Leadership should unite leadership before we can attempt to unite our people on the NDR, writes Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
The ANC accurately saw the Struggle against apartheid as a struggle against colonialism of a special type. The ANC was born anti-imperialist and anti-colonial, a twin dichotomy to the concept the ANC called national democratic revolution (NDR).

This twin dichotomy has seen Africa being plundered in triumphant fire orgies, Isandlwana aside, since the 1600s.

At its November 28, 2016 meeting, the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) cautioned itself and the membership that as the 54th National Conference approached, comrades should not treat each other with suspicion. Quoting Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti: “Once the candidates are nominated, pails of mud are dumped upon their heads”.

“Lies and exaggerations are knowingly spread. Bellies and backs are polished. All manner of infamy is considered legitimate. All kinds of blows are good as long as they stun the enemy.

“Whoever invests an effective villainous act struts about like a peacock.

“Even prominent men believe themselves excused from the more trivial duties of honour.”

The NEC urged that for the unity of our movement we had to disabuse ourselves of this posture.

When the ANC NEC resolved to take collective responsibility for the electoral misfortunes of the 2016 local government elections, it was making a mature political statement about unity in action, unity in good and trying times. Those who criticised this political statement misunderstood the importance of collectivity in a movement.

The principle of group or mass priority and collective responsibility is one of the key historic features of the ANC which defines the entire movement against individualism.

Collectivism in the ANC is understood to call for internal cohesion and selflessness. When we mourn, we mourn together and when we bleed we bleed together as a collective.

Many would immediately know of the most used term describing ANC leaders as a “leadership collective”.

The election of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as our (party) president should thus be seen as a win for the ANC and people of the oppressed hemisphere collectively - not a factional win gloating and sneering.

The ANC traditions of inclusionary democratic processes and joint accountability saw not one person but many incarcerated for life, hanged in Joburg or Pretoria and over 10000 joining the people’s army Umkhonto we Sizwe to liberate not just the black oppressed, but the white oppressor himself, too.

The 54th National Conference of the ANC should be seen as an opportunity to accept and respect our organisational diversity, what we call a broad church and demonstrate our togetherness.

In the 1970s and 1980s we cried - “an injury to one is an injury to all”. We cried this battle cry here at home and it was heard throughout the world as a cry for collective freedom which remains our ultimate pursuit.

ANC leadership, in particular those whose contestation for leadership positions were successful, are also obligated to deepen and forge unity by being magnanimous and constructive.

This includes awareness that the soft weaponry deployed to gain the front row seats is now over and we need our movement to rise above factionalist triumphalism to construct a cohesive party machinery towards 2019 national elections and beyond. Our collectivism has never been without works or blood of our heroes buried across the world and in unmarked graves. It has not been without sweat and tears.

In our organisational renewal analysis, we recognised the ugly tendencies creeping into our movement which included gatekeeping, vote-buying, poor performance, corruption and cronyism. We also need to recognise factional triumphalism as one of these cancers.

This leads to the continuation of caucuses, an us versus them - a crooks versus morally upright narratives.

These ugly features are coming to characterise the movement and its leadership with adversaries taking advantage of the apparent divide to weave further discord in the media and from ear to ear.

There has been vitriol among our leaders in recent weeks.

There appears (to be) many a peacock in our leadership, claiming to be better in triumph. This will prevent the movement from moving forward in unity.

The ANC’s egalitarian ethos is being eroded by factional triumphalists in an ahistorical manner with the mass media buoying the wind as comrades strut like peacocks. Having come from a deep leadership crisis in 2008 and with an ensuing crisis in 2018, it has become even more critical for leadership collective to reinforce cadre discipline and clear ideological leadership. Leadership should unite leadership before we can attempt to unite our people on the NDR.

* Fikile Mbalula is an ANC NEC member and an MP.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.