“We are one people; these divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today.”
These words were uttered by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1911, immediately after the formation of the Union of South Africa the previous year, while calling all Africans to forget their ethnic differences of the past and unite under one organisation to fight the oppression of black people.
The following year, 1912, the ANC was formed, with the primary aim of bringing all Africans under one organisation as “one people” to defend their rights and freedoms. The manifesto of the party at the time indicated that the party would direct its energy to help the most marginalised, dehumanised and exploited section of the population - the black man.
For many black South Africans who were the subjects of a cold-hearted system called apartheid, it made sense for them to find shelter in the ANC. It was the only party that intended to fight the status quo of discrimination and a culture of black subservience perpetrated by the minority white regime.
Under the banner of the ANC, black South Africans indeed became one people. There were no longer divisions across tribal lines and gone was the jealousy that had previously hindered their unity.
The formation of the ANC made a black man a force to be reckoned with in the country’s political arena. There was now a common goal among them to defeat the enemy of white domination and racism.
The ANC became a party that represented a black man’s struggle regardless of class, level of education and geographical location. It became the home for all black South Africans who were tired of being treated like sub-humans in their forefathers’ land by a foreign minority.
Now, let us fast forward to the present day. Is the ANC still representing a black man’s struggle? Is the ANC still home to the downtrodden and marginalised sections of our society? To be honest, I don’t think so. The party is now experiencing all kinds of woes because we are no longer “one people” and there are new “divisions” and “jealousies”.
The ANC is no longer synonymous with a black man’s struggle, therefore it is failing to appeal to the people who are still struggling today - years after it was formed and democracy was attained. Without undermining the intellectual capacity of the masses who vote for the ANC to stay in power, most of them do not care much about the finer detail of every policy the ANC proposes.
The masses vote for the ANC because they find resonance in the party, as it prides itself on being a home for every South African, especially the black man who was oppressed for centuries.
It is the party that promises freedom to those in chains. Such a party is therefore expected to walk and talk the language of those who are oppressed and in chains, not the language of the elite.
It is unfortunate that the once glorious movement today finds itself speaking a language completely foreign to that spoken by the poor majority of this country. We are no longer one people because we have allowed class “division” between the leadership and the masses.
The masses are slowly becoming “jealous” of the lifestyle of the leadership. Holidays in Dubai, expensive weddings in exclusive vineyards and luxury cars are being flashed in the face of the poor on a daily basis.
Seme was certainly not talking about the division and jealousy I just mentioned, but these are part of the causes of our woes today. The leadership no longer walk the talk. You cannot stand tall and claim to fight white monopoly capital, yet be seen wining and dining at places created by the very same white monopoly capital you claim to despise.
Every Cubana nightclub around the country is frequented by comrades who hold influential positions in the party. There is nothing wrong with going to a watering hole to have a cold one or two, but Cubana is known to be tenderpreneurs’ hunting ground for slay queens looking for easy money. The young and old fellows of our beloved party love this place so much that they even visit it wearing the party’s regalia.
They spend money on expensive Champagne and take pictures with beautiful girls, all of which ends up online.
The bigger picture that our leaders fail to grasp is that, in any struggle, those who are placed at the forefront should reflect the aspirations of those they lead, as well as what they stand for.
As a black man, I am sure we do not aspire to live lavish, taking trips worth more than half a million rand, when many fellow black men go to bed hungry.
I can safely say that this kind of in-your-face display of living large by some members of the leadership is a contributing factor in the alienation of voters, especially wise young voters. The class and status problem is slowly gaining traction within the organisation.
Those elected to lead no longer see themselves as part of the people. They now stay in gated communities, drive expensive cars and enjoy luxury holiday destinations.
The only time they are with the people is when something mandatory has to be done or to gain support when elections roll around.
They claim to be the voice of the young, but they are far from the reality of a young person in today’s South Africa.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with living in a gated community and frequently take expensive trips if you have worked hard to afford it. But there is definitely something wrong if one gains access to such a lifestyle through a ticket sponsored by the poor. The worst part is when that fancy lifestyle is flashed with arrogance and without shame.
On January 12, the party will be hosting its January 8 statement at Moses Mabhida stadium. When this event ends, the Champagne life will start. Twitter and Instagram will be abuzz with pictures of exclusive after parties in areas meant for white privilege.
I understand that comrades will feel the need to celebrate after intense, mandatory door-to-door mobilising. While comrades will be popping champagne in an upper-class community in Ballito with slay queens, scores of marginalised ANC voters who made it possible to fill up the stadium will be going back to their impoverished communities; back to face the harsh reality of unemployment and grinding poverty.
Such behaviour has gained popularity among those elected to represent the poor masses of this country. This prompts the question: is the ANC now an elite party?
* Mkhize is a journalism graduate, works in the KZN Office of the Premier and writes in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.