Of Political Returnees And Recruits: When Tactics Fail The Strategy


 In politics, there’s emphasis on the inter-connectedness and inter-relationship between strategy and tactics. In order to achieve the overall strategy, a political entity applies tactics which are crucial in the attainment of the former. To understand whether specific tactics could lead to the attainment of the strategy, a party must use tools of analysis. Any amount of drowsiness in managing this process shall surely undermine the capacity to attain the overall strategy.

ANC and application of strategy and tactics

The African National Congress, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, has a strategy to bring qualitative change to South Africa by transforming the form and content into a better society from what it was since the Apartheid and colonial era. To achieve this strategy, ANC must canvass support from all South Africans. This process is intended to enhance the hegemony of the ANC amongst society.

From time to time, ANC employs various tactics to harness different sections of society behind its mission. In addition to formal recruitment of members, the ANC also seeks to charm members from other political parties, as part of its campaign to gain hegemony and weaken opposition. There is no doubt around the inevitability of these tactics, but what is of importance is the nature and character of these tactics. The tactics employed must always enhance the potential to reach the strategy, and must not collapse the very same strategy.

On luring returnees, splinters and recruits

The process to lure those who wish to return to the party, or those who are part of splinter parties, as well as recruiting those in other parties, must be handled politically and with caution. Until recently, the ANC has been rather clumsy, and often populist, rather than strategic, in implementing these tactics.

The recent pronouncements by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza have exposed this clumsiness, which I have been observing for quite some time. By publicly pronouncing that they will lure some leaders of opposition parties, and mentioning their names, our leaders have committed grave political errors. Firstly, they create a sense of pompous importance amongst those whose names are mentioned in public. These people feel so important that they do not even recognize the battalions of the members of the party. In fact, they feel that those members of the party are useless.

Secondly, such pronouncements are actually an insult to the rank and file members of the party, some of whom have braved the scorching suns to campaign for the party, only for them to be indirectly regarded as useless. This feeble application of a rather crucial tactic is likely to encourage apathy amongst the volunteers of the ANC, therefore negating the intended outcome of enhancing hegemony.

The failure to manage returnees and recruits

 In the past 10 years, since the birth of Cope, the ANC has lured several returnees into the party. More recently, the ANC has also welcomed into its shores those coming from EFF and other political parties. Added to these, the ANC also receives new members who join the party for various missions and motivations.

Of those who returned, the ANC has not been able to develop a clear mechanism to rehabilitate them, or to even present them with tasks towards building the movement. Instead, my general observation is that most of them have been elevated beyond the existing volunteers and cadres. This often results in elevating their sense of importance as well.

I state this with full understanding that, in negotiations, concessions and offers are made, on either side. But in more cases, it would seem that the ANC and its rank and file members are often losers. Tactically, this is a blunder.

This reality has created a perception that once one leaves the organization, the chances of coming back with the capability of negotiating yourself to higher echelons is higher than for one who has remained loyal to the party. In fact, I know of many who left and soon started opening windows to negotiate for personal privileges. There is therefore a perception that leaving the party has more incentives than serving the party. This perception, real or otherwise, can weaken the party’s capability to develop a breed of loyal cadres.

Secondly, the inability to ensure that those who have left are afforded an opportunity to rehabilitate, added to the perception that there is an incentive to leave, create an environment where those who are returnees and the noisiest when factional gymnastics take place. This presents challenges for the ANC to attain its broader goals to unite society towards the attainment of a better society.


 In my entire political life, I have never heard senior leaders making pronouncements to lure some in the opposing ranks, not even parties which have less than 100 members nationally. The temptation to lure at all costs, without considering the objective and material factors driving the revolution, is likely to present the ANC as a desperate party whose membership consists of quantity, instead of quality. A party which is serious bout attaining a revolution must be able to convert the quantity in its membership into quality. By so doing, the party shall become materially cogent to drive the revolution, and those in opposition ranks will join it before being called as political celebrities.

Makhele is an African Socialist and an ANC member in Mangaung, Free State. He writes in his personal capacity

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  1. Cde PK , in the old days ( the 1970s and 1980s ) we looked in the direction of our communist comrades for leadership in our study platoons. It is with a very heavy heart that I note that , apart from Comrades Makhele and Lehlohonolo , there do not seem to be any communist intellectuals left. I am also very disappointed to note that leading communists at national level have been reduced to the level of WMC apologists. Some have even resorted to use of xenophobic and racist terminology when attacking those whom they despise. Twenty or thirty years ago I never ever expected that I would live to bear witness to this terrible tragedy.Were it not for the fact that I draw inspiration from these two comrades, I would readily have agreed that the red banner and the hammer and sickle of of the communists had to be displayed in the museum of antiquities.

  2. Once again , a brilliant masterpiece from Cde Makhele. My plea to yourself and Cde Lehloholo is that you must submit more of your insightful and well-articulated articles much more regularly. There is a serious dearth of intellectual debate within the ANC and its Tripartite Alliance partners . We look in the direction of comrades like yourself to inject more reasoned and scientific debate on matters affecting our organisation and our country. Please never forsake us.We are much better informed and much wiser through reading your contributions.

    1. It is brilliant isn’t it Comrade Greg? Was actually thinking why we aren’t getting other comrades from across the country contributing articles, not necessarily here but contributing to the public discourse.

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