Part 3: An elitist ANC leadership finds a pro-poor agenda a grave discomfort

THE next national general elections will indicate how the ANC is viewed given that the poor have been left behind. EPA African News Agency (ANA)

Come 2017, the choice in options between who to lead the ANC beyond Zuma, namely Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, was never an authentic one of existential ideological difference understood in terms of class consciousness. Neither of the two front runners, and obvious choice binaries, represented the cause of Radical Economic Transformation, and land redress as an authentic personal conviction in a historical precedent as recorded. 

Who the ANC offered as options of the seven candidates all had a common identity that being akin to the standard ANC elitist DNA. Ultimately of the seven whom most really were pretenders less than contenders for ANC high office, two emerged naturally draped in the accoutrements of elitism. Neither of them had their own constituencies in the ANC. They would both rely on the framed constituencies of previous leaders best understood in the Polokwane decisions for and against choices for leadership. Neither Ramaphosa nor Dlamini-Zuma could automatically claim the black (especially African) pro-poor constituency that Zuma increasingly came to represent would automatically endorse them. Jacob Zuma may have sensed this too and therefore made a public overture in support of Dlamini – Zuma again for a set of reasons that details a combination of self and his constituency interest.

The campaign choice the ANC afforded us was between two people measurable in who purports to be closer to the ideals of the masses, and that closer assessment was informed by their willingness to have the preparedness to publicly associate with the people’s cause at the behest of being ridiculed by a mainstream media who long ago made their choices on what democracy should depict.

There is therefore, a mistruth going around that assume that those of us, and this includes the authors of this musing as well as many others, were firstly Jacob Zuma people and secondly NDZ people. Let us for once clear this up. Our association with, and acceptance of, a Jacob Zuma leadership of the ANC was purely informed by a common dictate of the will of the masses, that in a sense forced Jacob Zuma into the space of adopting Radical Economic Transformation (RET), and true Land Redress as his flagship legacy, albeit not exempted from his personal political agenda. Our support of Zuma was determined by his association with the people’s cause. We had not seen that leadership from Mandela or Mbeki as elected ANC presidents that led SA. We can categorically assert we never signed up anywhere to defend Zuma as ‘his people’, we equally so would never have had any appetite to sign up to defend a persona of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who to be honest, was (and still is) far less popular than Jacob Zuma among the masses.

There are, therefore, no Jacob Zuma or Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma people, but people who from long ago have questioned the ANC in an outfoxed negotiated settlement and its androgynous outcomes of entrenched white privilege and a new breed of black elite who are in political office, but actually answers to white interest.  

Thus, we independently at different times volunteered to support Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s campaign because she too in her campaign to ANC high office, dared to adopt what can easily be dubbed the ideals of a People’s Campaign. It is common knowledge that Dlamini-Zuma did not invent Radical Economic Transformation (RET) or the rightful Land Redress claim, but she, unlike Ramaphosa and all other contenders of the 2017 campaign, at the time, was willing to associate with the radical reality of the People’s Campaign, hence we supported her campaign.

Did we ostensibly and fundamentally believe Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma embodies the cause, and at an intrinsic level is willing to give up all for RET and Land redress? No, we knew she was a politician and part of the ANC elite, who was pragmatic enough to read the mood of South Africa, and understood the need for fundamental economic redress with benefit for the masses, hence her acceptance of nomination to campaign around what she read at an external to herself reality.

Her campaign was further aided by the potentiality of the break of a patriarchal stranglehold that to this day continues to plague the ANC in presidential leadership definition as essentially male. It is for this reason her campaign came sponsored by the Women’s League. For the record there are no ‘NDZ people’, but those who supported her campaign to the extent that she identified with the people’s cause. That cause has no singular leader, nor does it have an elitist as its face, and it will continue beyond any and all ANC politicians. What we embraced of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was her unequivocal joining of the people’s campaign, she along with the likes of the late Edna Molewa, and the current ANC Secretary General, Ace Magashule, dared to take on the bastion of white privilege.

We saluted the courage of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the late Edna Molewa who along with some of us had the courage to take on Johann Rupert, and call him out, when the latter out of his white privileged arrogance dared to straight-jacket the people’s campaign for radical economic transformation as a recipe for corruption and looting. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, for her own reasons dared to associate with the people’s campaign for her personal attempt to become the first woman President of the ANC in 2017.

It is important to understand that our support of the NDZ campaign was from the start with the expressed hope that the tidal-wave of RET, and land demands, would carry her to political and ideological pro-working class and pro-poor spaces, where she plausibly would never have swim by herself, and therefore, resulting in the people’s cause being the winner. In that sense the NDZ campaign for us was a means to an end, a definitive better choice for the people’s pro-poor agenda as juxtaposed to the incumbent ANC and caretaker SA president that was elected at NASREC.

There has been instances equal to this, in for example Chile where the poet Pablo Neruda, who was initially the Presidential candidate for the Chilean Communist Party, stood back for the more elitist mainstream candidature of the socialist Salvadore Allende, not because he was convinced that in terms of political conviction and class consciousness Allende was a better candidate than him, but because Neruda made the pragmatic calculation that Allende stood a better chance to be elected. 

Being the wonderful wordsmith that he was, Neruda wrote a moving obituary to Allende after he was assassinated in the sponsored Neo-fascist military coup led by General Pinochet. Neruda wrote that Allende turned out to be a far more faithful servant of the working class and poor, than what he ever anticipated him to be. However, Allende was the exception not the norm. There are many more historical examples where those who were riding the wave of pro working class and pro poor movements, primarily for their own career advancement, later betrayed those very same movements.

We are by no means saying that Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma can be described as such, but for whatever reasons (probably in pursuit of a still very elusive unity, and for the sake of the preservation of a united ANC) is seemingly comfortably fitting into the political power leadership of Ramaphosa, as she did with Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki who both to varying degrees fell short of imbibing the radicality of the people’s campaign.

While there are those who argue Dr. Dlamini Zuma fits in perfectly because she epitomizes the selfless cadre (and her history shows that there is a considerable amount of truth in that), there are some who remonstrate that she was always comfortable with the elitist highway and not the proverbial dirt road of the poor. It must be noted that both descriptions may very well be true, the one is certainly not mutually exclusive of the other.

She rightly   submits and serves in the cabinet of Ramaphosa’s leadership as expected from all losing contenders in ANC elections. On another score many of the people who supported her campaign remain languished in a pariah of accusation of being ‘NDZ people’, and are therefore denied to serve and are warranted to be side-lined despite their undeniable track records and known skills. People who are similar in their commitment to the ANC to her own – also in terms of revolutionary sacrifices, and decades of dedicated service in the ANC.

Hence it is a total fallacy to perpetuate a notion of ‘NDZ people’, or that Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma authentically stood for the agenda of the poor, whose quest is for Radical Economic Transformation. We therefore, never had any illusions of grandeur about Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma the politician, we respect her as we do of all. We as authors thus have never personalized our support of NDZ with a caveat of any entitlement since we from the start knew the candidate and her comfort zones.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine a life-long activist for social justice is an ordained Theologian with SA and USA credentials. He is currently reading towards a D. Litt. et Phil, in Political Science. He earned a Masters in Systematic Theology (Cum Laude) from NWU, with a thought -provoking dissertation: “Black identity and experience in Black Theology: A critical assessment.” He is also a writer and political commentator

Carl Niehaus is an ANC veteran with40 years of uninterrupted ANC membership, and a former member of the NEC of the ANC, ANC MP. He also served as the SA Ambassador to The Netherlands. He is currently a member of the NEC of MKMVA, and the National Spokesperson of MKMVA. Carl contributed to this article in his personal capacity.