The ANC was established against the background of major strife facing Black people in South Africa; there was seizure of land and taxation, the conquest of chiefdoms and the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1867 and of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 transformed South African from an agrarian society at the edge of world trade into a globally integrated industrial economy. The mineral revolution led to the quick spread of European colonization into the interior. By the end of the 19th century, all the indigenous peoples of South Africa had lost their political and economic independence.
Since its formation the ANC has therefore existed for the sole purpose to properly analyse the problems in its society and develop solutions for its people. It’s been over a 100 years since the ANC was formed in response to the challenges of that time, some of which still face South Africans today, but it has now been entrusted to manage and administer state power and must, more than ever, be able to diagnose the problems facing society and deliver an appropriate response.
One of the fundamental and basic tools the ANC has adopted over the years as a means of getting closer to communities and hence the mandate it has achieved over the years since democracy, is through its branches – over 3000 of them spread across this country – from the most affluent to the most rural. This has been the strength of the ANC’s ability to reach all South Africans, irrespective of race and social strata.
The outcome of the local government elections of 2016 has however shaken the glorious movement. A pre-analysis of the election then had shown that the ANC would be victorious everywhere but the losses of the three Metros – Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane – to opposition coalitions, have brought about a sharp wake-up call.
The fact that the ANC had not foreseen these losses, even going so far as to do post-election research to identify the problem, illustrates that the ANC’s tools of analysis need refining. Furthermore, the members who are mandated to utilise these tools need to be better equipped and re-orientated to appreciate new challenges and the ever changing societal patterns and tendencies of communities.
The notion that the ANC can only come alive and be seen in its communities only ahead of elections is an issue that must addressed. Trying to garner and woe votes of an electorate that feels “betrayed” only when there are elections cannot work. The ANC as an organisation cannot be seen to exist only during elections.
In refining its tools of analysis, the ANC must do in part, the following:
- Re-state and re-assert it’s political mission to pursue the ideals, wishes and fight for the total liberation of the masses. To this end, among others, it must re-state its position as the people’s movement irrespective of whether its in power or not.
- Branches cannot suddenly come alive during elections. Activism within the ANC and its members must be an ongoing process – a way of life. The surge in activism within the ANC branches, which includes being visible among communities and being monitored, only for purposes of elections is unsustainable. The organisation and its members must exist beyond post-elections and electioneering campaigns.
- The ANC must inculcate in their members the culture of servanthood, the ability for their members to appreciate their role in society as political activists and agents for change carrying the mandate of the movement. It is important that the ANC is a leader of society and it must have the tenacity and will to always be at the frontlines of societal issues and related problems.
- The organisation must advocate for it’s members to be community scientists who find methods of engaging with communities through a deliberate and planned programme
- The life of branches must be resuscitated through deliberate constant political programmes of political education with advanced techniques focusing on community development. The leader of society must be a community developer and in refining the tools of analysis to better equip and benefit the members of the movement, the ANC must intensively engage in a deliberate intensive programme to rally it’s foot-soldiers post-electioneering and elective conferences to once again hold the revolutionary political posture of being a real agent for change.
Themba Vryman is an ANC member in Fezile Dabi Branch (Ward 20) Bloemfontein and writes in his personal capacity.