Pretoria – ANC leaders and veterans have started discussions about possibly holding a consultative conference, to address concerns about the state of the organisation.
“We are discussing the modalities for it,” ANC stalwart Wally Serote told journalists on Monday.
Serote and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe briefed reporters following a meeting between the stalwarts and the ANC’s national working committee in Pretoria on Monday. The two said they were both pleased with how discussions unfolded.
Mantashe said the veterans presented the party with a number of candid issues, many of which were difficult to confront. However, he said the party had to go through such “difficult moments” in order to become better.
Wealth of experience
It was important for the 104-year-old liberation movement to lean on its elders to successfully emerge from its current challenges, Mantashe said.
“These comrades bring a wealth of experience to us to be able to go through this difficult period.”
A delegation including Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg, reverend Frank Chikane, Cheryl Carolus, and Serote represented a group of over 100 party veterans at the meeting.
Both sides agreed to continue discussions.
The ANC last held a consultative conference in 1990, when it was under the leadership of Oliver Reginald Tambo. The aim of the gathering was to help the party rededicate itself to the ideals of the ANC’s founding fathers and the principles of the Freedom Charter.
Mantashe said the ANC was hoping to pick up discussions with its veterans on Friday, at the start of the ANC’s final national executive committee meeting for 2016.
The first day of the meeting would be dedicated to the veterans, after which the meeting would continue as scheduled.
Serote said the veterans were willing to be guided by the ANC’s values in resolving some of the concerns they had raised over recent months.
War of words
He told journalists that although there were difficult moments, there were issues both sides could agree on. He would not say what these were.
“We are guided by the president when he said we should meet, so that by the time December ends we will have resolved some of the issues that were outstanding,” said Serote.
The ANC’s veterans had been in a war of words with some members over the party’s future. Some party stalwarts have demanded that President Jacob Zuma step down.
Their calls followed the scandal over upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, the ANC’s poor performance in the August 3 local government elections, the possibility of Zuma facing fresh corruption charges, and revelations in the public protector’s “State of Capture” report.
Zuma in turn had criticized struggle veterans for not having been involved in ANC activities for years, only to surface now to call for him to step down.