The hullabaloo about the recent much-maligned ANC Cadres’ Summit reminded me of the oft-used adage: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.”
Doomsayers wanted us to accept as gospel their own construct that the Cadres’ Summit was a nefarious plot by serving and retired generals to unseat a democratic government and install a tinpot dictator to rule our country.
How unfortunate that even some gullible ANC members swallowed this well-crafted but misleading narrative hook, line and sinker, with noises made that those arranging and attending the summit were acting and defining themselves outside of the discipline and structures of the ANC.
Now that the storm in the teacup has dissipated and the summit concluded its business without any unsavoury incident, including the coup that was predicted by pessimists and alarmists, South Africans can assess the usefulness of said summit within an atmosphere devoid of hysteria.
Hopefully, the assessment exercise will be informed by the report and resolutions of that summit that are in the public domain.
It is every cadre’s wish that the report titled ANC Turnaround Strategy 2025 and the accompanying resolutions will be given due consideration by not only the ANC national leadership but also the entire membership.
Given that the ANC is our collective heritage as a country, South Africans will be within their right to also critique the proposals, the aim being to enrich it as these proposals are of a game-changing nature and will affect not only the future direction of the ANC but also that of our country.
It is hoped that the temptation, no matter how strong, to look at it through the prism of factions will be resisted, especially by the leadership, as history teaches us that most initiatives to rebuild and renew the ANC have been hitherto flippantly dismissed and ultimately buried simply because they did not conform to a dominant factional template.
We need not look further than how the call for an inclusive national consultative conference prior to the Nasrec conference in 2017 was mishandled. One can only speculate about what would have happened if the ANC leadership at the time had acceded to that patriotic call. Could we be where we are or not, or could the ANC have changed course?
Indeed, that remains a matter of speculation but I would venture to stick my neck out and state that the ANC would be on a better footing, the Morogoro and Kabwe consultative conferences, in Tanzania and Zambia, respectively, being reference points.
The ANC is in an ever-deepening crisis and something ought to be done and pretty soon if it is to rediscover its moral compass and reclaim its historical place as a leader of society.
It is encouraging that ANC cadres met to reflect on the state of their movement and make proposals for returning the ANC to its former glory.
The summit admitted that, indeed, their movement is in a crisis of leadership, legitimacy, credibility, political coherence and morality. Therefore, the proposals must be viewed against the backdrop of numerous initiatives, including a fresh call for a national consultative conference and/or convening an early national general council, being taken.
All these efforts are aimed at crafting a practical plan to get the ANC back on track as the legitimate people’s parliament and leader of society.
Hence, several urgent steps, including effectively putting the ANC under administration, rebuilding and renewing structures, and attending to the socioeconomic situation of the mostly poor and working class, need to be taken in the short and medium term.
Our country’s Constitution, while progressive in many respects, especially in entrenching a human rights culture, also needs to be put under a microscope as it is proving to be a hindrance to rather than an enabler of genuine transformation, especially on the economic front with the recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment regarding the preferential procurement regulations being a case in point.
Therefore, a thorough constitutional review needs and has to be undertaken to assess if some of the provisions are still relevant and how they can be amended to advance faster development and growth.
With the ever-widening gap between the rich, who are mostly white, and the poor, mostly black, it would be a travesty to allow our country’s Constitution to be an instrument in the hands of those wanting to preserve white privilege and supremacy, as this serves to reverse the progress made in nation-building and forging social cohesion.
This means that the new or amended Constitution should be an enabler for rapid, far-reaching decolonisation and socioeconomic transformation.
The proposals for strategic change are with the ANC national leadership and what they do with or how they respond to them will determine whether there is still a chance for the organisation to self-correct.
True to form, the dismissive posture and condescending attitude displayed by the ANC national officials, as epitomised by national chairperson Gwede Mantashe during a recent impromptu media briefing, does not inspire confidence in the ability of the leadership to humble itself and own up to the mess the organisation finds itself in.
It seems that they have resorted to the much-favoured default response of providing simplistic administrative solutions to complex political problems, namely, “the forum is not a recognised ANC structure”.
At least, to their credit, they have committed to continue with the discussions and hopefully an atmosphere of cordiality and seriousness will permeate that conversation.
The push for the ANC to change course if it is to remain relevant has reached a crescendo and it would be difficult, if not politically costly, for the leadership to be flippant in their response.
For far too long has the leadership ducked and dived when confronted with the reality that the organisation is engulfed by a crisis as they have perfected the skill of deflecting, dismissing and even demonising proposals for strategic change.
In effect, the ANC has in the recent past become renowned for pouring new wine into an old wineskin with the hope that the crisis will simply go away. Unfortunately, the crisis is persisting while deepening and the party faces the real possibility of losing more and more municipalities come the local government elections next year.
There is also a looming spectre of the ANC governing through coalitions or being relegated to the opposition benches after the 2024 general elections, unless it changes course.
The proposed disbandment of the national executive committee and the establishment of a task team that forms part of a suite of proposals to rebuild and renew the ANC is pregnant with possibilities for a positive change of fortune.
The mooted legislative and governance changes also afford us a priceless opportunity to radically change our country’s socioeconomic landscape.
The ANC leadership would be well advised to respond appropriately to the cacophony of calls for strategic change, and self-preservation should not be an option as the ship not only is in rocky waters but is sinking, and it would be amiss to simply shift the chairs on the deck.
Mogodiri is an ANC member and a former chairperson of COSAS Soweto and Umkhonto weSizwe combatant