The writer is on the Twitter Handle @ mithisa_motho
The ANC veterans are back in the news again – to upset the tone of the successful 105th anniversary of the ANC. It may just be a coincidence that they came out merely a few days after the latter event but one could never be really sure. What we can be sure of is of their input as far as how the ANC should be led and what should be a priority.
So let’s consider the most voluminous input they have provided so far – a document presented to the ANC last October. In their opening first four points the veterans lament ANC’s apparent abdication of its position as ‘leader of society’ to opposition parties and other civil society entities, defender of the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of South Africa. The ANC veterans are essentially saying that opposition parties are currently the defenders of the Freedom Charter and the Constitution.
While some of us complain that opposition parties run the country via the courts, these veterans are seeing them as leaders and defenders of our supreme law. Reading this, I couldn’t help but note what former President Nelson Mandela had to say in 1997 at the 50th elective conference of the ANC in Mafikeng: ”Thus we ended up with the situation in which certain elements, which were assumed to be part of our movement, set themselves up as critics of the same movement, precisely at the moment when we would have to confront the challenge of the fundamental transformation of our country and therefore, necessarily, the determined opposition of the forces of reaction.” http://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/report-president-anc-nelson-mandela-50th-nationalconference- african-national-congress-mafik
Does that just not sound very prophetic of Mandela? He didn’t stop there. He continued: “Pretending to represent an independent and popular view, supposedly obviously legitimised by the fact that they are described as non-governmental organisations, these NGO’s also work to corrode the influence of the movement. Strangely, some of the arguments for this so-called “watchdog” role were advanced from within the ranks of the broad democratic movement, at the time when we all arrived at the decision that with the unbanning of the ANC and other democratic organisations, it was necessary to close down the UDF.”
Veterans lament the notion that the ANC can self-correct. They charge that this is dangerously complacent and creates the impression that there is no need for action. It is interesting that ANC members for decades would frown upon the idea of self-correction. An inquisitive mind would ask: “If the ANC can’t self-correct, what entity external to the ANC should be called upon?” It’s as if the veterans are trying to import some foreign entity and get it to correct the ANC. Consider Mandela’s words in 1997 regarding some within the movement who set themselves up as critics of the same movement. What Mandela said about civil society working to corrode the influence of the movement is manifesting itself in the vocabulary of ANC veterans who position the same civil society as a leader in protecting the ANC bible (Freedom Charter) and the supreme law. Veterans then make the point of rejecting the fact that the ANC leadership took collective responsibility for losses suffered at the local government elections. That is to say: “Take responsibility and stop protecting the leadership.”
Gauteng province suffered the biggest loss in the local government elections. Are the veterans asking for the provincial leadership to be disbanded? By dismissing collective responsibility, are the veterans employing a divide-and-conquer tactic, thus attempting to sow division in the ANC leadership? Veterans also lament what they see as the ANC having lost its moral pedigree. They feel the ANC has failed to act against corruption, nepotism, factionalism, arrogance and election slates in the ANC and alliance. There is nothing that the opposition parties and civil society haven’t complained about. It is as if the veterans know of no priorities set by the ANC itself. There is also something that is notably missing from the veteran’s complaints – economic transformation for example. We have to ask why this is not an issue for the veterans. An ANC veteran ought to be aware that the struggle is incomplete for we have only seen political freedom. For Africans, economic emancipation remains a pipe dream.
Mandela’s point about those in the ANC who end up opposing it “precisely at the moment when we would have to confront the challenge of the fundamental transformation of our country and therefore” comes to mind. We are at a point where anyone who challenges the status quo and raises economic transformation agenda gets attacked and called names. The ANCWL have recently raised major concerns regarding transformation at SAA. It is worth noting that they are led by a lady who is routinely attacked and called drunk, despite the fact that she does not even take alcohol. This is just one small example of the systematic character attacks suffered by those who aren’t pliable to those who seek to retain the status quo.
What is most painful is that our very own ANC veterans have the time to caucus a list of problems that excludes economic emancipation or to quote Mandela, fundamental transformation. Lastly, considering that the veterans are pushing for recognition as an ANC structure, how is a veteran defined? Are you a veteran depending on your age, tenure of membership or leadership? Who is to lead the veterans? Who elects whoever leads the veterans? These questions are very critical in light of a number of the worrying points raised by the veterans. Some of them want the same civil society whose job appears to be undoing the efforts of the ANC, to be involved in this “renewal” process. Should black South Africans entrust them with radically changing such an important organization?