The African National Congress (ANC), Africa’s oldest liberation movement, has since its inception been rooted in the principle of participatory democracy. It is a principle that guides the workings of the organization, and guides us as the governing party of South Africa.
We can say without contradiction that since the organization’s founding, we have never strayed from this principle.
Our members and the people of South Africa in general are the heartbeat of the ANC, and we have always and will continue to take into consideration all issues raised them through the relevant structures. We have no intention of abandoning the vibrant democratic culture that has defined our organization since 1912.
It is because of this democratic culture that the ANC has remained a political party that encourages openness, frank discussion and tolerance of a multiplicity of views, dissenting or otherwise.
We have since late 2015 been engaged in an extensive, thorough and inclusive process of candidate selection ahead of municipal elections. This has provided an opportunity for the members of the ANC and our constituents in communities, to elect councilors through an open, democratic process. A democratic culture both internally and externally, is the lifeblood of the ANC.
It is important to acknowledge that the candidate selection process, or the ‘lists process’ has in the main been a success. At the conclusion of the ANC’s National List Conference held in Centurion, Gauteng last month, a list of 9 300 candidates was submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Although it is common knowledge that there have been cases where some members have been dissatisfied with the outcome – and they have expressed this dissatisfaction inter alia through demonstrations and representations made to the ANC’s National Offices – the integrity of the process is indisputable.
The abovementioned cases were in the minority: these disputes received coverage in the media and on other platforms that was wholly disproportionate to the numbers involved, which led to an unfortunate impression being created.
The issue of representation on party candidate lists is also a victory for the democratic internal culture of the ANC.
Firstly, the organization’s policy objective holds that no less than 50% of our public representatives should be women.
Secondly, a minimum of 60% of incumbent councilors must be retained, in terms of a 2015 National General Council (NGC) resolution; which has significant considerations with regards to institutional memory and continuity.
Thirdly, a minimum of 20% of our candidates must be young people. The latter objective is to introduce a generational mix as well as develop future leaders.
To give effect to the prescribed targets, it was at times necessary to re-order the lists.
The ANC should be lauded for its efforts to give effect to our historic mission to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
It should be acknowledged that in some places, self-interest has trumped selflessness, and personal gain has triumphed over the greater good of the country. This has assumed alarming proportions in some provinces, leading to the loss of life.
The ANC will continue to affirm the right of any member to raise their grievances in the correct manner, utilizing party structures. What we will never condone is the wanton violence that has characterized some incidents of dissent in the lead-up to the finalization of the list process.
Such actions stand fundamentally opposed to the values of the African National Congress and the country’s law enforcement agencies must act decisively against this criminal behaviour.
Importantly, structures of the ANC should reject thuggery masquerading as ‘legitimate dissent.’ This is nothing but the manifestation of opportunism by those opposed to democratic outcomes.
In pandering to a populism that seeks to impose candidates on communities who are not the choices of the people, we would be betraying the values for which the ANC stands.
Where changes have been made to lists to give effect to our policy positions, it is the duty of the leadership to clarify our processes to the structures. The politics that informs the ANC’s candidate selection processes are intended to deepen our democracy and a culture of human rights, all the while serving to mobilize the people to take active part in changing their lives for the better.
When the ANC has taken a decision, as disciplined members of this glorious movement we have to accept those decisions, even if they may at times be unpopular. To be firm in communicating this to the structures requires courage and resolve.
We have to stay the course. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed and distracted. The focus must now be on delivering a decisive and overwhelming victory at the polls on the 3rd of August 2016.
The ANC owes its position as the governing party to an overwhelming public mandate. We have been chosen to lead our people in successive elections since 1994.
We must now direct our energies and efforts on carrying forward our programme of radical socio-economic transformation, and realizing the values of the National Democratic Revolution.
We owe it to the people of South Africa – for whom the ANC is their political home, to put aside distractions and fixations with internal processes: and focus on the task at hand.
JESSIE DUARTE IS THE DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ANC