YONELA DIKO: ANC 2.0 - turning the tide on bad leadership and corruption
The narratives and counter narratives about government and ANC have not really changed since the mid-90s, and a quick perusal of publications of that earlier period, viewed as glorious now in hindsight, serve as testament of these unyielding narratives. This is much more pronounced in exasperation in former president Thabo Mbeki's speeches and commentary of those years.
For example, speaking at the 15th Interpol African Regional Conference in Cape Town in April 1999, then deputy president Mbeki said: "If you, our distinguished guests, listened to and believed what these sceptics and pessimists in our own country will be saying even during the few days you will be here, you would depart convinced that, since we attained our freedom in 1994, all we have done is to descend to hell itself". It is a similar exasperation former president Nelson Mandela had, which he wrote about in his book, Dare Not Linger - The Presidential Years, which he began to write towards the end of his presidency in 1999.
The work of those sceptics and pessimists has been enduring. The tools of propaganda have always been owned by those who would like to see those perceptions persist because they do serve and must serve to put all existing problems of the country as new - as new as the democratic dispensation, as new as the government that has been chosen by the people, over and over, something that continues to incense many. After concentrated years of the assault narrative, it was always bound to entrench itself and be believed even by those who were once oppressed.
The difference, however, between then and now is that while the material conditions of the people were worse then than today, the credibility of leaders at the time and their genuine efforts to solve the problems remained largely intact. Leaders then, led by Mandela and Mbeki, understood that in order to successfully defend the gains they were making against a clear and well funded assault to delegitimise a black government as leaders, their own credibility needed never be in question.
The old ANC leaders understood that if as a leader you are involved in corruption and crime, misappropriating public resources, giving government business to friends and family, showing no respect for the law, clearly you would never have the moral force to dictate or even influence others to do the right thing. In fact, you would likely serve as motivation to other people and possibly a reliable ally for corruption and impunity. Leaders who enrich themselves through state largess inevitably push the justice system too far and end up encouraging members of the justice system to participate and be complicit in crimes of their leaders.
Today, ANC leaders seem to have very low expectations of themselves, both morally and in delivery of promised land to our people. This contributes to the current and painful shrug about ANC leaders, an acceptance that moves from small things, like lack of basic professionalism, looseness in governing party affairs, poor preparation for the party tasks and those government, to more troubling problems like political bending of rules, business given to politicians' wives, impunity that seems to emboldened even other bureaucrats, with missing documents like police dockets, theft of government resources by government officials, involvement of police in drugs and crime. We must free ourselves from this stench that covers us one leader at a time.
Our recent past has taught us that we can't build a strong and effective government out of a weak and morally bankrupt party. Having filled the ranks of our government with party charlatans and crooks - complicit and complacent - ready to bring the state to its knees, to collapse its finances, its institutions, subverting and bending every possible safeguard for their own survival, it's been clear what needs to be done to restore the credibility and effectiveness of the state and its institutions. The task has been to clean up the state of all these elements, but most importantly to sort out the party to prevent the second wave of deploying its worst elements into the state.
Over the last few years, the lumpen proletariat, which has been playing a hero's part using slogans and state largess, has metastasised and is now a fully fledged force within the party that seeks to once again reclaim state power and use that power to protect themselves from the sins of their first wave of corruption and ultimately finish what little party and state credibility has been restored.
This is not the ANC we used to know; an ANC that attracted the most credible of comrades, one that drew young people like ourselves to its ranks of black excellency. It is time to turn the tide, it is time to rebuild the organisation, and now is the time to reconnect with our glorious past as the cornerstone to building an even brighter future. The next generation must inherit a stronger ANC, more united, with greater legitimacy and moral authority to commandeer the country into a better future.
ANC leaders have never been selfish, have always been guided by the principle of Batho Pele - People First, and were the personification of ubuntu. They never allowed greed, lies, deceit, mischief and contempt to take root in their lives and in the organisation they led.
There is no greater honour than being chosen by the people to be their leader and one upon whom they attach their own dreams and aspiration, that you will create the environment that will be conducive for their dreams to be realised. Being chosen by the people means you live for them, you fight for them, you sacrifice for them, you effectively cease to live for yourself but for the people.
The future of the ANC in no small measure is highly dependent on its ability to develop competent and credible leaders. These leaders will not arise by accident, they will not just mushroom from nowhere, but a deliberate, targeted and sustained investment in leadership development is necessary. It is these well developed leaders that would give hope to the millions of South Africans who are yet to feel the real taste of freedom. Ethical leaders, principled, selfless and passionate about seeing meaningful and positive change in the lives of the people.
It has been a great assault to the party's values and expectations, even louder now during COVID-19 PPE scandal, to see a few benefiting in what could have been an opportunity for many to benefit. These people have turned our organisation and its government into gangster organisations and embarked in all kinds of illicit and nefarious activities using the confidence and power placed upon them by the people.
It is time to rebuild and redefine the organisation, putting across our values more forcefully and being uncompromising and unyielding in the standards we have set for ourselves in order to once again restore our moral authority and legitimacy as the true representatives of what is best about our people and country.
Yonela Diko is the former Spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. You can follow him on @yonela_diko.