ANC’s double standards on discipline is catching up with it

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Former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC national conference in Nasrec in December 2017. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
Former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC national conference in Nasrec in December 2017. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press

Ahead of the 2012 ANC Mangaung conference, the party was tearing itself apart through factionalism battles about who would become its leader.

In one corner, there were those who wanted then deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to take over from Jacob Zuma, while others wanted Zuma to continue.

It was an intense battle and in the end, Motlanthe did not have enough support, paving the way for Zuma to reclaim his second term as party leader, which secured him a second stint as country president in 2014.

In Motlanthe’s place, Cyril Ramaphosa became the deputy president of the party and restored some credibility to the ANC’s top structure.

But it was in the boardroom that the battles continued and the resolutions that came out of the conference would have people convinced that the party was indeed determined to turn things around and rid itself of corruption.

Amongst its resolutions from Mangaung, the ANC said that urgent steps should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society.

This, the resolution on safeguarding the core values [of the ANC] reads, will be done by ensuring that “urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct”.

It further called for “firm and consistent action to instil discipline across all levels of the organisation without fear or favour”.

By now, you are asking where is this going. Just bear with me for one more quote from the resolution of the more than 100-year-old liberation movement.

The punchline came: “The ANC members who are found guilty of wrongdoing in other institutions of society should also be subjected to internal disciplinary processes in line with the ANC Code of Conduct. This will send an unambiguous message in society that the ANC does not tolerate any wrongdoing, including corruption, among its members.”

This part of the resolution would have made any doubting Thomas beg for a membership form straight away.

This was a clear sign that the party had taken a line to deal with those amongst its ranks who brought disrepute to the glorious movement of Luthuli, Tambo, Mandela and Sisulu.

This was part of the message the party took to the masses ahead of the 2014 general election.

Once it was returned to power following the elections, the ANC was quick to forget its own resolutions, taken by the party’s decision maker – the national conference which happens every five years.

In 2014, then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released the “Secure in Comfort” report which was scathing of Zuma on the undue benefits he derived from the upgrades to his Nkandla home.

Zuma ignored the findings and did not adhere to its remedial actions.

While for years Zuma had used the Public Protector’s reports to take action against those implicated – remember Bheki Cele and the SAPS lease deals – he dragged the matter that involved him by going to court to set aside the report.

The opposition parties in Parliament led the charge against Zuma, but his ANC comrades – all of them in the House – did everything to protect their leader.

The Mangaung resolutions had been forgotten and they used their majority to defend the indefensible.

The matter went to the Constitutional Court where Zuma was found to have breached his oath of office – by implication he also brought the name of the ANC into disrepute.

But the party still would not do anything about their wayward president.

The ANC’s Integrity Commission in 2017, at the height of crisis within the party, asked Zuma to resign.

He refused, saying that doing as the commission suggested would allow Western governments to capture the party and betray the revolution.

And from today to Saturday, the party’s decision-making body between conferences – the national executive committee – meets to decide the fate of its comrades implicated in the theft of almost R2 billion from the VBS Mutual Bank.

The Integrity Commission had already said those implicated should step aside from leadership position of the party.

So far, no one has done so and there are indications that a fight is looming.

In Gauteng, the provincial Integrity Commission has recommended that former MECs Brian Hlongwa and Qedani Mahlangu should not hold any leadership positions.

The commission’s decision has been rejected and both still hold their seats within the provincial executive committee.

As the NEC decides on the VBS matter and implication to the party ahead of 2019, it would not help but further create divisions which have affected it for the last few years.

Those who are asked to step aside will argue that nothing happened to Zuma and many others who were implicated in wrongdoing and why should they step aside now if there is precedence to the contrary.

They will further argue that comrades are elected by the membership into the leadership positions and therefore the NEC or conference resolutions cannot be used to usurp the powers of branches.

Forcing those implicated to step aside will also imply that the current leadership is purging those who are aligned to Zuma, but failing to take action against those in support of the incumbent Ramaphosa.

Whatever the outcome of the two-day meeting, there is only one ANC and it has to take responsibility for allowing Zuma to run it like his personal fiefdom since 2007, where rules and decisions were chucked out of the window, allowing a culture of impunity to persist.

And the effects of the silence under Zuma will be felt right into the ballot box next year.

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