At a special provincial general council of the Mpumalanga ANC they called for "consensus leadership" to resolve the ANC's leadership conundrum.
After speakers bemoaned the state of the ANC, it being engulfed in all types of ills, Mashatile made a proposal about what he termed a "consensus leadership", free of scandal and full of integrity.
Every serious analysis over the past few months shares the sentiment that the ANC is in trouble and it needs men and women who can fix it. There was a rare acknowledgement at this gathering that "our people are angry and they showed their anger by not voting for the ANC in numbers in the local government elections". Contrast this with the "The centre is holding" narrative by the likes of Gwede Mantashe and Zweli Mkhize, and you are left wondering whether these leaders are talking about the same ANC.
Since the disastrous August poll, the ANC has been claiming that it has been introspecting - although evidence abounds to the opposite. Both this weekend meeting by the top leaders, who talked in the future tense about introspection, and leaked minutes from the national working committee earlier this year, should make all who have illusions about ANC introspection wake up.
Many of the candidates preach unity but few have actually taken the unprecedented step that DD took this weekend to invite provinces outside his own to deliberate on what needs to be done. Mabuza created a platform that, if used properly, could dramatically change the ANC’s December conference. This initiative by Mabuza and Mashatile goes a long way to start the much-needed dialogue inside the ANC about how the tide must be stopped. Quite frankly, this is where anything concrete stops.
The ANC leadership contestants don't have a clue how they're going to achieve unity. Mashatile says in a rather pedestrian paper that among the solutions to be pursued to unite the ANC are these three: "Stop fighting for positions"; "Do not be fixated on slates"; and "Stop being involved in corrupt activities". Further, a "consensus leadership" should be elected that can pass through the eye of a needle. I have questions of my own about these propositions.
Stop fighting for positions: In any political situation there will always be a fight for positions, especially if they can lead to state power. Politicians do more than just fight for positions. They buy votes and corrupt branches. To make a bland call for a ceasefire in the middle of a war, while mercenaries carry on marauding, is uninspiring, to say the least. If this was meant to be a serious suggestion, it's truly laughable.
The ANC policy conference made a more sensible proposition to give power back to members to vote for the leadership directly. Such a suggestion does not stop fighting over positions, but levels the playing field and stands the chance of reducing institutionalised corruption that has been accepted by all truthful ANC members.
Do not be fixated on slates: Well, slates speak of preferences of delegates to belong to like-minded comrades when preparing for leadership. How on earth will political lobbying take place? Like the first proposal, this is an even worse pie-in-the-sky suggestion to be made in politics. A healthy contestation is not really the problem; the problem is that all the leaders are part of one faction or another. The pity is that those whose factions are not in the pound seats seem to be the ones calling for no factions. Mabuza’s denunciation of the so-called premier league earlier this year must be the most concrete anti-factional stance any ANC leader has taken recently.
Stop being involved in corrupt activities: The ANC has failed to stop its president in his tracks and has sent a message of tolerance for corruption. An integrity commission set up for this purpose at the last national conference was rendered moribund and has failed to deal with the biggest scandal ever to hit the ANC, namely Nkandla, and left the courts to untangle the mess that the ANC could have resolved.
To his credit, Mashatile spoke out against Nkandla consistently in ANC national executive committee meetings, but it's not enough just to speak out. Just to call for the stopping of corrupt activities when some of these leaders don’t lead by example engenders cynicism across society.
It's sadly known that some run parallel business empires, based on kickbacks and underhand deals. They do deals with people who would laugh to call the proposition a serious one. I'm not suggesting we should all give up, but we should call for a more radical TRC-type disclosure for those involved in corruption.
Mashatile had what seemed like a welcome and radical proposition for the way forward. "It's time candidates started talking among themselves about consensus leadership," but a caveat is: "Leadership that isn't part of factions and slates." This would disqualify all current candidates.
In seeking a solution to take advantage of the platform that Mabuza created at the weekend, can some real ideas be tabled? The list of criteria excludes all current leaders, leaving us with a zero-sum game that suggests we're back to Polokwane. Could Mabuza and Mashatile change the future, or is this a fairytale that will amount to nothing? December will reveal.
* Tabane is an author and columnist.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.