The ANC is much stronger when united: A call for united action amongst the members of the ANC
The 2016 Local Government Elections are three months away. We have been finalising our list of candidates that will help advance people’s power in every community, as deployees of the ANC at the local level. All parties and their supporters are already on the campaign trail telling voters what they will do if elected to run municipalities.
We state without fear of contradiction, that the ANC is the primary vehicle, and in fact, also the only vehicle that can lead our people in the struggle to determine and build their own destiny, and improve the quality of their lives. The ANC remains focused on fulfilling its historic mission.
The local government elections on 3 August 2016 provide a strategic opportunity for the ANC to strengthen its ties with the people more than it has ever done before. And that we have begun and are continuing to do.
Many activities are taking place already aimed at mobilising our people behind the ANC, from ANC Friday campaigns to the launch of manifestos and various community meetings. But that is obviously not enough.
We are yet to reach every community and every home in our country and deliver the message that the ANC is the only organisation that is capable of changing their lives for the better, and also to remind them of what we have done already working with them, and what we must still do, with their support.
We are engaging our people during a difficult period.
We have witnessed a heightening of mass protests in the last twelve months or so. One too many of them has been accompanied by violence and wanton destruction of public and sometimes private property. As the ANC we cannot avoid reflecting on this matter as to what are the reasons for these protests.
We have said and must say, loudly and consistently, that in a constitutional state there is absolutely no justification for such behaviour.
All citizens and indeed everyone in the country are guaranteed the right to peaceful protest. This right was won with blood and society will not allow us to soil the memory of our fallen martyrs and destroy the future of generations to come.
Acts such as burning down schools, factories, busses, libraries, and blockading roads as we have seen in Vuwani and various universities, are condemned without equivocation.
The achievements of our government in just over two decades are phenomenal and even the enemies of the ANC acknowledge them.
The ANC is the first however to say that much more still needs to be done. As the leader of society the ANC must at all times remain vigilant and relentless in improving its capacity to lead better and wisely. It must sharpen its focus and address areas of internal weakness and all external threats to the national democratic revolution.
The tragedy of Vuwani and other areas draw attention to the fact that the ANC should maintain vigilance especially at the local level. We should be the first to know when there is brewing discontent in the population that the enemies of democracy will exploit to reverse the gains of the national democratic revolution.
As the ANC we must be particularly careful that such discontent must not be the result of our own actions and failure to act in the interest of our people.
The pattern of many of the recent protests however suggests that there is more than meets the eye. The burning of schools in Vuwani is not the act of angry residents even when it may be in their name.
Similarly the wanton destruction of facilities at various universities is more than just acts of anger and frustration of the students. All these are acts of relatively small bands of anarchists and agent provocateurs.
Our ever more urgent responsibility is to acknowledge and address the needs of the communities.
Our ever more urgent task is to take and implement all measures to address social distress that results from extreme poverty and high levels of unemployment.
These, if unattended to, become the fertile base for anarchic forces and criminal elements in our society.
Simultaneously we have to exercise the authority of the state to protect everyone from unlawful action and inaction.
It is an accepted fact that the ANC is strongest when it is at the head of united mass action for social emancipation and development. As a governing party, we have many opportunities to do this.
The challenge is to constantly adjust the manner in which the ANC harnesses the energy of the revolutionary and the broader mass democratic movement. The challenge is for the basic unit of the ANC, namely the ward-level branch to be the leading detachment of the popular movement for social and economic transformation.
ANC branches exist to lead communities to address their immediate needs and to use the constitutional organs of government as a primary resource.
The Statement of the National Executive Committee on the occasion of the 104th Anniversary of the ANC says:
“We call upon all sectors of society: intelligentsia, artists, sports formations, organised labour, the business community and civil society to join hands with the ANC to build a united South Africa. Building our nation is a long term task and every citizen and sector of society are called upon to contribute, each to the best of their ability.
“Every contribution to nation-building is important and helps our country to remain an outstanding example of what people, acting in unity, can accomplish.”
The task of every structure of the ANC is to extend its hand and to mobilize the various organizations and sectors of society as the NEC commands it to do.
This includes the structures of the leagues and the allied organizations especially at ward level. In this regard, the ANC-led Alliance is called upon to develop a common programme of action from ward-level up. The ward-level programs must align with and also inform the national level programme.
Branch Election Teams must have tight programs that encompass the specific demands of the community and indicate how the ANC Election Manifesto addresses those demands.
In line with the above injunction of the NEC we must hasten to add that constitutional organs of the power of the people are instruments of self-rule and self-development.
Every citizen has a direct responsibility for the realization of those demands. The central task of the ANC is to organize, mobilize and lead united efforts through community development programs, enterprise development and the development of cooperatives, expanded public works programs, programs for combating the scourge of HIV and Aids, programs to combat violence against women, girls and senior citizens, and others.
BETs must communicate clear and simple processes for holding elected councillors to account. Candidate councillors must know upfront what is expected of them and how the ANC and the community at large will measure and manage their performance, and also hold them to account.
Building strong and healthy communities, with public representatives that are accountable is at the centre of the ANC Manifesto.
Only through disciplined action of agents of change will the country accomplish its mission as articulated in the NEC Statement. Only through united action can the country turn the economy around.
The NEC has declared 2016 as The Year of Advancing People’s Power; Local Government is in Your Hands.
It is the duty of every cadre to turn this declaration into reality.
The urgent task of every cadre is to strengthen organs of people’s power and give more life to the Freedom Charter demand that: “The People Shall Govern”.
Let us use the local government elections to further build on the successes we have scored.
We must not be demoralised by the negative narratives around us.
We should remain focused on building the organisation and uniting the movement and our people behind building a strong and responsive local government system.
CDE JACOB ZUMA IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS