Former EFF Gauteng leader Mandisa Mashego has found a new political home. She is now the interim director of the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC), which describes itself as an Afrocentric, Pan-Africanist and womanist revolutionary movement.
The ABC was formed last year by former National Freedom Party (NFP) councillor Philani Mavundla and some party members. It contested in the by-elections late last year and hopes to make a mark during the local elections scheduled for later this year.
When he was still a member of the NFP, Mavundla was a councillor in the Umvoti Local Municipality and believes he can win back the hearts of residents, this time as the leader of his own party.
In an interview with City Press, Mashego said that, after consulting with many political parties, the ABC was the only party that had aligned with her political aspirations and was upfront about why it wanted her on board.
“I had extensive discussions with leaders from various formations, but what struck me positively was that the ABC was really genuine about why it wanted to engage with me and what it wanted to bring to the table in society as a new organisation, and its perspective of the future. We found each other on many aspects, except on the gender question, but they said they were willing to learn and needed me to help them shape the agenda for a society which was accepting of women,” she said.
She added that the ABC aspired to be a party that was sensitive to gender issues.
“They showed that they were also worried about the fragmentation in our society, especially between black men and black women, and the socioeconomic and cultural disparities between men and women [in general],” she said.
The enthusiastic leader said the ABC also expressed interest in collaborating with organisations such as civic societies, NGOs and other small parties.
However, she added that there would be rules governing how they engaged with these organisations, and the collaboration would not be similar to the way the ANC and other parties dealt with coalitions.
“We aren’t going to collaborate with criminals. We can’t have an alliance with an organisation that has proved that it has no control over its criminal elements, so we’re not going to align with people who point fingers. We want a collaboration that reprimands and disciplines wrongdoing. If it was about me and what I want, I could have simply gone to the ANC and said: ‘Give me whatever and I’ll be happy and continue with life.’ But it’s not about that,” said Mashego.
She added that the party’s policies would be firmly against corruption.
“We don’t want people who abuse communities or their power, or people who go into council just to get a tender. We’re going to be very clear about that,” she said.
“One of our policy propositions is that anyone accused of corruption or who is facing a court case on a corruption charge will automatically be suspended until they’ve been cleared, and the organisation will not support such individuals in any form whatsoever. [We’d rather lose such members] and start afresh. The principle will be maintained and upheld.”
Before joining the ABC, Mashego said she had decided to go back to her entrepreneurial aspirations, having successfully joined a programme with a global organisation called Tekano Health Equity, which focused on health issues.
She left the EFF early in April, saying she wanted to focus on her activism.
“It’s not only the right thing to do, but also about my health and the path I’d really like to take with my activism, some of the huge variety of stakeholders I’ve been engaging with and the people with whom I’ve been able to connect spiritually,” she said at the time.
There was speculation about her move away from the red berets after her loss at the EFF’s national elective conference in December 2019.
Mashego contested for the position of secretary-general, but lost to party leader Julius Malema’s close ally, Marshall Dlamini.
She said her new party was also serious about challenging male dominance.
“There are many women in the ABC. I was inspired to find out that a lot of them looked up to me. They told me I had taught them that when they recruit members to political parties, they should start with women and then recruit men afterwards, to try to balance men’s natural inclination to dominate us,” she said.
Mashego said women should take up and own leadership roles. She also noted the problem of “sex-for-jobs” that existed in the country.
“Women need to move past the stage of tokenism. We must move away from saying ‘thank you’ for being bought while we don’t call the shots. We need a space where women have real power and make a real contribution that’s taken seriously and isn’t patronised. We have a big surge of ‘sex-for-jobs’ in South Africa, not only in the government sector, but everywhere,” she said.
The party – which also has a student structure called the Abantu Batho Student Congress – is set to elect its leadership early this year.