The African National Congress (ANC) is going through ‘the most difficult period in a longtime, akin to a time in the 30’s when Pixley ka Seme was President and ANC almost collapsed.”
This was the sentiment expressed by ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe in his keynote address to the Central Committee of the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM)
The meeting, held on 8 June 2017 at the St Georges Hotel in Irene Tshwane, was to be addressed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who could not attend owing to the three-line whip in Parliament.
Mantashe, the former General-Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers indicated that his input was intended to enrich the debates at the Central Committee gathering- and were not to be taken as an instruction or a party line that all must follow.
He likened the current turbulence in the ANC to a similar turbulence in the 60’s which culminated into the Morogoro Conference.
With regards to the controversies and contestations around the position of the party presidency – Mantashe likened current events to the when ANC President Dr. James Moroka left foot soldiers in court and organized his own lawyers during the Defiance Campaign and once again the movement almost collapsed.
The ANC Secretary-General had similarly cautionary words for the health of the tripartite alliance, warning: “the Alliance is also in disarray by design”.
“But Instead of accepting our responsibilities, we are entering a beauty contest in the public domain”, Mantashe told delegates; adding that “all our allies think the only solution to our problems is removing President Zuma.”
Mantashe explained that the ANC’s National Executive Committee has had long discussions on the matter of removing the President and has resolved that doing so would irreparably fracture the organization.
“We may have the instant gratification now but it will take us much longer to pick up the pieces”, he said.
Mantashe was clear on which ANC regions would be worst affected.
“Kwa-Zulu/Natal will be split into two immediately. The North-West will be split, and the Free State will be a disaster”, Mantashe said.
Mantashe told the NUM Central Committee: “The ANC NEC’s conclusion was that we must not be adventurous in dealing with this issue and (thereby) plunge ourselves into chaos.” He added: “The birth of COPE which we saw during the removal of President Mbeki would be like a Sunday picnic”.
He said the NEC’s ultimate conclusion was to work for unity of the movement and for a successful National Conference in December 2016 that will elect a leadership that will instill confidence in society.
This formula, Mantashe said, will work much better than the allure of short-term solutions. Only a systematic process of electing leaders in December that will stop looting and corruption in the state will work.
Mantashe dismissed speculation that the ANC was ‘avoiding’ making a decision on the recall of President Zuma, emphasizing that the ANC NEC has collectively decided on a course of action.
Once the organization takes a decision, individual members have no views of their own, acknowledged Mantashe.
“It is a painful process but the organisation is bigger than all of us. That is what is called organisational discipline.” He added: “History is going to prove us correct in our approach.”
Mantashe at that point called out the ANC Youth League for lack of organizational discipline, calling the League ‘henchmen’ who get ‘unleashed on individual Comrades… creating enemies that do not exist.’
He indicated that the ANC would deal with this issue internally.
The controversial issues of state capture and the so-called ‘leaked emails’ were not left off the agenda either, with Mantashe. With regards to the latter Mantashe expressed concern at what he termed the ‘securocracy’ who were unearthing ‘dirt’ and spreading misinformation on those perceived as stumbling blocks to their agendas.
Mantashe ended by pinning hope on the upcoming Policy conference as an opportunity for all of us to retrace what brings us together.
Despite all the challenges the movement and the alliance are facing, Mantashe insisted that a divorce between the ANC and SACP would accelerate both ANC and SACP losing power.
He expressed optimism that the upcoming national policy conference would be an opportunity to forge unity within party ranks. “It is not scandals or state capture that brings us together… the National Democratic Revolution brings us together,” said Mantashe.