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Is the ANC in a crisis?
Unity is the bedrock of the ANC, but disunity is the demon that is threatening our ranks. Our responsibility is to hold the ANC together in the same fashion it was held throughout its 100 years, if not better. This challenge must not be lost in our hands. If there is confusion about our ability to lead this organisation, we must remove it. We must give direction and that goes for each and every one of us as members because the ANC is a party that is driven by its branches.
Is this the ANC of Mandela?
That is what we must keep asking ourselves. It’s critical that we should keep in mind the spirit of Mandelaism. It’s not about how many times we can call his name but how best we are walking in his path. We must test ourselves on his values, on his ethics, morality and principles. It was Mandela who told us that it is critical for leaders to always remember that we are where we are because we were chosen by the people. And we must never forget that. Because the people can also remove us.
Are you concerned by the scenes that played out in Thohoyandou on Tuesday when President Jacob Zuma delivered the Nelson Mandela Lecture?
What happened in Limpopo is best forgotten. It was not pleasant to see a president of the ANC deliver a Mandela lecture protected by barbed wire and security agencies and police firing tear gas. That is not the face of the ANC.
Are you suggesting the face of the ANC must be changed?
No. I’m saying we have to find the time to assess what happened on Tuesday and ask ourselves some deep questions. Something is wrong.
Is it perhaps a reflection of Zuma losing his footing among his members?
I wouldn’t want to separate the president from the party. The ANC is driven by its branches and what happened is a reflection on all of us.
You appeared to lose your own footing on the first day of the policy conference when you tried to raise a point of order but were told to sit down.
Not correct. Yes, I was told to sit down but I was trying to prevent exactly what happened on the last day of the conference, which was less than comfortable to watch. We ended up nearly putting a very bad mark on our conference. That’s what I was trying to prevent when I stood up on that first day. Sometimes you must be able to stand against the tide and say what you believe.
Are you prepared to stand against the tide and declare your interest in becoming president?
Every member of the ANC has got a democratic birthright to serve in any position.
No member is precluded. Come October, when asked, I will weigh all options and I will respond.
It will depend on who is asking me to do what. And what are the motives.
Is it to unite or divide this organisation?
Do you want to become ANC president?
It would be an honour to serve.
Do you think you would make a good leader?
The ANC has given a mandate to its members to discuss the kind of leadership they want and I can tell you that we are already being approached.
Who is “we”?
Many of us. Even Jacob Zuma. But you must remember that a leader is more than a figurehead. A leader can be a president, a member of the national executive committee, a branch leader.
Are you behind the Anything but Zuma campaign?
That campaign cannot be taken seriously. An “Anything but Zuma” ticket would suggest that ANC members are reckless and prepared to lower their bar in a way the ANC does not do. Our members want more than just anyone or anything.
What do the members want?
We don’t know. All that we do know is that the mandate of the leadership that was chosen in Polokwane in 2007 comes to an end this year. No one is guaranteed a second term. But you should be talking to the branch delegates and not me, as the decision is theirs. Mangaung, like all ANC conferences, will be a conference of branches.
What do you want?
I want to serve, as I have done all my political life. I come from the ranks of the working people and what I would like to see is the upliftment of the working class. If you can not uplift the working class, then the revolution is lost.
How would you do that?
I am wholeheartedly behind the strategy of having a fundamental shift in our policy, as we agreed in June. We agreed on strategic intervention by the state in the economy. But getting the state involved is not the objective. The aim is to turn around this country and face our triple challenges head on: poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Is the current leadership capable of making that shift?
That’s the challenge facing all of us, not just the top six or the 86 members of the NEC. We need real leadership from the smallest branch right up to the top. And we need to be united.
A divided ANC, with radical policy changes, risks being punished (in the general election in 2014).
We need to stop looking inward and start realising that whoever wins in Mangaung will be tested in 2014. Organisations around the world have made the mistake of navel-gazing and later paid the price.
Are you worried about the economy?
Yes, of course it’s concerning, particularly the growth of gross domestic product, which is about the upliftment of our people. Although SA has survived the first wave of the recession, the danger we are experiencing now is growth deficit. The economy is lacklustre. We have a very large and unsustainable social wage bill. While we have identified our infrastructure project path, we will be financing a great part of it with debt.
We need to be careful. At the same time, we need to and will provide the safety net for those who need it. But we need to start looking at our balance sheet more carefully.
What about the underperformance in government?
Non-performance is a big problem because we are dealing with public funds and millions of lives. In the private sector, it’s a different matter. But as the government we need to be tougher.
What action would you have taken over the Limpopo textbook scandal?
I cannot answer a hypothetical question. But we are looking forward to getting answers.
Does Julius Malema have a future in the ANC?
Only Malema can determine that. This is a time for him to really reflect and think things through, very carefully and clearly. A real leader would ask himself, where lies my strength and where lies my weakness? He must pause now. But we must remember that the ANC has had many prodigal children before.
Is there space for a communist party in SA?
There is and always has been space for a class-specific party and the communist parties of Moses Kotane, Thabo Motfutsanyana, Chris Hani and Joe Slovo. But care must be taken that the party is made strong by itself and not through the ANC. Even though it can participate in a united front and in popular fronts and in an alliance such as we have, it must have its own distinct position. Parties that have failed to see this have been swallowed by bourgeoisie democratic organisations. - Sunday Tribune