ANC must walk its veteran talk

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In a lead story, City Press reported on a document Reverend Frank Chikane recently compiled for presentation to the top leadership of the ANC following extensive consultations with organisational structures, mainly in the Johannesburg area (“Chikane warns of ANC’s demise”, City Press, October 4 2015).

At the beginning of March, Chikane had called a number of veterans to suggest a meeting to discuss the worrying behaviour of many ANC-associated individuals in public office and the concomitant decline in the organisation’s popularity.

In particular, people were beginning to doubt the ANC’s commitment to the improvement of the quality of ordinary citizens’ lives. Corruption was rampant and the perception, especially among the youth, was that people with ANC connections received preferential access to public sector jobs and business opportunities.

Chikane thought that veterans of the ANC should take the lead in bringing this state of affairs to the attention of the leadership. Having recently turned 60 and having been a member of the organisation for more than 40 years, Chikane jokingly claimed the “right of passage” to the coveted veteran ranks.

A protracted process of consultations ensued. Veterans do not exist in sufficient numbers within the established ANC branch system to form a branch of their own.

Thus requisite permissions were sought and obtained from branch, zonal and regional authorities to constitute appropriately representative veteran structures.

The process received the blessings of the provincial authorities. Its objective was ultimately to compile a report on the deliberations and choose a delegation to present it to the ANC’s top leadership at Luthuli House.

On July 1, Chikane delivered a thoroughly workshopped document to Luthuli House and requested the opportunity of a meeting to present it to the officials.

When City Press published its story in October, three months later, the busy officials at Luthuli House were yet to find the time to meet Chikane and the other veterans.

My estimation is that in excess of 40 copies of the report were sent or emailed to the comrades who had participated in its production. It was critical that everybody be satisfied with the accuracy of the information compiled. No veteran, to my knowledge, expressed disagreement with the contents of the report.

Enraged at being asked by a journalist about the so-called Chikane Report, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe accused Chikane of having leaked the document to the media. The charge was untrue, insensitive and irresponsible. High office does not justify that kind of behaviour.

Be that as it may, while Mantashe was berating the journalist for asking him a question about a supposedly leaked document, Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu, realising that the cat was out of the bag, was adroit in handling her interviewer: yes, there were challenges, she said, but they were dealing with them.

The conclusion one can draw from Mantashe’s rabid behaviour is that the contents of the Chikane Report had stolen a march on the president’s and Mantashe’s own reports intended for presentation to the national general council (NGC). (The frank manner in which the president and the secretary-general later reported on the parlous state of the organisation and corruption levels deserves praise.)

But as if the unwarranted abuse of Chikane was not enough, one ANC member, Thami ka Plaatjie, seized the opportunity to hurl his own, pathetic scud missiles.

Ka Plaatjie treated Chikane’s complicity in the leaking of the report as a given. But what becomes of his self-serving attacks given that Chikane did not, in fact, give City Press the report?

A rebuttal is intended to refute a logical but contradictory viewpoint. Ka Plaatjie’s rant denies me this opportunity.

Recognising that the organisation needs a vigorous shake-up is a good place to start on the journey to reclaim what was once our moral high ground. Also essential is that people allow themselves to think and act fearlessly. Credibility will elude us if we do not walk the talk.

What credence, for instance, should be given to any claim that the entirety of the ANC members of Parliament who voted on August 19 in support of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s shameful report on the Nkandla upgrades did so in the belief that they were right?

How does a Public Protector who has done so much to expose the corruption that all decry end up on the receiving end of the wrath of ANC leaders? How does the black economic empowerment project end up creating millionaires and billionaires of politicians ahead of genuine entrepreneurs?

We know now that Chikane and the ANC leaders are ad idem (the same thing) and trying to take the same steps in the need to restore the standing of the ANC in society. As for Ka Plaatjie, more time in the “people’s organisation” should help him find his way.

Msimang is an ANC member

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