The outcome of the ANC Regional Conference in eThekwini, KZN, poses very serious challenges to the movement and its future. The fact that one faction participated in this conference resulting in the leadership outcome in the manner that it is, can only pose more questions and challenges than laying the basis for the unity of the movement. The process towards this conference, given the fact that it failed to take place on more than two occasions should have called for much more introspection than rushing into declaring it a success. If all candidates who were contesting did reach the threshold to be candidates for election, it must be worrying and a joke that some only got one or four votes. I see this as a denialist tendency, which is a threat to organizational unity and cohesion. This is a trend that has been visible in many of our conferences. I hold no brief for any grouping in that conference, except for my organization, for which my heart bleeds when watching it’s self-induced pain. Clearly key organizational values and virtues lacks in this equation.
President Zuma has in the last NGC raised serious concerns about new tendencies which serves to undermine the unity of the movement. He warned against issues such as gate keeping, slates, factions and the use of money and state resources to undermine internal democracy within the movement. These and many other self-serving tendencies have eroded the democratic space and participation of members within the structures of the movement, weakened the ANC branch as the basic unit of the organization, and most critically coerced conference delegates to openly betray branch organizational mandates in conferences. Cliques of comrades who formed themselves into leaders of factions, calling themselves cores, openly undermine the established processes, procedures and democratic participation by dictating to branch delegates what positions they must take in conferences. Our branches have therefore been reduced into carriers of factional messages and positions.
The question that arises therefore is why comrades would take extra ordinary steps to approach the courts to seek recourse on what they see as unfairness by their leadership. Is it possible that in a situation where those who have grievances can remain recalcitrant and approach the courts if their issues are openly and fairly listened to? I am not the one, under any circumstance, who can ever encourage any member of the ANC to approach the courts to solve organizational problems. However it is time that we need to seriously examine where the fault lies and deal with the root course of the problem rather than finger point and name calling of comrades who seek alternative ways to have them listened to. To accuse those aggrieved and call them ill disciplined, moles, enemy agents and reactionary elements will not solve the problem, but objectively dealing with their complaints will. The bottom line is that a court victory either way can never be a victory for the ANC, it will just be a widening of disunity.
A quick glance at this challenge will demonstrate that comrades who seek these alternative resolutions mechanisms will mostly complain about ghost branches, inflation of membership, refusal to recognize their branches and delegates and sometimes a refusal to preside over their Branch General Meetings by top structures who are supposed to do so, especially in branches which are seen not to support the sitting leadership.
In a faction infested environment, it will be difficult to believe that any semblance of objectivity will apply to deal with complaints. Anyway, branches are never on their own divided, but the so-called core groups are the ones destabilizing these branches by wanting to dictate to them what positions they must take, including especially who they should elect. This has become the biggest threat to organizational unity and cohesion. No longer are the branches attending these conferences to debate organizational issues, but an impression is created to them that the critical issue for conference is who to vote for and who not to vote for. It therefore behoves that attempts to deal with branch issues would most likely not be as politically objective as they should be, because those who preside over attempts to deal with these challenges are themselves conflicted and faction ridden. Truth be told, that it is mainly branches that do not support those who decide on conference credentials in many instances that are aggrieved. It follows therefore that in dealing with these matters the organization should lift the levels of trust and objectivity.
Our movement has become a laughing stock of the nation, in the process eroding its ability to win confidence and remain the leader of society. But it cannot be said that the ANC is in the wrong, it is those bestowed with the responsibility to lead who are not leading correctly, and who are tarnishing the name of this organization. The big question in approaching this question is whether the leadership of the movement should not look at other mechanisms to address organizational challenges, other than expecting those who caused them in the first instance to solve them. There is a saying that you cannot expect the same minds which caused problems to equally solve them.
I move from the premise that the ANC I know was formed on the premise of the unity of our people, and indeed this unity should forever remain sacrosanct. The continued tendency to want to exclude comrades from participating in the organization they voluntarily joined is political crime and must be discontinued. The ANC is a people’s organization, and it must remain rooted within the people. To stop this rot, leaders must lead and equally treat membership equally and with respect. Only in this way, and moving as one, the ANC will remain the leader of society.
ANC Ike Maphoto Branch