James Moroka was initially radical, but distanced himself from the collective once the Movement was confronted with challenges. 8th President Albert Luthuli was the man of peace, presided over the ANC which adopted the Freedom Charter, and had to hold the ANC together when the Africanist faction broke away to form the PAC. 9th President O.R. Tambo led the ANC though difficult moments and kept it together until the realisation of political freedom. 10th President Nelson Mandela presided over transition from apartheid to democracy with military precision and inspired hope amongst the people of South Africa.

11th President re-affirmed the ANC’s leadership of the African continent and inspired hope amongst all Africans that we can do better as a continent. And the 12th President suppresses debates, expels the leadership of the ANC Youth League from the ANC, and betrays the African agenda by siding with Imperialists in the United Nations Security Council. The 12th President of the ANC presides over a massacre of workers in Marikana, and proudly defends the multi-million Rands construction of his personal private residence in Nkandla with public resources.

It is the Presidency of Pixley ka Isaka Seme that needs closer attention because it bears some degree of resemblance with what is currently happening in the ANC. Pixley Seme succeeded President Josiah Gumede in what is described as a very divisive model of leadership succession, due to the fact that traditional leaders who were not properly accredited were allowed to vote and participate as voting delegates. What transpired under Seme's leadership of the ANC was spiralling of tribalism and other forms of organisational mismanagement that reduced the integrity of the ANC in society. It took the Presidents Z.R Mahabane and A.B Xuma decided efforts to revitalize the ANC. Some of the weaknesses that characterized the Seme-led ANC were the inability to convene National Executive Committee meetings to co-ordinate organisational work country-wide and open promotion of Nguni-dominance by the questionably elected leadership.

During Seme's leadership of the ANC, the organisation was by apartheid laws precluded from participative and inclusive electoral processes which could have exposed its weaknesses through loss of electoral support. One thing apparent though is that the election of Seme was a huge mistake which almost splintered the ANC into tribal factions, which Seme had initially opposed during the formation of the ANC. It took great effort to revive such.

Many years later, the ANC made a huge blunder in electing Jacob Zuma as President of the ANC in December 2012. Ironically, the re-election of President Thabo Mbeki in the same Conference would have been a huge blunder, portraying an incapable ANC that cannot outgrow its individual leaders. This is an unfortunate part of politics where it happens that both sides of political options are disastrous. Now, Polokwane bred a disaster in Jacob Zuma who despite his literary incapabilities, has very low or non-existent moral standards, and obsessed with enrichment of his family members and household. An expectation was somewhat developed towards Polokwane that the election of Jacob Zuma will lead to discontinuation of rabid presidentialism and the ANC will be taken to the people. It was not to be so judging by the many individually inspired blunders committed by the sitting President both as ANC President and President of the Republic of South Africa.

Election of Jacob Zuma in the 53rd National Conference of the ANC will be the biggest blunder the ANC would have made in its history because it is going to lead to massive electoral support decline of the ANC. Majority of the people will loose confidence on the capacity of the ANC to create conditions for betterment of their lives and govern society effectively. The ANC should never elect Zuma, despite efforts to co-ordinate tribal support in KwaZulu Natal. Between January and August 2012, the membership of the ANC in KwaZulu Natal grew by more than 100 000, actually more than 36% growth, meaning that KZN delegates will have mandates from unseasoned members on what should be the direction of the ANC. The membership growth had nothing to do with organisational development and growth, but the tribal need to defend a fellow Zulu speaking individual who has failed to provide leadership to the ANC. 

Jacob Zuma is a corrupt leader who encourages corruption of self-enrichment. We can all appreciate that the Courts of law have not yet decided on his impending guilty verdict, and it does not need rocket science to know and notice that any competitive and fair court of law will find him guilty of corruption. The biggest corruption however is that Jacob Zuma will cost the South African government more than R1 billion on his three official residences, many wives who are subsidized by the State, and now recently the expansion of his private residence in Nkandla and the roads leading towards there. A R1 billion can do a lot in the eradication of informal settlements and bettering of living conditions of many fronts. Zuma is a liability to the ANC, to the country and to the image of Africans the world over. He must be stopped sooner than later and held accountable for his corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Re-election of Jacob Zuma will not only cause massive and irreparable divisions in the ANC, it will isolate a significant number of voters in the 2014 general elections, most of whom will stay away for fear of voting for a white dominated party and some who will guarantee the opposition increased majority and representation in the National Assembly and Provincial Legislations. This is an absolute fact and ANC structures and members should in a uniting fashion avoid repeating the mistakes made in the 52nd National Conference of electing a leader who is only concerned about his personal and private family’s Upliftment, whilst not offering any durable, sound and sustainable solutions to South Africa’s crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. We cannot afford to repeat mistakes.

Floyd Shivambu is an Economic Freedom Fighter.

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