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ANC veterans divided on renewal project, debate Ramaphosa leadership



Published Feb 23, 2022


ALMOST 10 months before the ANC holds its decisive conference to elect a new leadership that will steer the party into the 2024 general elections, some veterans are frantically trying to stabilise the party.

Independent Media understands that some of the stalwarts have been meeting behind closed doors to hatch possible solutions to unite the party’s factions and avoid another bruising contest at the end of the year.

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Their fear is understood to be based on lessons learnt from the unity slate that emerged out of Nasrec in 2017 where the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) and CR factions shared the spoils.

Some of the veterans are worried that such a move may not work as all the factions did not work together to bring stability. Instead, they continued to pull in different directions, thus making the situation more dire.

One veteran, who was part of the 101 group that spoke out against former president Jacob Zuma when they believed that he had veered off course by allowing the Gupta family a free rein, said in one recent meeting in a hideout in Gauteng, the renewal project also looked at the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa and whether it can be carried out under his watch.

“In the end there was a consensus that his leadership has got flaws, but there is still hope that with clear guidance of the veterans, he can be advised to change ways for the good for the party. He and his supporters should learn to accommodate the rest, even if they did not support them during a conference, so that there is stability.

“You must also remember that the renewal project is bigger than individuals, it is about the ANC losing power and the dire consequences it would have on the people it is tasked with liberating and giving them a better life,” said the veteran who asked not to be named.

The renewal project is not part of the renewal commission of the ANC which was announced by Ramaphosa in Polokwane last month while addressing its 110th birthday bash. Ramaphosa’s plan stretches for 10 years, while the veterans’ plan hatched at the closed doors meeting is focused on December and 2024.

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“This is a separate renewal project of a few concerned veterans who are at the present moment meeting away from the public eye to come up with the best plan to save the ANC from its current challenges,” another veteran said when confirming the behind-the-scenes efforts.

The president of the ANC Veterans League, Dr Snuki Zikalala, told Independent Media that the only plan to revive the governing party he was aware of was the one they started in early 2020 and it was hampered by Covid-19 restrictions.

He said that now the country was back to normality, they were pressing ahead with their plan and the main focus was on the branches.

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According to Zikalala, the branches of the ANC are in disarray as they are occupied by people there for positions, wealth accumulation, and using their positions to accumulate wealth through unscrupulous means like committing corruption.

“We are basically saying we should look at the quality of branches of the ANC … Our branches are not the same as the ones we had when we came back from exile in the 1990s. Some joined them for positions and some to access positions of power … Some branches have been infiltrated by rogues.”

He added that their internal renewal steering committee had resolved that the only way it can be fixed was through working on the quality of branches.

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The issue of quality of branches and the need to look at them was raised by former party president Thabo Mbeki over the weekend when he visited the troubled Free State to try to broker unity among the two dominant factions.

Mbeki said the quality of the branches was quite worrisome and a clean-up process has to be undertaken to put them in better shape and made fit for purpose.

Regarding the visit by Mbeki to the Free State and about the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres by the veterans, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the visit was not part of a long-term plan of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to revive the party.

He said provincial structures, based on their needs, can identify any senior leader of the party to come and help it to overcome its internal divisions.

Speaking to the media outside the Bloemfontein High Court, where he was fighting his corruption trial, suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said Mbeki’s approach was factional, making it harder for the veterans to achieve their outcome.

“It’s a factional approach, it's really a factional approach and to really come here and talk bad about Zuma in meetings, we won’t allow it, we will never as members of the ANC. I will never allow it as secretary-general because we have never talked bad about any leader of the ANC. It is wrong and completely unacceptable,” Magashule said.

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Political Bureau