The African National Congress is heading towards its 5th National Policy Conference scheduled for the 30 June – 5 July 2017. The principal purpose of a Policy Conference is to review policies and to assess their adequacy in realising our political and socio-economic goals.
Informed by our liberation character and the fact that the ANC represents an instrument of struggle in the hands of the people, the ANC consciously makes its policy documents public in order for them to be scrutinised by all. As the ANC, we further engage on an extensive consultation of society, so that we arrive at policy decisions, which are most informed, widely supported and most astute to move South Africa forward.
Despite some contestation, one cannot dispute the fact that the majority of South Africans continue to identify with and desire a united, credible, coherent and decisive African National Congress. Consequently, the basis of our membership, as individuals to this Congress movement provides us with an individual and collective obligation to be true servants of the people.
It, therefore, goes without saying that the credibility deficit, in particular, the credibility and trustworthiness leadership of the ANC is proving to be the core threat to the movement and the revolution. Today it has become rather common for the people not to trust or believe what the ANC leader is saying and this is a danger.
In all our engagements, South Africans do acknowledge that the political breakthrough has directly produced a substantially better society with material opportunities for a better life for all. However, despite massive progress in transforming society, vast sections of our society are still considerably dissatisfied with their unchanging conditions. The triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality remains a key feature of our society which must be progressively addressed.
It is for this reason among many that the ANC must act with the necessary courage and decisiveness to put forward strategies to redeem the credibility and integrity of the movement. In simple terms we say, the ANC must aspire to inspire before it expires.
Principally, in the history of the ANC, one of the defining features of the movement for its survival and continued relevance over past 105 years of struggle – it has been its ability to transform moments of crisis to opportunities of deeper scrutiny and renewal of its machinery, approach and practices.
We argue that even today, we must internalise these lessons and act in accordance. In the main, these proposals are meant to strengthen organisational systems to ensure confidence, integrity and credibility of our decision making as being truly based on the will of the people.
What is emerging strongly is that while the majority of South Africans are content with ANC policies, however, the matter of leadership and/or the manner of selecting such leadership is becoming a defining aspect.
In this regard, the movement has taken bold strides towards deepening democracy and public participation in decision-making, with particular reference to the election of public representatives. As an expression of this, the ANC correctly decided to consciously involve communities in nominating prospective Councillors towards Local Government Elections last year. Indeed, the participation of communities in the selection of public representatives produced its own set of challenges in implementation. However, the significance of this decision far outweighs its challenges, as the people now directly decide on who must represent them.
The 2017 discussion document on Strategy and Tactics identifies four areas in which the integrity of the ANC, as an organisation, needs to be enhanced and central amongst these is the question of leadership integrity. The document argues that the criteria and processes of selecting ANC leaders should be enhanced to ensure the integrity of the outcomes of the ANC’s leadership selection processes. The 2017 policy discussion document on Organisational Renewal takes this discussion further by stating that “There is apparent manipulation of branch processes to be geared towards achieving a pre-determined outcome in terms of the elections of leadership in various conferences”.
The discussion document on Organisational Renewal in this regard proposes the establishment of a Revolutionary Electoral Commission to run the ANC electoral process as a semi-autonomous electoral agency of the ANC. In line with this proposal, there is a radical proposal that all the members of the ANC in good standing must directly elect their preferred leaders at all levels of ANC structures, rather than for this task to be delegated to few representatives of the branch in conferences.
The ANC Constitution in defining the character of the ANC states that “Its policies are determined by the membership, and its leadership is accountable to the membership in terms of the procedures laid down in this Constitution”; The Constitution further gives each member a right to: “Take a full and active part in the discussion, formulation and implementation of the policies of the ANC” and a right to “Take part in elections and be elected or appointed to any committee, structure, commission or delegation of the ANC”. All these clauses in the Constitution inter alia define the character of the ANC as mass organisation with members located directly the centre of ANC programmes and processes.
The Through the Eye of a Needle’ document, which is the political basis for the movement’s approach to electing leadership declares this responsibility as a function of members. Thus it asserts that: “The selection and election of leaders should reside firmly in the hands of the membership. This can only happen if there is an open and frank discussion on these issues in formal structures of the movement. Quiet and secret lobbying opens the movement to opportunism and even infiltration by forces hostile to the ANC’s objectives”. The document goes on to describe a ‘delegate’ as someone who “understands and pursues the principles and objectives of the ANC and is capable of “weighing various arguments and act in the best interest of the movement”.
Indeed it is fair to say if things happened in the manner in which the document describes them, then the ANC would not be dealing with a credibility crisis. Moreover, if the ANC is the property of its members, then it follows that its members must determine its course. It must also be said that whether the ANC elects to remain in the path of realising its historical mission or betray it – this must be within the full determination of its members rather than to become a self-preserving shifting of blame.
In the ANC, the leadership of the organisation resides with its members both in form and content; it is the members who decide the programme of action and which leaders to elect. In modern society, the conditions of struggle have improved, and systems and technology have also vastly improved. In the past maybe the practicality of each member voting compelled the ANC to opt for the indirect voting system but the systems available today can permit for every member of the ANC to vote directly. This proposal will amongst other things guarantee the centrality of members in determining the leadership of the ANC so that the ANC can remain rooted within its members for decision-making.
Our rallying call has always been “All power to the people”, and now that it is practical to give members all the power, there appears to be no compelling reason as to why ANC members cannot, in their entirety, determine their leadership. This may, of course, attract more people to be active members of the ANC, as they would be aware that they are effectively deciding the future of the country and therefore checks and balances can be introduced by making use of audits among other instruments. However, the baseline for winning elections on the basis of people’s choice is politically highly attractive.
Further justification of this proposal is that the current political environment, characterised by heightening ‘factionalism’, ‘slate politics’ coupled with what we consider as the ‘sins of incumbency’, has created conditions that are degenerative and act to undermine the integrity of the movement. As such defeating factionalism has become an urgent task if the authority of the organisation has to be re–affirmed, otherwise it is a cancer which will capture and paralyse the organisation to its eternal death.
In conclusion, the 2017 discussion document on Strategy and Tactics states that “The fundamental issue is that, without a decisive programme to correct the debilitating [internal] weaknesses, the ANC faces the danger of losing the core attributes that afforded it the responsibility and privilege to act as leader of society”. We note that it is also true that the implementation of these progressive proposals will not necessarily be an all-round remedy for the challenges facing the movement. We, however, believe that they will express a decisive and progressive departure from the past while retaining our strategic political vision of transforming society. Lastly, the 2017 discussion document on Strategy and Tactics encourages us that “To implement strategic interventions of re-engineering, renewal and regeneration – consistently and without fear or favour – extraordinary courage and determination are required.
Indeed let all ANC members practically say Amandla Ngawethu!
Oscar Mabuyane is the ANC Provincial Secretary in Eastern Cape