Politricking with Tshidi Madia: If we don't focus, we're gone - ANC's Gungubele

Just before the ANC begins its policy conference, ahead of its elective conference in December, ANC NEC member Mondli Gungubele says the governing party must focus on 'real issues'.

FILE: ANC NEC member Mondli Gungubele on 26 May 2022. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - In the face of the continuing loss of electoral support, and South Africa shedding billions to corruption, African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee (NEC) member Mondli Gungubele says he’s concerned his party isn't focused on what he calls real issues. Gungubele says instead members are decrying the alleged unfair treatment of those suspected of corruption.

In a wide-ranging interview this week with Eyewitness News politics podcast Politricking with Tshidi Madia, Gungubele says a number of his comrades are spending boundless energy casting aspersions against the judiciary and law enforcement instead of dealing with graft or the deteriorating state of the country.

The ANC gathers for its national policy conference this week. Its formal programme kicks off on Friday.

The governing party's step-aside rule has taken over radical economic transformation and its removal as the main topic of contestation, which is where the proxy battle for control of the ANC played out in 2017.

Gungubele has described it as irritating, concerning and downright scary. "A country that increasingly displays a disregard for its laws is a country that is beginning to shift or get on a sliding slope," he said.

He said the challenge ahead of the party's sixth policy conference was focus, adding that it must interrogate the 2021 elections outcomes, the state capture commission report and the work of the Special Investigating Unit, which speaks to corruption across government departments. "If it doesn't focus on those issues that undermine its ability to remain a central influence, we are gone."

Gungubele told Eyewitness News that tensions over former president Jacob Zuma, between the party in KwaZulu-Natal and its national leaders, was likely because the two speak past one another, suggesting that a deep conversation about the contentious leader was necessary.

The party in KwaZulu-Natal is aggrieved. ANC members in the province accuse its top leadership of failing to manage anger over Zuma’s jailing last year, and perceptions that he was ill-treated and forgotten by the ANC.

Gungubele said he understood the difficulty people might have coming to terms with a struggle hero who found himself at odds with the law. But he stressed the continued importance of respecting the rule of law and ensuring all remained equal before the law, adding that divisions only served to sow doubt about the party. "We can find one another on this point. I want to agree that there are people who believe that, indeed genuinely, [Zuma's] being ill-treated, unless there's conversation. From where I'm sitting, we know that Comrade JZ has appeared before courts of law and found himself in conflict with the prescripts of the law," he said.

Come December, the ANC must elect seven top officials at its national elective conference. Gungubele insisted that the party has continuity, and shows that gender is taken seriously, while at the same time demonstrating that the time for young people to rise is now.

As an ally of Cyril Ramaphosa, he said the incumbent party leader must return to the fore with a young woman or man serving as their deputy. "Gender, community and change: I support a view that says you need a young person as a deputy president. Somebody who, when we elect Cyril to do his second term, the person who takes over in terms of energy and youth must be ready to become a president."

Several leaders have raised their hands to deputise Ramaphosa as the organisation struggles to find someone to take him on for the top position. While Gungubele makes no mention of Paul Mashatile nor Zweli Mkhize - who are said to be vying for the top and second-in-command posts in the ANC - he shut the door on their ambitions, insisting that Ramaphosa is still the best leader they have to serve at the helm of the party.

Party members will from Monday start nominating leaders they wish to see take the organisation forward.