To govern the country, the party must be governed first

Supporters sing during the launch of the ANCs election manifesto in Durban. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE

The testimony of Bosasa’s former COO, Angelo Agrizzi has been cataclysmic. It has revealed such a deep and highly entrenched level of corruption that is unimaginable even by the standards of corrupt countries in the world, at least in its complexity. Yes, the testimony remains to be tested. Given that former CEO of Bosasa, Gavin Watson, never signed anything, never put his name on any document, he may well rubbish much of Agrizzi’s testimony as rumblings of a bitter employee or throw back the entire corrupt franchise at Agrizzi as a rogue employee who worked outside the company for his own self-enrichment.

What may not change however is that there was corruption. The challenge will be determining who is the real mastermind responsible for this corruption enterprise, at least that is the difficult task that awaits Judge Zondo.

At the center of this corruption enterprise is the governing party, the ANC. This is because, naturally, the government is the biggest procurer of goods and services in the country. Governments spend is the most sort after by all businesses, large and small. This makes those responsible for the government purse, various political and departmental heads, the most powerful people and certainly the friends you want to have.

Why would the ruling party, in all its splendor and glory, allow itself to be a vehicle for a huge corruption enterprise. Why would a party that withstood decades of assault by a corrupt and illegitimate state apparatus, a party with an incomparable party discipline and high moral standing, fail so badly in enforcing party discipline among its members deployed into government. Why do parties, who present development of their organization and country over and against personal interests as their defining feature, fail to live up to those lofty standards when in government.

As early as 1997, Madiba was already seeing this deterioration of the revolutionary resolve among his fellow comrades. In his closing speech at the ANC national conference he said, ‘unless the political organization remains strong and principled, exercising strict discipline in leaders as well as ordinary members alike, (and) inspire its membership, apart from government programs, to develop social initiatives to uplift the community, the temptation to abandon the poor and to start amassing enormous wealth for themselves becomes irresistible’.

Madiba was fully aware how organization, and freedom fighters, lose their moral campus, having witnessed the moral decay of some of his friends from other African countries who had been revolutionaries and now had become enemies of the people. Many people do not know that Madiba rejected an ANC resolution that wanted cabinet members to be nominated at conference. He saw this as dangerous because that would leave government executive at the mercy of political interests and not based on capacity and skill. Over time however, the ANC has found itself choosing its executive and some administrative positions based on political allegiances, familiarities and loyalties and not purely on skill and capacity. It is rare to see a political leader choosing his political rival or enemy into his department because he is capable.

Madiba placed great value in party discipline. Comrades who are disciplined live by the rules of the organization, both in their professional lives and personal lives, putting strict rules both in their professional relationships and their relatives, cutting no corners for either. Party discipline ensures members are wholly dedicated to the cause of the movement, which is to use ‘state power to advance the objectives of social transformation’, whilst maintaining upright conduct.

Without party discipline, it goes without say that the ANC leadership will not play its role successfully in government. It is the party that takes its leaders through the fire, which is political and ideological education, so that when they come out on the other side single-minded about the development of the productive forces. Despite Madibas rejection of that resolution, by the end of his ANC term in 1997, he was warning comrades how political power was attracting ‘powerful and influential individuals who have far more resources than all of us put together who could make us forget where we came from and from whom our mandate came from’.

Madiba was beseeching members and leaders to stay the party cause. All ANC members should study the Freedom Charter, Ready to Govern, Reconstruction and Development, election Manifestos, strategy and tactics, eye of the needle, ANC constitution, conference resolutions, NGC decisions and the National Development Plan. If our understanding of ANC theory is not thorough, we become vulnerable to ill-discipline and corruption.

As the Chinese say, ‘Only when we thoroughly understand the theory will we be loyal politically’. The ANC has itself to blame for allowing ill-discipline within the organization, which then inevitably translate to ill-discipline in government. Luthuli House needs to restore its glory as an intense house of order, discipline, focus, not a playful house where members and leaders do as they please.

Corruption weakens the party; it’s time to reinforce party discipline. ‘To govern the country, the party must be governed first’. The problems we see in government, lack of discipline, corruption, poor delivery, mirror what is happening in the party. The party must therefore cleanse itself, improve, innovate and produce high caliber candidates. Indeed once party discipline is reinforced, all members will have a sound attitude towards power. We need the best candidates in our party lists for the undertakings ahead. Ultimately, in order to have the party discipline, the entire membership of the organization must share common ideals.

As part of a progressive organization, it is also important for ANC to look beyond its cliques and inner circles. The ANC has nothing to fear by identifying highly skilled people and cherishing them and drawing their skills into the state. It is time to open the organization to its wide range of skilled members and members of the community. The ANC is too great to be inward looking. We have a mandate to lead but we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. The combination of party discipline and opening ourselves to new ideas and highly skilled Africans, we can truly be the powerhouse that Tambo envisioned that would bring complete liberation of Africa’s productive forces and give us our rightful place in the world.

Yonela Diko is a media strategist and political commentator.