Essop Pahad Picture: Etienne Creux

Johannesburg - Prominent ANC stalwarts have decried the bickering and violence that has torn the party apart ahead of its crucial Mangaung elective conference at the weekend.

So worried are the ANC veterans that they have called for political education to teach the rank-and-file members discipline, tolerance and understanding of the core values upon which the party was built.

Essop Pahad, a former minister in the presidency under Thabo Mbeki, said the internal strife was regrettable as it weakened the ANC.

“Anything that weakens this glorious [liberation] movement and undermines the unity and cohesion of the party is always painful,” he said in an interview with The Star.

Never in the long history of the ANC nor since its unbanning on February 2, 1990 had the party been torn apart by an internal violent power struggle that manifested itself in open warfare, with members engaging in fisticuffs and allegedly shooting each other. Pahad said a united ANC was important for Africa and the world.

“We need a strong and cohesive ANC for the country and the continent because the progressive causes throughout the world still look upon us. We need to think about how to help the embattled Palestinians, among other nations.”

He attributed the high level of ill-discipline, intolerance and corruption within the ANC to the party’s aggressive recruitment campaign in the early 1990s after its unbanning.

“We went on a massive recruitment campaign, and the type of cadres [we attracted] was not necessarily what we were looking for.

That’s what we underestimated when we assumed power in 1994, that the type of people joining the ANC would not be the same.

“What we really need is political education, instilling discipline and tolerance.”

Laloo Chiba, who served an 18-year imprisonment on Robben Island, was at a loss for words to describe his distress at the state of the ANC on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to say much. This is an important conference and my appeal to everybody is to stop the bloody bickering and infighting. We don’t need all these tensions [because] we have an important mission of bettering the lives of our people ,” said Chiba, a recipient of the Order of Luthuli House.

Chiba and Pahad’s views echoed those of the Reverend Frank Chikane who, earlier this month, said the ANC was struggling to shrug off the ills of greed, self-enrichment and nepotism because its leaders had not prepared themselves for governance while in exile.

“The problem is that when you come back [from exile] and find that there are millionaires, you also want to be a millionaire… When corruption abounds, everybody says somebody does it and so it becomes acceptable. We saw that in Zimbabwe. We were there in Zambia. We were there in Kenya. I don’t know how we didn’t see [that]…and gain experience from it,” Chikane said while delivering his centenary lecture on Thabo Mbeki recently.

“If we continue like this, we will lose the privilege of being leaders.

“It’s a privilege we would not have forever.”

The Star