Former ANC President, Cde Thabo Mbeki
Members of the ANC PEC,
Leadership of the alliance,
Good afternoon comrades, and thank you for contributing to the success of our extended special Provincial Executive Committee meeting. We say it was a success because of the level of engagements and contributions to the discussions we had on questions confronting our organisation and our national democratic revolution. We were honest, frank and robust in our engagements and did so in the interests of the organisation.
Comrade President, I speak with confidence and without doubt when I say your presence in our meeting was extremely valuable and we have learnt a lot from the two days we have spent with you. You asked thought-provoking questions and compelled us to think critically about decisions we have taken both in our meetings and our conferences. The exercise of interrogating what we mean by the things we say and articulate in our documents has helped us better understand our positions and resolutions. This exercise President, will help contribute to the work of rebuilding the common purpose within the ranks of our movement.
Comrades, as per the norm, we will release a comprehensive statement on the outcomes of our meeting, however it is important to highlight a few issues that emerged from our engagements.
In our discussions, we have reaffirmed the pressing and urgent need to work for the reconstruction and recovery of our economy in the interests of the people. For this to happen, we will require a plan and economic indicators that are targeted at ending poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Our interventions must address the structure of the economy which remains largely untransformed and which still reflects the bimodal structure from the apartheid era of impoverished and undeveloped homelands in the East of the Province, and more developed and affluent areas in the West.
I think we can agree comrade President, that if our plans don’t talk to the transformation of the living conditions of the ordinary people, then such plans are meaningless and have nothing to do with the struggle to advance our shared national democratic revolution. This is why we reaffirmed our understanding and position that capital (whatever form in race, gender or creed) remains the strategic enemy of the national democratic revolution and that notions such as black industrialists are not to the extent of achieving meaningful transformation in the interests of the people. Our struggle is not to attain a seat at the dinner table for a few black elite individuals, but for the transformation of the whole.
As explained by Karl Marx that the base determines society’s other relationships and ideas to constitute its superstructure, including its culture, institutions, roles, rituals and the state, and that the changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole, immense superstructure. This is what we mean when we talk about the second and more radical phase of socio-economic transformation.
We cannot do this though, if we are locked in an economic path that doesn’t take us forward. Although we appreciate the fiscal constraints and material conditions we find ourselves in, which of course has been exacerbated by the advent of Covid-19, I think we can all agree that austerity cannot take us out of the situation we are in. We need to invest in our economy, both as the private and public sectors in order to get out of the situation and introduce measures that are going to protect and preserve our sovereignty. It may be important and worthwhile to remind comrades that our 2017 Strategy and Tactics correctly argued that neoliberalism has lost its shine, and that arguments for weak or non-interventionist states have been exposed by responses of their very champions to the financial meltdown. As such, it therefore cannot be correct to say that the concept or characterisation of neoliberalism is without content. The democratic state must be at the centre of driving transformation and leading the process of economic reconstruction and recovery. This is not a role we can outsource to the private sector, as we have agreed President, that however patriotic capital may present itself to be, its main objective is to maximise profits for the shareholders and as such cannot work to resolve the fundamental contradictions facing our society.
Comrades, our meeting agreed that we cannot celebrate the growth of our membership without thoroughly understanding what that growth reflects in terms of the quality of that membership. This is why we need to urgently develop measures to assess the quality of our membership and address questions of how we recruit members into the organisation. As Le Duan explained: “a strong organization ensures the strength of each person and the strength of each person makes the strength of the organization.” This is why we cannot further postpone the work cadre development, training and political education.
President, another important discussion we dealt with in the meeting was the question of what we of unity and renewal of our movement. In the province we have discussed this matter at length and in so doing agreed that to reach consensus about what we mean by unity and renewal, we should begin by stating what we do not mean. Unity is not just a mechanical practice to unite individuals or groupings. I know to some of us, unity is the process of ensuring that individuals from different groupings are equally represented in deployment decisions, appointment to structures and so on. This is not the meaning of unity in our revolutionary context.
Another important aspect to consider is the inclination to conceive of unity through opportunistic lenses and attempts to sway the organisation from taking necessary decisions when resolving internal differences and contradictions within the ranks of the organisation. This as well, is not the meaning of unity in our context.
The unity that we are referring to, is principled unity, a process of uniting the organisation rather than individuals or groupings, a process of uniting only with those that are prepared to accept and assimilate the ANC’s policies, programs and decisions. The basis of unity is when members truly subjugate their interests to those of the organisation. It is not, as Lenin explained, unity with liquidators, disruptors and those that undermine and defy the will of the majority.
Principally the renewal is about building the ANC’s resilience, enhancing its transformative and governance capacity and its ability to adapt to changing situations so that it can continue to advance its mission to transform our society. In his reflections in prison, Isithwalandwe/Seaparankwe Walter Sisulu further elaborates that: “every organisation engaged in national liberation constantly has to isolate, analyse and search for solutions crucial both to its continued existence and growth, and to the success of the struggle as a whole.”
You however asked an important question President, on whether we can renew the organisation with the same people that have led to the systematic destruction of our movement and state institutions. The simple answer to that question President, is no, and this is why we have agreed to purge all foreign and negative tendencies that erode the principles, values and the character of the ANC. Of course, attempts will be made to rehabilitate individuals to be in line with the principles that define a renewed ANC, however, where there is resistance, the organisation will have no other option than to isolate and cleanse itself from such elements.
Comrades, this PEC has come a long way in carrying out the mandate and directives of the 08th Provincial Conference. Although our term is coming to an end, we cannot drop the ball because of our personal desires. We need to continue providing leadership to the membership of the organisation in the province and take necessary steps to ensure that we deliver a united and cohesive ANC at the 09th Provincial Conference. We cannot do this, if become prisoners of factions and groupings that have nothing to do with the interests of the organisation and the people as a whole.
Once again, thank you very much for contributing to the success of our extended special PEC meeting. Thank you, comrade President, for taking your time to be with us and share your wisdom and counsel on critical questions confronting our organisation and our national democratic revolution.
I wish you safe travels and that you continue keeping safe from the Covid-19 pandemic by constantly washing your hand or sanitise, maintaining physical distance at all times and wearing your masks in public spaces.
Thank you very much!