By Greg Alexander Mashaba
The 5th Policy Conference of the African National Congress has come and gone. The high level of discipline and the quality of the debate which characterised the conference has left both skeptics and opponents of the ANC disappointed. No one can deny the fact the ANC has emerged out of the conference much stronger, better organised, and apparently more united.
The months leading to the policy conference were characterized by apparently insurmountable divisions and factionalism on a scale which, to those who are not familiar with the history of the organisation, had never been seen before. Particularly sad was the apparent hostility of leading elements within the ANC’s Tripartite Alliance partners, namely the SACP and COSATU to the organization in general and to its leader, Jacob Zuma, in particular. The funeral of ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, the Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo memorial lectures were used as a platform to mount unprecedented attacks on Zuma.
Together with elements within the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC led by Derek Hanekom, and Elias Motsoaledi, leading members of the SACP and COSATU called for the recall of Jacob Zuma as president of the republic. The bitter lessons which ought to have been learnt from the recall of former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 were ignored. The fact that a new political organisation which is bitterly opposed to the ANC and its strategic orientation was born as a result of the recall of Mbeki seemed to be of no consequence.
The above-mentioned positive developments notwithstanding, the organisation still faces a number of very difficult challenges which pose a serious threat to its fundamental objective, namely the reversal of the socio-economic imbalances between race and class which remain deeply entrenched in our country as a result of institutionalised racism. Some of these challenges are:
- The growing displaying of ill discipline by some prominent members of the ANC like parliamentarian Makhosi Khoza under the guise of seeking to draw the organisation to its core values and former glory. This constant display of ill-discipline by a senior member of the organisation not only has the effect of causing confusion in the ranks of the organisation’s support base but it also feeds into the narrative which is pushed by right-wing political parties like the DA that the ANC has lost its legitimacy and hence its right to be the governing party in post-apartheid South Africa.
- Tensions between the ANC and its Alliance partners threaten to destroy the unity of a strategic alliance, based in both the history of political struggle and in the reality of our country’s unique economic, political and social conditions. This situation is made particularly complex by the fact that key leaders of the SACP and COSATU have seemingly abdicated their historical role of arguing their organisations’ positions on key issues through open, well-reasoned and constructive debate. The SACP’s famous publication “African Communist” which hitherto was the primary source of progressive political debate has become very rare. This has been replaced by emotional attacks of comrades through the neo-liberal media. Such attacks serve no useful purpose other than fueling more confusion amongst the masses and serving as an indirect propaganda tool for the rightwing.
In this regard both the SACP and COSATU must help display leadership by explaining to the masses of our people why they, for example, put more emphasis on allegations of state-capture by the Gupta family while at the same time ignoring capture of state-owned entities like ESKOM and SAA by powerful white-owned corporations. Both have to explain to the masses the reasons for their apparent tolerance of reports of financial irregularities and other governance failures at National Treasury (which are backed by audit reports) under the watch of former ministers Manuel, Gorhdan and Nene.
- The boycott of the Policy Conference by the official group of ANC stalwarts raises another cause of concern. The stalwarts had made a number of demands in the months leading to the Policy Conference. While the concerns of the stalwarts are not without foundation, their demands seemed to suggest that, in seeking to have their concerns addressed, they defined themselves and their demands in a manner which fell outside of ANC constitutional processes. Their approach to the resolution of the organisation’s problems seems to suggest that only one structure of the ANC embodies all that is good about the organisation. The relationship of some of the stalwarts and their membership of organisations like Save South Africa, organisations which are openly hostile to the ANC further serve to make their situation much more complicated and seemingly infinitely difficult to resolve.
The growing view, one that is politically flawed, that seems to argue that ANC discipline and morality is the sole preserve of the stalwarts must be discouraged. Such a naïve view is not only self-serving but it cements a negative view of the broad mass of the ANC membership which is located in the branches and other structures of the organisation.
- The topical debate of White Monopoly Capital (and somewhat related to it), Radical Economic Transformation, will also call for more informed and sincere debate as the organisation prepares for its National Conference in December of this year. It is disturbing that there are elements within the ANC and its Alliance partners who seek to accept the true nature of monopoly capital in South Africa, more so in light of the fact that existing literature within the library of the Alliance seems to confirm this reality. The existence of White Monopoly Capital is not a creation of Bell Pottinger. Rather, its existence emanates from the concrete political and economic conditions of South Africa which are succinctly spelt out in the SACP’s “Colonialism of A Special Type “ (the “CST”) thesis. I am not an expert on this topic but perusal of the SACP’s 5 Year Plan, “The Road to South African Socialism “, which was adopted at the organisation’s 13th National Congress in July 2012 proves to be a very useful point of reference. Those who are sincere about the need for radical economic transformation would do well to go much deeper into existing literature on this very important subject.
- In his closing address to delegates, Jacob Zuma requested that branches consider a power-sharing formula in the election of the next ANC president and the top six of the National Executive Committee. I have a lot of sympathy for the president’s approach for the resolution of factional battles within the organisation. As he correctly pointed out, those who lost out at Polokwane seem to have refused to accept the outcome of the election, an election which was run in a democratic and transparent process.
Despite its many seemingly difficult problems, the ANC remains the true leader of South Africa. The task of leading the broad masses of our people to a fully democratic, non-racial and prosperous society is, primarily together with its Alliance partners, its sole historical mandate.
Greg Alexander Mashaba is an Additional Branch Executive Committee member of the ANC’s Ellen Khuzwayo Branch in Ekurhuleni. He writes in his personal capacity.