On the surface, the opinion of William Gumede, as carried in the news story “ANC on track for implosion” (The Sunday Independent, September 2), may seem like a well-thought-out analysis of what is wrong in the ANC.
We are also subjected to convoluted commentary about the implications of Marikana for various ANC leaders and their chances to lead the ANC.
We respect Gumede’s right to make his own conclusion, but it is crucial that we set the record straight on the issue of the renewal of the ANC. This issue is not an election ticket for any of the ANC leaders who are being punted as the hope for the ANC, or a replacement of the ANC president.
The truth is there is nothing new in the analysis of Gumede about what is going on in the ANC. All his observations are contained in a policy document dealing with organisational renewal that had been in circulation in the weeks leading to the policy conference and beyond.
Among the things mentioned in that document are the following perceptions that the ANC is determined to deal with as it goes into the next centenary:
l There is recognition that we need to tighten the implementation of our many good policies.
l There is a recognition that we need to align the behaviour of some of our own comrades to the values espoused by the ANC, hence a huge focus on political education.
l A disconnect between historical commitment to freedom and current policy trajectory and how it affects our people in a manner that does not resonate with that freedom.
l There is a growing commitment to deal decisively with corruption in our own ranks. In government various proclamations have been put in place to root out corruption and the government has given support to chapter nine institutions such as the public protector and the auditor-general to do their work without fear or favour.
l Perceptions of a disconnect between ANC unity and discipline and the regular public spats among ANC leaders and alliance partners, as well as ill-discipline in our ranks. This is a matter that the ANC is seized with and it is receiving the necessary attention.
l Perception of a party at war over power and a constant contest over power. There is a recognition that electoral contests that are unending may cripple the party. This is exactly why the issue of nominations was designed to take place only next month rather than have a situation where leaders are constantly being contested while they have a mandate to implement in between congresses.
From these six observations alone it is clear that the ANC has the capacity to do something about it. We have used our centenary effectively to look at those things that have made our movement strong and those that have weakened us.
The adoption of this policy document underlines the fact that all in the ANC are aware that the organisation needs renewal.
There was no single objection by any section of the ANC, as suggested by Gumede, who would rather the ANC remained the same and not modernise.
A simple example was the policy proposal of how to deal with allegations of corruption levelled at people in positions of leadership.
Of course, in any organisation there may be people who may not like such stern measures.
But to suggest that there are people who would deliberately want to benefit from the chaos in the ANC, and reduce such an utterance to writing, is to be needlessly bold in wanting to arrive at a falsified conclusion aimed at proving this imagined implosion of a party that has survived one hundred years of a purposeful existence.
It is clear that our internal democracy – a trait missing in many political parties in our country – is seen as a weakness in some quarters.
A cursory reading of history will reveal clearly that the fierce contestation of leadership in the ANC is not new. It did not start in Polokwane, nor will it end in Mangaung, as we are made to believe.
There is therefore no need to conclude that the current seeming contestation is a route to implosion. Contestation is a healthy part of democracy and has been an ANC tradition over the past hundred years.
It seems with constant poking at issues the ANC is being invited to go the route of an arranged leadership, something for which once again it will be blamed for suppressing democracy.
The ANC has set out its own processes that will see nominations opening next month where any ANC members can stand for any position.
We know that this has not stopped discussions on leadership and that analysts such as Gumede have used this space to pit ANC leaders against one another and to elevate their preferred candidates, even using policies that have been collectively agreed by the broad ANC leadership.
The ANC will not be sidetracked by those who would rather see it fail or implode – we are using our centenary to reflect on the kind of leadership that has gone before us as we celebrate our presidents and this has given us a clear opportunity to reflect on the kind of leadership we need to go into the next centenary.
n Mthembu is the ANC spokesman