2018 has been declared the year of renewal, unity and jobs! As we remember the examples of Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, it will do us well to remain focused on the tasks ahead.

After the last ANC National Executive Committee meeting, the Secretary-General’s Office released the report and resolutions of the ANC’s 54th National Conference, held last year in Nasrec. The resolutions of that conference set the tone for the next five years and will be highlighted every year in the NEC’s January 8th Statement.

As part of honouring Ma Winnie Madikizela Mandela, these resolutions must motivate each and every single ANC member to work towards building not only the ANC but ensure that the needs of the disadvantaged are championed. 

The resolutions must further ensure each member of the ANC is doing their bit in bringing about the national democratic society that the Freedom Charter envisaged and which people like Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Mandela sacrificed so much for.

Given the high levels of unemployment and dire socio-economic factors, the theme of renewal, unity and job creation must be implemented . At Conference, it was declared there is an urgent need to strengthen, support and reinforce branches by focusing on sectors, community issues and campaigns. Thus, the ANC must address and be at the forefront of every concern in communities. Providing a service to grassroot level communities rather a need to control communities must be a priority. 

If this grassroots interaction with our people requires various voting-districts, for example, to set up units or sub-branches then this must be encouraged. Quite easily the concerns of one person in the community is not necessarily the concerns of the entire ward and therefore the entire branch cannot focus solely on that one issue.

At the same time, sub-regions must work together in order to coordinate branches in order to work with the municipality. Sub-regions must hold municipalities accountable, as this is a basic tenet of our democracy and of the ANC. 

The resolutions went further to state that new members of the ANC must be inducted within three months of joining and must be deployed to a sub-committee in which he or she must work. In other words, it is important to inculcate within branches that all members have the responsibility in carrying out their roles and responsibilities and not just function as branch executive committee (BEC) members.  

Through ensuring that every member in the branch participates actively in at least one sub-committee, the BEC must draft an annual plan to ensure that an ongoing community profile is established, together with sectors in the community and their issues. This community profile must also ensure that the issues of the community are clearly articulated and that concrete plans be established as to how those issues will be tackled.

In fact, the resolutions instructed that community policing fora, school governing bodies, clinic committees, and any other participatory structures, should have ANC representation on them. This is not mandatory but the ANC branch must ensure that it is represented in these structures. Branches must do so strategically in order for the ANC to have influence in these community structures.

A sectoral outreach plan must be developed and again members of the ANC should be engaging, joining and participating in those sectoral bodies. For example, the ANC branch must ensure an active presence in the local taxi association so that the organisation is aware of the challenges faced by that industry and if anything needs immediate attention. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the ANC branch does not engage the taxi association and therefore we do not understand the frustrations of that industry.

The resolutions further insist that councillors and MP’s as well as MPL’s deployed must work with branches and ensure performance audits so that work is done and accountability takes place. 

The Conference also discussed the possibility of a two-tier membership system but this was rejected. The system would have been based on an active membership as well as supporters. What was reaffirmed was the involvement of branches in communities and activities. Branches are to have a visible presence in their communities. 

All of this becomes important for the wider South African society for two reasons. Firstly, given that it is an election year, it is important to remind members of the ANC of their need to implement what the Conference resolved. If every branch does the things listed above, the party will work towards the achievement of good results in next year’s national and provincial elections.

We must remind ourselves, as members of the ANC, that we will not go the route that other parties have gone in parachuting public representatives from outside of the organisation and from outside of our communities. ANC members must remember that their test would be how dirty their hands are in trying to fix the challenges of the community.

Those who wish to serve as representatives of the people for the ANC must be actively involved in their branches, their communities and be involved in the lives of people. They must be tried-and-tested community activists. ANC leaders and representatives must endear themselves to the community and not see themselves as demigods but rather as servants as Mam’ Albertina and Mam’ Winnie were. 

Secondly, members of communities should not be surprised when people from the ANC wish to engage with them. As the governing party, it is imperative that all members of the party listen to and attend to all individuals and/or communities. 

Guided by the belief that one can only build South Africa collaboratively, the ANC will aim to ensure that it has a stronger presence in various communities across the country.  Following in the footsteps of icons such as Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, change can only be achieved if all South Africans work together to bring about real change. 

Jessie Duarte is the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC 

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