The branches of the ANC are undoubtedly the basic units and building blocks of our gigantic and glorious movement. As matters stand, the status of the ANC branches as the foundation for unity and coherence is under serious threat. Now that the ANC, under the leadership of President Matamela Ramaphosa, is moving towards renewal and restoration of its political image, there is an urgent need to strongly focus on rebuilding the branches of the party.
The recent elective conference provided glaring evidence that ANC branches need to be rescued from gatekeepers and corrupt comrades who are hellbent on dominating the structures of the movement. There is a new and disturbing tendency by branch leaders who behave as if they own the branch members and internal processes of the ANC.
In recent times, we have witnessed shocking levels of gatekeeping and manipulation of branch membership by leaders at local level throughout the country. Comrades in branches seem to position themselves to benefit financially in the name of campaigning for those who are contesting certain positions.
There is a corrupt and very annoying concept known as “intervention”, in which comrades will ask leaders and individuals to intervene financially to propel a campaign for their preferred leader. This intervention is often disguised as assistance for lobbying, but the lobbyists pocket most of the funds for their personal use. Our comrades should refrain from this practice as it will entrench corruption in our ranks and, ultimately, in government.
The programme of uniting and reviving the ANC may not succeed if we don’t deal with the decoy of placing too much emphasis on the quantity instead of the quality of branch membership. This is evident through the recruitment of inactive and sometimes highly ignorant members who are only mobilised to attend branch general meetings (BGMs) on the eve of elective conferences. Free transport, food and beverages are often used as bait to lure some unsuspecting branch members to attend often hastily convened BGMs. When this happens, some branch leaders try to convince the potential interveners that, without free food and transport, the branches may fail to reach a quorum. This “intervention” scheme is destroying the spirit of volunteerism within the ANC and may result in the sale of the ANC to the highest bidder if we don’t nip it in the bud.
It is vitally important to understand that, while the quantity of branch members will enable leaders to win ANC conferences, it is the quality of branch members and deployees that will give the ANC an advantage to win the national general elections in 2019. Leaders of the ANC at all levels must therefore desist from a myopic and self-serving approach of swelling the ranks of the party with stooges in the name of building it.
This issue of quantity over quality of leadership is gradually becoming a constitutional matter which needs close analysis. It is becoming a means by which politicians in the ANC and opposition parties abuse their majority status in every sphere of government. This is not good for democracy.
Democracy cannot be defined narrowly, based on majority politics, as it should also be achieved through quality leadership that can deliver services to our people. The ANC cannot allow itself to degenerate into an organisation that primarily places more significance on lobbying and mobilisation at the expense of building cadres with critical and robust thinking abilities necessary to develop our country.
President Ramaphosa and the new ANC leadership collective are called upon to modernise our branches and transform the ANC into a relevant and responsive organisation rooted among our communities.
Chief Matsila is a member of the ANC in good standing