ANC Must Reclaim Its Radical Character For Fundamental Change In The Lives Of The People

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By Tiisetso Makkhele & Themba Vryman

We have decided to write this piece out of our strong devotion for the African National Conference. As we jointly penned this piece, our minds were preoccupied with the current state of the ANC, and how that is weakening the capacity of the ANC to radically change the material conditions of our people, the majority of whom are African and female. We also write this piece convinced that the ANC remains the only vehicle towards the obliteration of the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Below are a few issues that we feel need urgent attention if the ANC is to sharpen its capacity to remain as the leader of society.

Strengthen the ANC Branch and transform members into cadres

The ANC Branch, which is the basic unit of the ANC, remains the primary political base of the movement. The Branch is the immediate point of contact between the ANC and the masses. It is therefore very crucial that the diagnosis of the health or ill-health of the ANC is premised on the life of the Branch. The Reports of various ANC Secretary-Generals and commentaries on the health of branches have mostly been a bitter pill to swallow. Naturally once the branches are in disarray, the revolutionary capacity of the progressive movement will be weakened.

Argentina-born revolutionary, Dr. Che Guevera, in his seminal work titled “The Cadres: The Backbone of the Revolution” (September, 1962), stated that a “cadre  should be an individual who has amassed in his revolutionary tools kit sufficient political developments to elucidate extensive directives from the structures of the movement, make them hers or his, and convey them as orientation to the masses, a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own interests and innermost motivations”.

In 2013, the ANC launched The Decade of the ANC Cadre, as it began to focus on the ideological and revolutionary training of its members. The ANC was of the view that once its members were sharpened ideologically and politically, they would be able to participate meaningfully in the life of the organisation, particularly at the Branches, as well as qualitatively increase the political consciousness of the masses towards the National Democratic Revolution.

It is common knowledge that the attempts of the ANC to transform its membership into cadres has not produced the desired results so far. The nature and quality of leadership at all levels of the organisation has shown that cadreship has been lacking amongst the members and leaders of the movement. The occurrences of factionalism, gate keeping, ineffective branches as well as adverse court judgements against the ANC, are some of the symptoms of the ANC’s dearth of cadreship.

Sharpen strategies for change

Historically, the ANC has always emphasised the motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution as “Black people in general and Africans in particular”. These are the forces which possess the best political and ideological potential to lead and defend the process of transformation.

The character of the ANC has always been defined by its appeal and resonance with the great masses of the South African populace. This unique trait has seen the congress movement carrying a distinguishing political feature amongst many liberation movements and political parties in Africa. It is also because of this distinct nature that the ANC has been rewarded with the confidence to remain a leader of society, for more than a century.

As a leader of society the ANC must use all its resources to develop and implement a radical change agenda to accelerate transformation. This is not a simple task. This task requires the ANC and its cadres to transcend the narrow tribal, regionalistic, gender, class and gender differences amongst its membership, and adopt a broad vision to change South Africa radically. This vision must ensure that ANC has the decisive capability to implement radical policy positions adopted at its Conferences and Councils.

Disrupt the peace of the economic status quo through radical methods

We must posit unequivocally that, for a period of over 23 years since the advent of democracy, there has been a tortoise speed by the congress movement to transform South Africa. Out of delicate fear to disturb the peace of the former oppressors and beneficiaries of apartheid and colonialism, those who have had the privilege to lead the transformation agenda have according to them tactically accepted that “kancani kancani, sizo fika lapha sifuna kuya khona” (slowly but surely we will get to where we need to be).

Once we as the ANC convince ourselves that the intricacies of state administration and governance limit us from executing the people’s instructions to make their lives better, we tacitly acknowledge that as the congress movement we are not radical.

We have observed that, since democracy, radicalism has been seen as negative in the body language of the ANC. Radicalism has been used as a bait to identify ’disruptors’ of the post-apartheid political norm in the movement, as well as ‘anarchists’. Radicalism in the ANC has been liquidated as a revolutionary tool which has severely impacted on the character of the ANC to be bold and take decisions which must favour the people who have entrusted the ANC to act as their agent for change. This phenomenon is aptly demonstrated in the decisions and steps taken to address the critical question of land and the altering of the economic patterns and control in South Africa.


 The ANC is one of the most resilient political formations that history has ever produced. It remains the main hope for the people of South Africa and the world for emancipation from political and economic bondages. Once the ANC loses its radical character, it will turn into a toothless home of indecisive men and women, incapable of executing its historical mandate. The ANC must therefore sharpen its members into cadres, strengthen its branches and continue on a radical path towards radical socio-economic transformation.

Tiisetso ‘Afrika’ Makhele and Themba ‘Planetist’ Vryman. The writers are ANC members in Free State province and they write in their personal capacities.

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  1. Thank you comrades for understanding the ANC as you do. But your deliberation are as if ANC is a person who should do.
    Yet ANC is the people who are members not the leaders – together we should develop a programme that will speak to the policy of the ANC and members should participate fully and accept in their participation mistakes will happen but have to forge on and on.
    Never speak of leaders in the ANC as if they are passive onlookers. They participate meaningfully. But they don’t have followers who will also participate meaningfully. We have members who want to talk ANC LEADERSHIP as if in opposition and not cascade the policy interprtation and implementation on the ground.
    Cde with due respect ANC policies are very simple, but need people who know them & act on them not only as ANC members but as civic leaders, civic organizations, ANC, SANCO, COSATU especially the affiliates of COSATU that is supposed to play a pivotal role in implementing the policies of government as ANC members. WE need to assist where possible and make it possibe when people find it difficult.
    It’s quite possible to achieve cdes if we stand together and see ANC as belonging to leaders – yes we have to follow leader with respect and integrity but lets take the initiative to help government.
    Policies direct us as to what to do/ Policies don’t build, it is the people who must build. Policies on health especially primary health care do not need leaders we are leaders in our own right – lets implement. In education we can uplift our communities.
    Government doesn’t stay with us – we are the government – we should hold every sphere of government accountable. Even in cases where local government is responsible, let’s help ourselves, clean our streets for example, and where we cannot, hold government to account. We cant claim our rights only when elections are around the corner and start embarking on service delivery protests. Let us be the ones who deliver for ourselves.
    Lets have open discussions, identify people who are willing, identify our needs & assess who who can do what? And commit to a programme of uplifting ourselves.

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