Nelson Mandela warned the ANC about mercenaries at the Mafikeng Conference in 1997
Durban - Former president Nelson Mandela warned the ANC about ‘mercenaries’ and ‘staff riders’ who would align with the movement for personal gain at the Mafikeng Elective Conference in 1997, so says ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.
He said Mandela started talking about the problems engulfing the party more than 20 years ago, but he was dismissed as an old man on his way out of power.
At that conference, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma emerged as the ANC’s president and deputy president.
Ntuli made the remarks on Thursday during a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Harry Gwala, the party’s stalwart in Swayimane outside Pietermaritzburg.
The small ceremony was part of a day-long commemoration of a century since the birth of the leader who was also prominent in the SACP. Gwala was born on July 30, 1920.
Gwala would have turned 100 on Thursday.
Addressing members of the ruling party and members of their alliance partners from the SACP and Cosatu, Ntuli said the condition of the party is now worse than it was before.
“The problems that are affecting the movement were identified many years ago, some of them were identified by Mandela in Mafikeng (1997 national elective conference of the ANC). “President Mandela in Mafikeng raised a few issues which we ignored because we thought he was old and about to retire. We did not take note that some of the things he said have finally become a reality.
“One of the things Mandela said in Mafikeng was that from 1994 when we took over the government, we did not do enough to… protect our movement from staff riders who were joining the ANC … for their own agenda.
“The second thing he said we failed to do even after picking up their presence was to purge the people he called mercenaries,” he said.
In his candid address, Ntuli said, in part, the reason why the party was getting questionable leadership was how delegates to attend elective conferences are selected.
He said the current party system where the biggest branch sends the largest delegation was flawed because it means the one with the largest number of delegates eventually wins the conference even if he or she is of questionable character.
He then added that one of the biggest tasks for the party is self-renewal, but that would likely hit a wall as those will be opposed to it are those in higher structures such as PEC and the NEC.
He said their likely opposition to renewal would be because they are products of the faults and the party’s flawed internal elections systems that need to be reconfigured.
“When you have to deal with the renewal of the ANC, you will recognise that at the heart of the opponents of the renewal of the ANC are those who are in PEC leadership,” Ntuli said.
The commemoration will conclude later on Thursday with a Harry Gwala memorial lecture to be virtually addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.