It was not the first time labour boss Zwelinzima Vavi warned in his own, direct way of the ANC’s ways and unmet promises, and the dangers they held for the country.
He was criticising, again at Cosatu’s provincial conference in Pietermaritzburg on Monday, a party distracted by internal politics and power plays. As a result, it was failing to heed or address mounting impatience among the poor.
Vavi is right. It was to be expected some months ago, when the succession tussle started in spite of ANC edicts against it, that service delivery and governance would slow even further while battles were fought. This was probably going to be the least productive year of the Zuma term.
Another aspect vexing Vavi was corruption. He had spoken before of political hyenas and a predatory elite, but on Monday he wanted answers on suspicions of dirt involving specific prominent ANC members. “We cannot afford more promises of tough action that do not materialise,” he said.
He had just returned from the ANC policy event where the party’s troubled image was discussed. One of the recommended ways to improve it was to act against prominent members linked to graft, asking them to step aside, even before official proceedings unfolded. A proposed ANC integrity panel would promptly assess the seriousness of the claim against a member, and action may follow. And therein lies the problem: may.
Caution is advisable in dealing with accusations of dishonesty. But its approach so far to these cases has looked like more than that – hesitant, even reluctant.
The slightest trace of substance in claims of impropriety against an office bearer or prominent member should mean routine suspension. If this became standard procedure, presumption of guilt would not be an issue.
There should be no “may”. Clarity and certainty about consequences for bent comrades would greatly benefit the ANC and, given its dominance, the country.