The ANC has reviewed its 2001 policy document titled Through the Eye of a Needle: Choosing the Best Cadres to Lead Transformation, which aimed to guide the party in ensuring that it elected leaders and public representatives with integrity.
This review comes as the party’s image has been marred by rampant allegations of corruption among its leaders and members, loss of credibility due to poor service delivery and an inability to attract young people, risking declining support in the looming local government elections.
A discussion document to lead such a review was published with 11 others this week, ahead of the party’s national general council, which was postponed from the middle of this year to April or May next year due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
The party said it had conducted an honest self-audit and, when discussing the documents, wanted branches and provinces to investigate the real possibility of losing power.
According to the discussion document, the two-decade-old guidelines needed to be reviewed because of “the manifest lack of revolutionary morality and disrespect for the movement’s values and, particularly, its character”, which had “led to the loosening of the glue that binds its members, consequently compromising unity and cohesion of the movement”.
The document bemoaned the fact that “the ANC has grown in membership, yet the quality of its cadres is fast diminishing”.
One of the stated aims of the party under former president Jacob Zuma, at its centenary celebration in 2012, was growing the ANC membership to more than 1 million. Some have warned that this could dilute the quality of the membership in favour of quantity.
The document added that ANC members should raise questions about how the party’s leaders and representatives were elected.
It also touched on the role of money in the election of leaders, an issue that had been elevated since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, which allegedly used money to win over delegates at the Nasrec conference in 2017.
“The movement must openly discuss the issue of campaigning for leadership positions in the organisation and the use of money that accompanies this phenomenon. It has begun to slowly change the nature and character of the movement as we know it,” the document stated.
“Accordingly, we have to revert to the core values of the movement, where money has no role to play in determining leadership outcomes. This very much depends on a membership that has high levels of political consciousness and is capable of holding leadership to account.”
However, it also proposed that the party be realistic in dealing with the issue and finding ways to regulate it, instead of simply banning the involvement of money.
“The ANC has to be realistic and accept that we live in conditions which are not of our making. To ignore the presence of money in our internal election processes is to live in a fool’s paradise. Banning this phenomenon altogether will result in driving these activities underground.
“The option is therefore to regulate the issue of individual campaigning and the use of money in the process.”
According to the document, the reason the ANC had failed to implement the guidelines in Through the Eye of a Needle was that the leadership had failed to act against members who were ill-disciplined.
“It is [because of] the inability to act when members deviate from established policy positions and ill-discipline. The tone is not being set from the top.
“The ANC is engulfed in paralysis when decision-making. The notion of democratic centralism suggests that, while there is a need to allow for democratic expressions at different levels of the organisation, the exercise of leadership is an important variable in the mix,” the document stated.
“The preponderance of factional activities has resulted in the emergence of what can be characterised as organisational populism: that is, the inclination to shy away from taking difficult decisions and to cave in to the conduct and demands.”
It added that the party should discuss measures that would ensure that ill-discipline was dealt with, especially in provinces and municipalities.
“The ANC seems to be engulfed by inaction and paralysis in the face of activities of the forces of reaction and rogue elements within its ranks.
“We are unable to act to save the movement from self-destruction. There are many cases of ill-discipline that are not acted on in the provinces, municipalities and branches. This leaves the ANC weak.
“The tone is that of impunity across all levels of the organisation,” it added.