ANC's leaders living in another world – A conversation with Jay Naidoo

2017-04-07 09:17
Jay Naidoo. (Netwerk24)

Jay Naidoo. (Netwerk24)

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WATCH: Jay Naidoo shares his thoughts about the ANC leadership

2017-04-06 17:08

Former Minister under the Nelson Mandela cabinet, Jay Naidoo talks about the leadership of the ANC saying "it seeks to protect what is indefensible." WATCH

Johannesburg – Disappointed, angry and betrayed.

This is how Jay Naidoo, who served as telecommunications minister under former president Nelson Mandela, feels about the country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of his new book, Change: Organising Tomorrow, Today in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening, Naidoo said he felt like everything that he had fought for had been marginalised.

It was his tweet earlier that day that reflected how he felt about the once glorious ANC. “I never thought in my lifetime that I would have to take a stand against an illegitimate government in South Africa, again,” he wrote.

It was not what he and others had fought for. In 1994, the ANC committed itself to improving the lives of all South Africans.

“We have a government that wants to spend a trillion rand on a nuclear deal that we don’t need, we cannot afford and that has nothing to do with our energy security. But when young people are demanding free, quality and decolonised public education, we say we have no money.”


Young people justifiably felt outraged and he would continue to protect the space for them to speak out.

He said South Africans were displaying anger which had been brewing over the years, and an honest conversation about race and land was needed. About 80% of the land still remained under the control of a minority and economic transformation had not taken place. 

“I see no reason why farmers, both black and white, cannot give land to farm workers that have helped build their family fortunes over generations.

“We cannot live in a country where 80% of the private land is in the hands of white farmers. The land needs to be transferred, free of charge, outside the bigger land reform strategy.”

However, land and unemployment did not appear to be priorities for the current leadership. They seemed more concerned with making deals that would leave future generations in debt and not serve the people.

“People in power seem to think that access to public office is a business opportunity to serve and enrich themselves.”

The country’s system was broken and most problems globally were due to human greed and patriarchy and its accompanying violence and aggression. More women were needed in seats of power because they were able to bring balance, he said.

Naidoo said former president Mandela called a good leader one that had a good heart and soul.


On whether the ANC would be able to return to being the mighty force it once was, Naidoo said: “I think the jury is out. I think the majority of the people in this country have called for change. What we have now is a leadership in the ANC that seeks to protect what is indefensible.

“It is an assault on the Constitution and I am rapidly losing hope that we will ever regain the ANC that the generation of Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo represented, and that Chris Hani died fighting for.”

Naidoo encouraged people to stand up for what was right because political parties around the country were no longer representing the interests of the people.

“They have been captured by vested interests and they have no interest in the national or human interest. Millions of rands are pumped into these political parties. Are they accountable to us as citizens or those vested interests?”

A party lost its soul when it reached the point where it single-mindedly wanted to stay in power, regardless of the consequences.

He said the ANC’s leaders had lost the spine the once-great movement had.

“They have a chance to retrieve the situation, but I doubt it very much.”

He said NEC members were protecting President Jacob Zuma at all cost because their stomachs had taken precedence over their hearts.

“The generations that came before us, the 1976 generation, were driven by passion for social justice, we were prepared to die for the cause. Now we attract people who join government or political parties, who see a business opportunity.”

‘We gave our power away’

“Our generation made a mistake in 1994. We gave our power away. We demobilised our societies and became bystanders in development, and while we were looking they took everything.”

He said Mandela was already bitterly disappointed in his lifetime. The current problems started during his leadership.

“The chickens have come home to roost. We thought that leadership is electing presidents who think they know more than people and believe they have some divine right to rule over us. We do not need God-presidents anymore.”

This was inconsistent with the idea of South Africa’s democracy and the reason he supported calls for radical transformation.

Naidoo described his new book as an inter-generational letter. While he was not defending any decisions that were made in the early 1990s, he said the context in which they were taken had to be understood.

“There is a lot of talk about us betraying the country during the negotiations for negotiations. There was no betrayal. We wanted radical transformation. The fact that we have not done it is not the fault of the Constitution. It is the leadership that failed to implement what the Constitution demands of us.”


He said in every negotiation there were compromises to be made.

“If we had not made those changes, hundreds of thousands of people would have died.  We would have destroyed a lot of the country’s infrastructure. We stepped back from the brink of civil war.”

He said the book was an exploration of a system that was broken, both economically and politically.

“We have to co-create a new future in which we have humanity, love, and compassion. We cannot only write about ubuntu, we must live it.”

He said he supported people standing up and speaking out against governments and corporations that abused power, as in Friday’s “People’s March”.

“We should be outraged by human greed. The current leadership in the ANC is living in another world. The fact that they have lost the major metros is a big wake-up call for them.

“You can fool some people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Naidoo said the next generation should find its voice and continue the struggle.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  nelson mandela  |  jay naidoo  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  politics 2017  |  land

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