Khotso Molekane says the so-called 101 veterans are personalities hellbent on regime change and do not represent the thousands of ANC veterans whose commitment to defending the ANC from its enemies and criticising it internally, remains unwavering. They have for years, turned a blind-eye on similar concerns they bring forth today.
The ANC Veterans League constitution describes a veteran as a person who is over the age of 60 and and has had 40 years of uninterrupted service to the ANC. Basically, we are talking about seasoned and loyal members of the ANC, at least on paper. They understand that to be an ANC member you are partisan. You place the ANC ahead of personal ambition. You respect the letter and spirit of the ANC constitution, its conference resolutions and the results of its elective conferences. You defend the ANC when its enemies attack it and criticise it internally.
Based on the above definition, the ANC constituted a league specifically for the veterans in 2009. Like the other leagues, its secretary general and president are ex-officio members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. This gives veterans direct representation and a voice in the highest structure of the ANC between congresses. The Veterans League also has an allocated number of delegates to ANC congresses. The first elective congress of the Veterans League was in December 2009 and was presided by the President of the ANC, Jacob Zuma. It was under the current leadership of the ANC that Veterans were given a direct access to ANC structures.
Here are some of the excerpts from the conference media release after the first inaugural congress of the veterans league.
“As veterans and stalwarts, we are happy to be fully integrated within the movement to play a key role as the reservoir of knowledge, institutional memory, providing counsel and wisdom to ensure that the organisational renewal programme of the organisation reaches the lowest of our structures”.
“Believing that the elderly must play their role in society in guiding the younger generation on various matters, through their wisdom earned over many years, likewise believing that we the veterans of the ANC must and will play an increasingly greater role through a platform and organisation of our own. Further believing that the initiative to launch the ANC Veterans League, will inspire elderly people in society in general, to play such crucial role, to ensure the continued social, economic and political hegemony of timeless values in our communities and our country as a whole, as embraced by past generations”.
“In conclusion, we declare our undying commitment to the cause of our struggle under the banner and able leadership of the African National Congress, believing that this would remain an indelible example to the current younger generation and to all posterity of what is meant by being a disciplined cadre.
Very importantly, the ANC Veterans League shall serve as an axis for unity, reminding those of younger generation, that despite the necessary vigour of democratic engagement, the unity of our organisation remains the backbone of our struggle going into the future”.
Now that the veterans have set a standard for themselves, let us look at the conduct and pronouncements of the 101 personalities who call themselves ANC veterans.
True veterans should be working hard to strengthen the Veterans League and ensuring that it plays the role that it has set for itself in the ANC. They can never claim to have no voice. Do the 101 represent the thousands of ANC veterans or is it individuals that have been privileged by this movement and have appointed themselves a parallel structure because they are too important to sit down with their less glamorous peers? By the way, some of their less glamorous peers are the most unsung heroes and true sons and daughters of our people who demand no special consideration despite their immense contribution to the struggle.
Many of them are not too important to attend ANC rallies and meetings. Many of them live, die and are buried without much fanfare. The 101 are seldom seen at these less glamorous affairs. It is the current ANC government that has put in place policies to give dignity to them by providing them special pensions, medical and housing benefits.
Let us look at some of the members of this revolutionary royalty.
Ronnie Kasrils appealed to ANC supporters to spoil their votes rather than to vote for the ANC. I don’t remember our 101 eminent individuals showing any concern about how such conduct was going to weaken the ANC. Many of them presided over the weakening of the ANC even though today the claim that it only started after the ANC delegates removed many of them from positions of influence after 2007.
They claim to be shocked and moved by the loss of the three Metros in the August 2016 Municipal elections. This phenomenon did not start in 2016. It started with the loss of Cape Town to the DA under their very watch. I have never seen anyone of them when ordinary ANC members went out to canvass for the votes. They were mostly on radio and TV launching books attacking the ANC and its leadership.
Reverend Chikane threw all his energies into factional fights in the ANC and managed to write two books seeking to present the faction that lost in Polokwane as the true ANC and the ones who were elected in Polokwane as rogues. He said nothing about how the AIDS policy of the government of which he was part, negatively affected the people’s trust in the ANC nor did he say anything about why Tony Yengeni (then ANC Chief Whip) was imprisoned for defrauding Parliament by accepting a discounted car. (By the way, Parliament as a sovereign institution did not charge Yengeni). Terror Lekota, then defence minister, was never charged for a similar offence. The point is, the rot began at this time – when comrades were using the state to deal with comrades they didn’t like. Where was Chikane then?
The sovereignty of parliament is often brought into play when offended parties challenge members of Parliament to repeat their ‘defamatory’ statements outside the walls of parliamentary chambers. The Chief of Armscor, Lou Swan and the chief of the air force were directly involved in the adjudication of the bidding in the arms deal, but were never charged even though they received discounted vehicles and yet, Yengeni, who was not a government functionary was charged.
I have never heard Reverend Chikane and other luminaries express unhappiness that the National anti-corruption forum never followed up on its mandate to probe apartheid corruption whose legacy we are still saddled with including the fact that the CIEX report was never prioritised. Why is he so quiet about the lenient arrangements with construction companies that defrauded the South African taxpayer? The commission for employment equity releases reports about the resistance of white owned companies to transform, which is a constitutional imperative and still he is not moved.
We also have former Minister Sydney Mafumadi who obtained a Phd while serving as a minister lecturing to us about the decline of the ANC. What he does not say is that the ANC lost support when he pushed for the relocation of Merafong to the North-West against the wishes of the community. It undermined the trust of the community in the ANC and reminded them of apartheid forced removals. Between 1994 – 1999 he was the minister of police when crime ravaged especially poor black communities and he failed them dismally. He only became visible when criminals targeted cash delivery services. All this alienated the ANC’s natural constituency.
Coming back to Gauteng, the leadership of the ANC has to take full responsibility for the loss of the three Metros. Gauteng is one of the three biggest provinces in the ANC but has not played any meaningful role in the ANC congresses since polokwane. This is a reflection on the leadership of the province. From 2007, Gauteng has never been to any conference as a coherent force that can influence the outcomes of the conference. The structures on the ground are weak with members disillusioned. This cannot be blamed on Jacob Zuma. I see the Gauteng ANC leaders joining “Save South Africa” instead of saving Gauteng. I hope amongst the things that South Africa is being saved from is the demon of racism and its attendant wealth distribution.
Going back to the 101, they like some of their children who called themselves “Masupatsela a Walter Sisulu”, cannot see themselves renewing their ANC membership and directing their immense energies and resourses at rebuilding the branches of the ANC and of the ANC Veterans League. They would rather fight for special privileges that guarantee them power without responsibility. They make most bizarre demands that the so-called civil society (whatever that is) be allowed to participate in ANC meetings and conferences as if we join the ANC as groups. Should the leadership of the ANC accede to this bizzare demand, it will be up to the members to challenge attempts to undermine the constitution of the ANC all the way to the courts.
These individuals and personalities are not true veterans according to what the veterans themselves said in their statement of 6 December 2009 from which i have generously quoted. The problems of the ANC will be resolved by committed members of the ANC sitting together as comrades and equals, not turncoats who have become regime change agents. One’s history is only relevant if it continues to foster the principles enshrined in that history.