South Africa looks to intellectual work of ANC to rescue it from present day difficulties and tribulations

The African National Congress (ANC) in the Northern Cape recently concluded its Special Provincial General Council (PGC) in the town of Kimberly, Northern Cape.

Taking place as it did during Youth Month, the PGC began by paying homage to the youth of 1976- whose sacrifices are the cornerstone for the freedom that we enjoy today.

The special PGC took place during a very significant year, when we celebrate the centenary of the birth OR Tambo. OR was a great giant of our struggle, who never betrayed or compromised the course of struggle. He stands out in the world as one of the finest leaders of revolutionary movements that spearheaded the liberation of oppressed masses. What are the attributes and skills that made OR distinct? OR’s capacity to manage contradiction in the movement sustained his leadership. He had deep and incisive understanding on how best to manage contradictions both inside and outside the movement.

Just in six months from now, we will be holding our 54th National Conference in Gauteng. The Special PGC therefore had a responsibility to discuss and finalise policy matters that will be put before the 54th national conference. Those are policies that will take the country forward towards achieving our strategic objective of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.

On behalf of the PEC I want to thank the Policy Sub-committee and the Political Education Team for developing our provincial perspective and for conducting training for the ANC branches on the discussion documents.

It is also important to mention that the Special PGC also took place at the backdrop of our 08th Provincial Conference that took place in Colesberg. It goes without saying that the conference was an overwhelming success and a watershed conference of the ANC in the Northern Cape. It had the highest number of participating branches and the highest number of voting delegates. This alone reflects that the ANC is a growing organisation. We are in a post-conference dispensation now, and each and everyone’s effort should be directed at building the movement.

Over the past two weeks the PEC convened Special Regional Conferences in all five regions. The Special RGCs were successful and the newly elected PEC was warmly welcomed by all ANC structures in the province. However, we picked up some post-conference tendencies, which are based on the response of comrades to the 08th Provincial conference. I think it will be important to reflect on these tendencies, as this was the first PGC after the 08th Provincial Conference.

The first tendency is derived from comrades I generally categorise as mourners. Mourners are comrades who decided to engage in perpetual mourning after the 08th Provincial Conference. The mourners derive their strengths from a false belief that some post-conference miracle will happen that will lead to the nullification of the 08th Provincial Conference, and consequently the dissolution of this PEC. Based on this false belief they want to weaken this PEC and the ANC in the province.

The second tendency is derived from comrades I generally categorise as triumphalists. The triumphalists are over-excited about the conference outcome and thereby seek to marginalise and undermine those who had a different leadership preference. These comrades make it their business to always remind those who had a different leadership preference towards the conference of the outcomes of the conference and to rub it in their faces that their preference did not emerge. In a politically shallow and disconcerting manner, the triumphalists expects this PEC to embark on a vicious programme of factional cleansing, which involves targeting and hunting down everyone that did not support the leadership perspective that produced this PEC.

The third tendency is derived from comrades I generally categorise as builders. This tendency is from comrades who strongly feel that the 08th Provincial Conference came and it is gone.  Disregarding their own personal views, these comrades accept that there is leadership collective that was produced by the conference, the conference is over and the work of building the movement must commence. The comrades that fall in this category serve as a nucleus of our work to build the movement.

As the PEC we have a message to each of these categories of comrades. To the mourners, we want to say that the time for mourning is over, we must pick up the pieces and start the work of building our movement. But for those who feel that they want to fight and discredit this PEC, we welcome that invitation. This PEC has adequate capacity to defend itself and the ANC in the province. To the triumphalists, we want to say that the time for self-adulation and over-excitement is over, the work of building the movement have started. To the builders, we want to say that you are our partners and you constitute the foundation and cornerstone of our work to build a strong, vibrant and dynamic movement in the province. So comrades, we call on everyone inside here to be builders, let us stop mourning and let us stop being over-excited.

We also had an opportunity to engage with all ANC MPLs in the ANC caucus. The PEC want to apologise to the people of the Northern Cape, our members and our comrades that were affected by the reshuffling and the reversal thereof, comrades Sandra Beukes, Gail Parker, Bongiwe Mbinqo, Ntsikelelo Mac Jack, Pauline Williams and Mxolisi Sokatsha. This adventurist mishandling of the deployment process was the worst embarrassing episode in the post-1994 politics of the ANC in the province. We hope and commit to never again expose our province to such an embarrassment.

We used both the RGCs and the ANC Legislature Caucus to communicate both our objectives and processes. We did this, because we value organisational stability. There should be no uncertainty about what this PEC stands for, and there should be no poor management of the organisation from our side.

The objectives of this current PEC, flowing from the 08th Provincial Conference can be generally summarised as THREE DANGERS AND FOUR IMPERATIVES. The THREE DANGERS AND FOUR IMPERATIVES are the beacons that will guide our work for the next four years. The THREE DANGERS are things that we must avoid in both our conduct and articulation. If we fail to avoid them, the organisation will become a political wasteland and will be punished in the 2019 General Elections. These are:

  • THE FIRST DANGER IS DISUNITY: in whatever we do, we must avoid disunity within our ranks. To address the current challenges confronting the movement we need an organisation that is characterised by internal cohesion. Disunity will polarise our movement, and nobody will benefit from such an outcome.
  • THE SECOND DANGER IS THE HAMMERING OF THE ANC IMAGE: in whatever we do at all times as members and leaders of the ANC, we must ensure that we protect the pristine image of our movement and fight the abuse of the ANC brand. As we convene this Special PGC, our movement is guttered in scandals, and our primary responsibility is to mitigate the impact thereof and not worsen the crisis.
  • THE THIRD DANGER IS THE VAST SOCIO-ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES IN THE PROVINCE: in whatever we do, we need to introduce focused programmes to eradicate socio-economic inequalities in the province. We have about 43 percent unemployment in the province, this figure includes the discouraged jobseekers. Effectively meaning that every second person we meet in the streets is unemployed. 40 percent of households in the province are poor. So we need to avoid poor planning that disadvantages the poor.

The FOUR IMPERATIVES are things that we need to urgently do to ensure that we move the province forward, we build a strong, vibrant and dynamic movement. The four imperatives are:

  • THE FIRST IMPERATIVE IS BUILDING UNITY: unity of the movement is sacrosanct and cannot be compromised. We must dedicate all our energies and creativeness to building unity in the province. Without unity the movement will die in our hands. Our call for unity must not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness in the current PEC. As part of building unity within our ranks this PEC will fight post-conference purging and dishing of patronage. We will fight targeting of comrades because of the views they held towards the 08th Provincial Conference. The tendency of targeting comrades because of their leadership preferences before the 08th Provincial Conference is showing its ugly head, I want to make it clear to this Special PGC that we will fight dispensing of patronage and targeting of comrades with everything that we have. This is a fight we are not going to retreat on.
  • THE SECOND IMPERATIVE IS THE STRENGTHENING OF THE INTERFACE: with regard to this matter we had a bad start and there is much greater need to focus our energies to strengthening the interface between the ANC and government. The interface is managed through two processes. The first process is through political guidance and support by the ANC to comrades that are deployed to strategic positions. The second process is management of political mandate. The process of giving political mandates tends to be the most abused. Political mandates on strategic matters are derived from Amaqhawe House and directed to strategically deployed comrades. Any other so-called ‘mandate’ that does not originate from Amaqhawe House is a trading-off. We know about this new tendency were comrades deployed are expected to extend favours to each other, in some departments its even called ‘exchange programmes’. This is crude abuse of the process of deployment and as the PEC we will expose and fight this tendency.
  • THE THIRD INMPERATIVE IS CADRE DEVELOPMENT: cadres are the most advanced elements of the revolution and are the backbone of our movement. These are members of the movement with ideological and administrative discipline, who knows and practices democratic centralism and collective leadership. The 53rd National Conference resolved to dedicate 2012 – 2022 as a ‘Decade of a Cadre’. We must urgently build on this programme as there is only five years left.
  • THE FOURTH IMPERATIVE IS FIGHTING CORRUPTION: corruption robs the poor and as the PEC we openly declare our commitment to fight corruption in all its manifestation.

We hope that all our members and structures will commit themselves to these objectives.

As a prelude to the engagements by the Special PGC on the draft policy documents, let me start by raising the argument that the ANC is a ‘collective intellectual organ’. This argument follows Antonio Gramsci’s assertion that political parties play an intellectual role in society. He argues that parties as institutions produce knowledge, as the party is composed of intellectuals who act collectively to define the kind of society that the party intends to build and craft appropriate strategies on how to build that society.

The ANC led movement has over the past 105 years played intellectual role in defining the kind of society that we envisioned as a ‘national democratic society’ (NDS).  The NDS is the destination. The intellectual role also includes the ANC defining the kind of vehicle that we will use to reach that destination, which is the ‘national democratic revolution’ (NDR). The immediate impact of the NDR is to reverse the three interrelated contradiction (race, class and gender) of ‘colonialism of a special type’ (CST).

The intellectual work by the ANC has often provided hope for something different. This was especially significant in periods when the organisation was going through difficult times as was the case at the time of the Act of the Union and when major leadership figures of the broader alliance where sentenced to the Robben Island.

What South Africans expect now is that the intellectual work in the ANC must be able to rescue the ANC from the present day difficulties and tribulations that confront the us. In all the nine discussion documents there is sincere acknowledgement that the ANC is on a brink of a precipice. The movement has lost its moral compass and has receded moral leadership of our country to forces, which are hostile to our historic mission. So comrades we should be multidimensional, truthful and honest about our challenges. If we do so, the tragedy of the state of our organisation will bring new opportunities.

In May this year, the South African Council Churches (SACC), which is our historic ally, in their report on the state of South Africa, rightly or wrongly argues that South Africa is gravitating towards a mafia state. As if that was not enough, a group of erstwhile academics, develop a case and argue that the there is a shadow state in South Africa. And more recently the so called Guptaleaks puts a heavy strain on the battered image of the ANC, as almost every week there are leaks that implicates senior leaders of the ANC in the parasitic capitalist network of the Gupta family.

At the face of such an assault on our movement, there can be no self-respecting member or leader of the ANC that can assume a position of neutrality. We are called upon to take a stand to defend our movement and leaders from capture. When we execute our collective intellectual role today, we have to pose difficult questions on how to rescue our movement from degeneration and the tentacles of capture?

We have to further ask ourselves whether the current organisational structure of the ANC is adequate to strengthen its capacity?  As the Northern Cape we must be a vessel of fresh and sometimes very controversial ideas on how to prosecute the revolution under the current political environment.

The 53rd National Conference resolved that the organisational structure of the ANC must be in line with the five pillars of struggle.  We should therefore interrogate the current structure. This will entail questions on whether the structure of the NEC (top six and 80 members) and the Xuma-styled National Working Committee are appropriate for greater effective functioning of the party. The Xuma-styled working committee is of no great assistance in the functioning of the NEC, its just an unnecessary appendage and a mini-NEC constituted by NEC members with no specific tasks. With the current challenges confronting the movement we need to consider restructuring the working committee into a Revolutionary Council with task-assigned members.

The Revolutionary Council must be directly elected by the National Conference and be constituted by the President, two Deputy Presidents, Secretary General, three Deputy Secretary Generals, National Chairperson and Treasurer General.

The two Deputy Presidents will be tasked-assigned one for National Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and one for International Relations. The three Deputy Secretary Generals will also be task-assigned as follows:  one for campaigns and membership, one for cadre development and discipline inspection and one for battle of ideas. This structure will ensure that all five pillars of struggle are embedded in the Revolutionary Council. Members of the Revolutionary Council will be required to report on their work to the NEC on quarterly basis.

The proposal to do away with the current form of the NWC will sound laughable and odd to those who developed rigid attitudes to existing structures and systems. Taking into cognisance the challenges that the organisation is confronted with, renewal of the ANC requires odd thinking. The reason why we can’t conclude the debate on provincial governments is because of our rigid attitudes that makes us comfortable with existing structures and systems. The reality of the situation is that provincial governments are fiscus guzzlers and go against our historic mission of a unitary state. I argue that the best model for South Africa is to have provinces as administrative centres, this is the position which the ANC presented during the CODESA negotiation in 1993. The establishment of provincial governments was a compromise, and we must revisit this matter.

The 2012 Strategy and Tactics characterises the current conjecture as the second phase of the revolution. The 2012 Strategy and Tactics asserts that central to the second phase of the transition is radical socio-economic transformation. The ANC did not stumble on the notion of radical socio-economic transformation with the advent of the Gupta scandals. Economic transformation is a political imperative in the country. This includes fighting monopoly capital as it stifles competition and growth in the economy. Whether it is black, white or yellow monopoly capital, it remains monopoly capital and has the same economic impact in society. So as the province we must not fall victims to the quicksand of ideological confusion planted by Bell Pottinger, the Gupta Public Relations Consultant. Our historic enemy is monopoly capital, whether white, black or yellow.

The ANC strategic posture to capital is that of unity and struggle (cooperation and contestation). We need capital to grow a vibrant, modern and dynamic economy that creates jobs, at the same time we must fight the excesses of capital, such as inequitable distribution of income, environmental degradation, exploitation, collusion on prices etc.

There are myriad of issues that the nine policy documents are dealing with, and this is just a brief reflection. In the commissions we expect delegates to this Special PGC to robustly engage with those issues and consolidate the position of the province. As we discuss our policy proposals and prepare for the National Policy Conference and the 54th National Conference in December, we should not lose sight of the fact that maintaining the unity of the ANC is paramount. Unity is the rock upon which the ANC was founded.

Let the festival of ideas begin and flourish!!!


Zamani Saul is the Provincial Chairperson of the ANC in the Northern Cape

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