From Morogoro to Nasrec – an ANC in crisis

Johannesburg – To some in the ANC the only difference between 2017 and 1969 is that crisis has hit the party on home soil instead of in exile.

But there are several common themes the party has to confront on Friday as it did then at the historic consultative conference it held in Morogoro, Tanzania.

- Special report: ANC policy conference 

Veterans and stalwarts of the ANC attempted to intervene last year, in the hope for a repeat of the watershed conference which took place under calls for its then president Oliver Reginald Tambo to step down.  Tambo offered to resign if that would help the party, but was asked to continue on as its leader.

“O.R Tambo what did he do? Went to Morogoro and said, 'Guys I realise as president of the movement, one of the issues to discuss is leadership, therefore it’s about me too so me and my leadership will step down so you can freely talk about us'. It's documented,” said former ANC treasurer general Matthews Phosa.

The ANC then had to deal with issues around its leadership, partnerships and its mission, which is at the core of its challenges in the 21st century.

Leadership is one of the most contentious issues that the ANC has to address, this with its alliance partners; the South African Communist Party and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, its veterans and some former senior leaders in the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto WeSizwe expressing a lack of confidence in the current ANC President Jacob Zuma and his national executive committee.

Tambo, who was the party’s longest serving president, was lauded for his approach to calls from some to step down.

Leaders who were there at the time said he proposed that he step down for the good of the movement if his comrades had lost confidence in him.

But with Zuma at the helm, the movement remains divided over the issue with him already having survived at least two attempted motions of no confidence from his own executive within six months.

Branches essential

The ANC’s Secretary General Gwede Mantashe has however dismissed this suggestion numerous times saying getting rid of Zuma would not get rid of all of the ANC’s problems.

“The divisions following [Thabo] Mbeki’s recall will look like a picnic,” said Mantashe recently. He also suggested that it would be easier for the party to remove the incumbent once he stepped down as leader of the ANC in December.

Mantashe has also hit out at the stalwarts whom he says wanted to discuss the state of the organisation without its branches, which are the most basic and essential aspect of the movement.

"We didn't agree with veterans when they said we don't want the branches [because] their politics [are] too poor," he said describing the request as flawed.

Delegates who attend the ANC’s conference this week will, instead of discussing plans of winning back their country, focus on policies its put in place to serve its people. This will include whether they are good policies and whether they are being implemented correctly.

This conference has often been overshadowed by the national elective conference which follows it, but some leaders are calling for serious introspection and focus on the party’s policies to check if it is still on the right track as far as its democracy project is concerned.

The ANC’s 2017 national policy conference is also critical as far as time is concerned with opposition parties using its troubles to strengthen their own campaigns ahead of the 2019 general elections.

According to its own documents, time was also concern in the 60s because the South African apartheid regime “was strengthening its forces and extending its horizons of economic domination and political influence”. Now with just less than two years before the country goes to its 4th general elections, the ANC stands a real chance of losing power if it does not find a path towards unity and focusing on its mandate.

Some in the party fear that the current ructions will not only lead to an overall decline, like the party saw during the 2016 municipal elections but also lead to it losing control of some parts of the country, including its economic hub, Gauteng.

Part of the reason behind the admiration of the Morogoro conference is that it managed to arrest a downward slide and through it the ANC was able to reconnect with itself along with its mandate. Some are now wondering if the Nasrec conference will be a watershed moment that helps the ailing liberation movement cling to power.

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