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#ANC54 In Zuma's words: ANC's survival threatened

Speaking during his final speech as ANC president, Jacob Zuma said the 'negative tendencies' creeping into the party has intensified.

President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates at the ANC's 54th national conference on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

The 54th National Conference is taking place at a time when our movement is at a crossroads.

While we identify corporate greed as posing a serious threat to the ANC, we also need to look at internal dynamics within our organisations which makes it possible for external influences to pose a threat to the organisation.

The negative tendencies that have been creeping in since the dawn of our democracy in April 1994 in the ANC have intensified over the years. They have now come to a head and are threatening the survival of the ANC.

As we intensify organizational renewal at this conference, let us be reminded of the words of Isithwalandwe Walter Sisulu who said: ”It is a law of life that problems arise when conditions are there for their solution."

The ANC is one hundred and five years old because it has always been able to rise to the occasion and deal decisively with problems that threatened its very existence.

We are called upon at this conference to solve our problems so that the ANC can focus on leading society.

The ANC remains a dominant force in the country in terms of being in control of the National Assembly, eight provincial legislatures, with one provincial legislature being in the hands of the opposition, following the 2014 national general elections.

We thank our people for putting their trust in the ANC in those national elections.

However, the outcome of the local government elections of 2016, which indicated a serious decline, were a stark reminder that our people are not happy with the state of the ANC. A substantial number of traditional ANC voters stayed away from the polls.

We lost three key metropolitan municipalities – Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela - while we run other through coalitions such as Ekurhuleni and Rustenburg.

In addition to the internal issues, our research also indicated the issues that our people are concerned with issues such as corruption, crime and unemployment.

The National Executive Committee meeting in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the results attributed our loss of support to perceptions in society that we are soft on corruption, self-serving and arrogant.

It is clear that our failure to confront problems head-on and solve them had begun to take their toll on the movement.

Previous national conferences identified the negative tendencies that we need to attend to effectively, and these still exist in the movement, undermining its standing in society.

The scourges of factionalism, gatekeeping, ill-discipline, membership buying, and infighting continued to afflict our movement.

The leadership had to spend a lot of time visiting provinces to attend to these problems instead of focusing on building the ANC and leading the country to prosperity.

Despite the challenges of the day, the ANC still represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the millions of our people who are marginalized and who are concentrated in the periphery of our mainstream economy.

A heavy responsibility rests upon the shoulders of delegates here and on the membership as a whole, to renew our movement and restore its timeless values - unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work, internal debates and mutual respect.

Our people must see in the ANC an organisation that will take them to the life that was envisaged by the founding leaders in 1912. We can achieve that in the manner that we conduct ourselves and in which we deal with the problems facing the movement.

The ANC we build through our renewal programme must project the picture of a country that is cohesive, and of a ruling party that knows where it is going. This means petty squabbles that take the movement nowhere need to take a back seat. Our people are frustrated when we spend more time fighting among ourselves than focusing on solving the day to day challenges they experience.

We should focus on the needs of our people. The ANC should once again be the first to know if there are problems in any community, and it is the ANC that must lead the process of finding solutions, working with government.

We should remember that our people love the ANC. They want to be part of the ANC and its programmes. This means that we should eradicate gatekeeping. It is killing our movement.

We should enable people join their movement and participate in its activities. The ANC is the home of all our people, regardless of race, gender and class.

In all its manifestations, factionalism has become the biggest threat to the organisation.

It is because of factionalism that we have seen the emergence of splinter groups over the past ten years which negatively affected our movement both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Slate politics, another manifestation of factionalism, has also cost us many good and capable comrades in whom our movement has invested significantly.

Ill-discipline has also continued to afflict the ANC which has taken new forms in the recent past, bordering on members publicly challenging the authority of the organisation.

There have also been worse incidents of ill-discipline where members openly side with and work with opposition parties and other formations that are hostile to the ANC, against positions adopted by the movement.

We need to reaffirm the authority of the organisation over its individual members. There should be consequences for any member who acts and speaks contrary to the values, principles and political programme of the ANC.

The relationship between the three arms of the state also needs scrutiny.

The ANC adopted the correct position that we need an activist parliament where deployees of the party hold the executive to account as part of promoting good governance and the appropriate use of public resources, a role that has tended to be abused by opposition parties.

However, the strategy of how this should be done is not clear. This new role has to some degree created confusion with the role of the opposition parties that seek to discredit government at all cost.

The danger also exists for factional and personal interests to play themselves out in parliament to the extent of the ruling party even voting itself out of power if this is left unchecked.
We should also continuously guard against the use of parliament to entrench colonial and apartheid privilege and the exclusion of the majority from the enjoyment of the benefits of citizenship.

Conference must thus reflect on the kind of parliamentary culture the ANC espouses and the kind of strategies and tactics to be used so that we do not permit counter-revolutionary tendencies in parliament.

We should also be mindful of the fact that the media is an active participant with vested interests rather than an impartial and fair observer on ANC organisational matters.

The mobilisation of the media against the country and the ANC from Johannesburg to London, New York and Washington DC has gained momentum in recent months. We need to reflect on how to communicate with our people in a climate where forces hostile to the ANC control the means and platforms of communication.

Due to internal divisions and in pursuit of personal interests, some ANC members also actively use the media to fight personal battles against the ANC despite the fact that this damages the standing of the movement and the country internationally.

The role of the judiciary also requires reflection, especially in relation to the need to protect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Judgements that give an impression that we can disregard the Constitution for political expediency or to solve what we regard as current problems, set a dangerous precedence which will make it difficult to govern in future, or to make ordinary citizens to abide by the Constitution.

We also frown upon the subjection of our internal organizational matters to court processes. ANC members should use internal dispute resolution processes. Judges should not be asked to dictate ANC organisational processes and the direction of the movement.

Comrades, we appreciate the role that organs of civil society played in the struggle against apartheid and which they must indeed continue to play to build the South Africa of our dreams. We also welcome the role of nongovernmental organisations.

However, we have seen in the recent past the sporadic emergence of some civil society groupings that are mobilised on the basis of hostile opinions against the ANC. Some NGOs appear to exist merely to fight the ANC and the ANC government. They appear to be well-resourced and constantly take government to court to fight political battles.

Other formations appear to exist to protect white privilege and in particular to ensure the maintenance of the unequal economic relations in society, while pretending to be protecting the interests of our people as a whole including the poor and the working class.

We have also seen unusual activism from the private sector lately in support of such formations, with big business taking the unusual step at times to encourage workers to leave work with full pay, and march against the democratic government. The same employers adopt a no work no pay stance when the workers demand better wages and working conditions.

Let us improve our engagement with civil society and regain our role as the leader of society, and not allow the space to be utilised by those whose interests clash with those of the poor and the working class that the ANC leads.

The ANC mobilises certain sectors through the Leagues and we have to build and strengthen all our Leagues.

The ANC Youth League held its national congress in September 2015 and elected new leadership.

The ANC Youth League has championed radical economic transformation, a programme it formally adopted at its 2011 national conference and which was later adopted by the 53rd national conference of the ANC.

The Youth League also contributed in the articulation of the demand for free higher education for students from poor households and the working class, and also play an active role in the Progressive Youth Alliance. They have also contributed to the development of the new policy for youth empowerment and youth by government and through the National Youth Development Agency.

The League is currently championing the intergenerational mix and the appointment of women in the leadership of the party.

The mother body needs to lend more focused support to the Youth League so that the League can continue to be torch bearers for the next generation of leaders of our movement.

One of the achievements of the ANC Women’s League has been the launch of the young women’s desk, ama-Younger Younger, which has worked to draw youth into the League. The Women’s League has also been active and has led several campaigns to reconnect the ANC with its membership and the communities we serve such as the Molo Melwane/Makhelwane Campaign.

The League also played a leading role in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s
March to the Union Buildings.

The Women’s League has also been vocal on developments within the ANC as well as the direction that the ANC must take as an organisation, including promoting women candidature for the leadership of the ANC.

We have had three women cadres who availed themselves for the presidency of the ANC, for the first time ever. This is a major milestone for the ANC.

The Veterans League held a successful national conference in October this year following internal organizational challenges. The League should be supported so that it can play its role of providing counsel and guidance to the movement.

The UMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association continued its task of promoting the interests for former MK combatants including interacting with government to promote the socio-economic conditions and status of veterans and services such as housing, education and healthcare.

The integration of MK former combatants into society and the structures of the ANC remains a challenge, which should be looked into as part of our policy and programmes.

We also need to actively support other formations such as the Ex-Political Prisoners Association whose members, former Robben Island prisoners in the main, also require mainstreaming into ANC programmes and work.

Comrades, the conditions of struggle have significantly changed since the 1994 democratic breakthrough.

Our movement, unfortunately, did not sufficiently analyse and prepare itself over the years for these changing conditions of struggle and how they would impact on the character and configuration of our Alliance especially with the SACP and Cosatu.

The tensions that have built up over the years, at times as a result of dissatisfaction with the policy instruments adopted by the ANC and its government, have now come to a head.

In an unprecedented move, we saw in the past few months our alliance partners marching side by side with right-wing forces who are historical opponents of our democratic revolution calling on the President of the ANC to step down. A decision was also taken by our allies to bar the President of the ANC from attending and/or addressing any of their gatherings.

Hardly three weeks ago, the SACP contested elections on its own working against the ANC in the Metsimaholo Local Municipality in the Free State.

It is important to note that this contestation followed an SACP congress resolution that the Party must actively contest elections and that the modality through which it contests may, or may not, be within the umbrella of a re-configured Alliance.

The party had made an important point that before implementing this resolution it would consult with the Alliance partners.

This conference must discuss these new developments and provide direction having given due regard to the proposals of the SACP around the reconfiguration of the alliance in line with the new conditions of struggle.

As we deliberate, we should remember the historic mission of the Alliance. We once again borrow from President Oliver Tambo who said on the occasion to mark the 60th Anniversary of the SACP, 30 years ago, that:

“The relationship between the ANC and the SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. …. Ours is not merely a paper Alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders.

“Our Alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle. We have built it out of our separate and common experiences”.

The relations with Sanco are cordial and the organisation has become more stable since the last conference, and needs to be supported and strengthened.