ANC elders must be reminded – tell no lies, claim no easy victories!

African National Congress (ANC) top officials FILE PHOTO/ANA

‘Who are these non-ANC people running the ANC’, asked political theorist Lukhona Mnguni in response to former ANC president Thabo Mbeki’s assertion that non-ANC people were running the ANC.

Speaking at the National Consultative Conference organized by ANC stalwarts and veterans, the former ANC president had indicated that people leading the ANC today were ‘not ANC’. Mnguni later challenged Mbeki to reveal who these ‘not ANC’ people were and suggested that the consultative conference was merely an attempt by these veterans and stalwarts to absolve themselves from the part they played in causing the challenges that exist in the ANC today.

Former president of the Republic and deputy-president of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, also attended the conference together with former NEC member, Trevor Manual, current NEC members Derek Hanekom and Lindiwe Sisulu. Sisulu is running for the presidency and one assumes that her attendance was a form of lobbying for an endorsement for her campaign.

Yet the conference sought to protect the economic policy framework of the last two decades. Any perceived threat to the interests of White monopoly capital would have Mbeki and Manual team up once again, as they teamed up during the late nineties and early naughties. Their determined attitude to destroy any articulation of the race dimension of monopoly capital in South Africa and any policy that will advocate a structural change to the economy makes them advocates of the anti-radical economic transformation. Their sponsors think that RET is simply theft and so they have to champion that message.

As a result, there is an unprecedented attack on what matters to the Black poor. Those schooled in western based social democracy fear strong liberation movements and condemn them as old-fashioned. Instead, as global capitalism limps along having been afflicted with a blow in the 2008/9 economic global crash, neo-liberals hurriedly wish to suggest liberal coalitions instead of meeting the demands of the people. 

Indeed, the rank and file of the ANC today have little or no link to the struggle against Apartheid. A new breed of members have been inculcated into the ANC; a breed that the post-1994 leadership of the ANC failed to school in political ideology. Political ideology and political schooling, the likes of Mbeki and Manual advocated, were part of a Soviet past and as a result what enveloped in the movement was not the development of the people but rather individual wealth.

To please the West, Mbeki and Manual ensured that political ideology took a back seat in the ANC while ANC policy was centralized into the hands of state bureaucrats. Whereas the Chinese emphasized Marxism, albeit an indigenized form, in training their mandrins, the Mbeki administration rapidly introduced measures such as new public management which sort to corporatize the public sector. No longer was it to be considered a service.    

Consequently, if anything, the ANC is reaping today the harvest sown by Mbeki, Motlanthe and Manual and the worst part is neither would take responsibility. Ultimately what is therefore asked is who must take up the reins and defend the national democratic revolution. In fact, we should rightfully ask whether the national consultative conference still wishes to pursue the national democratic revolution.

The evidence suggests otherwise. These stalwarts and veterans of the ANC, architects of the 1994 compromise project, are forming a united front today in order to perpetuate and protect past privilege. The national consultative conference, in unconfirmed reports, was a platform to unite forces such as SaveSA, AgriSA and other reactionary formations in order to create a united front in defending White monopoly capital.

In May this year, the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative was launched. Among the founding members of the Initiative are the Helen Suzman and FW de Klerk Foundations. They were allowed to join the team of Thabo Mbeki, Jakes Gerwel, Umlambo, Sobukwe, Tutu, Motlanthe and Luthuli Foundations. One wonders what Sobukwe or Luthuli would think of teaming up with the likes of Suzman and de Klerk.

Again, de Klerk, Mbeki and Motlanthe all spoke about the current ills facing South Africa. They told us what we already knew and none came up with viable suggestions that were any different from the humdrum of policies they had championed while being in office. Predictably, none too took responsibility for their individual roles played in the situation our country currently faces and, in the case of Mbeki and Motlanthe, for the state of the ANC. Yet they do not think twice in condemning the ANC for taking ‘collective responsibility’ instead of kicking president Zuma out.

The various campaigns of #ZumaMustFall, SaveSA and this national consultative conference must be seen in the trajectory of the launching of this national foundations dialogue initiative. It is an initiative in which the reactionary forces of the 1996 class project are united in defending the fight against the radical economic transformation and is this a direct antithesis to the national democratic revolution. 

These struggle stalwarts and ANC veterans, with Mbeki and Motlanthe leading the pack, have done very little to assist in the discussion and debate of the complexities that a modern ANC operating in a time of liberation and charged with the governance of a state. Yet they played central and leading roles during the time of transition. The veterans are embracing old apartheid ideologues and welcoming their publications with a degree of self flagellation while all the achievements of the democratic years are declared a failure by them other than during the period when they led the state and the ANC. 

The national consultative conference reaffirmed their call for president Zuma to step down. It is unprecedented that a former president of the ANC is part of a gathering which calls for the resignation of a current ANC president. Yet that the former president has not to date distanced himself from this call, indicates just how deep the rot of factionalism and patronage had gone within the ANC. If anything, him not distancing himself from this call is what is most ‘not ANC’.

As delegates from branches go towards the 54th national conference of the ANC, a conference condemned even before it starts by these stalwarts and veterans, one is reminded of those words of Oliver Reginald Tambo in the wake of division in the movement. ‘Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda whatever form it takes’, said Tambo, ‘Be vigilant comrades. The enemy is vigilant.’ 

ANC members and branch delegates should take heed from Tambo’s words about the form enemy propaganda takes. They must be vigilant because the wedge-driver with his poisonous tongue going from ear to ear. Instead, they will do well to go back to clarion call which was always at the heart of the ANC that power ultimately belongs to the people and it is to the people and their demands that must reign supreme.

Ntando Maduna is ANC Youth League Spokesperson for the Harry Gwala Region in KZN