ANC stalwarts congratulated Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa "as our new president and wish him well in the challenging task of leading the ANC". Picture: Itumeleng English

Johannesburg - African National Congress stalwarts and veterans - all signatories to the document “For the Sake of our Future” - on Sunday congratulated Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa "as our new president and wish him well in the challenging task of leading the ANC".

"We hope it will be a breath of fresh air that we as a nation will gladly breath. It will not be an easy road, given the present challenges our movement faces. Real party unity can only be built on our historic principles, values, and integrity as expounded and practiced by comrade OR Tambo," the stalwarts said in a statement.

For those who used the Gregorian calendar the new year was normally a time for reflection and resolutions. "We would like to share our own thoughts on some of the resolutions we will work towards in 2018. We hope ANC branches and the incoming leadership of the ANC will also embrace them", the stalwarts said

Among other things, there had been much talk about unity in 2017. That needed to be turned into a principled reality in 2018. It would be a difficult path, previously avoided, of honest, painful reflection of all that was wrong with the ANC. The January 8th statement of the incoming national executive committee (NEC) should be an ideal starting point to show there was a commitment towards a break with the unacceptable practices of the past that had seen a progressive rejection by society at the ballot box. "It cannot be that difficult to see what our country sees is wrong with our movement."

The ANC membership and those in elected leadership should be informed that the days of unacceptable behaviour were over. The president of the country needed to give the new leadership of the ANC the opportunity to prepare for the 2019 elections.

"The perception of corruption and criminality in the presidency will not, and should not be wished away. A starting point and a clear message to the country, would be for our country’s president to voluntarily step down in the interests of country and the African National Congress. If the president really loves the ANC and wants it to remain in power by 2019 he would assist it by handing over the leadership of the country to the newly elected president of the ANC to better prepare for the 2019 elections. If he wishes the newly elected leadership well into the future he will save it from even contemplating recalling him," the stalwarts said.

There was unfinished business for the stalwarts from 2017. "We will continue to demand that there is a radical departure from the unacceptable tolerance of corruption that has reached into all parts of our economy. There can be no place in the ANC, government, the civil service, and the public and private sectors of the economy for those who have been involved in corrupt activities, irrespective of their position.

"Justice must be seen to take its course, objectively without fear or favour. In 2018 no one should ever again believe that they can avoid their day in court because of their position in society. Real action against corruption has to happen, with the urgent appointment of a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority and the depoliticisation of our law enforcement agencies," the stalwarts said.

It was hoped "the error of some selections" during the ANC's recent conference would be corrected by the justice system. Every honest member of society and the ANC should want to see those who had stolen money have their day in court.

The unacceptable period of opportunist, popularist racial comments against minority groups should be closed for ever. The ANC should return to being a unifier, committed to creating a non-racial, non-sexist society that had no place for tribalism and ethnic interests over those of the country. "We must urgently restore the respect and promotion of the rich diversity of our people," the stalwarts said.

"We have said it before, there is a degree of irony that it is the stalwarts of the ANC who stand up and say the ANC must be dragged kicking into the 21st century. Stalwarts are those who knew and worked with OR Tambo; were part of those who led the struggle against apartheid, spent their time at the 'schools' on Robben Island and other prisons throughout the country; were the class of ’76; in the leadership, or loyal solders of Umkhonto we Sizwe; part of the internal underground; leaders and members of the UDF; members of the alliance and progressive organisations.

"During the fight against apartheid we worked in secrecy to avoid arrest, imprisonment, torture or death. That secrecy is no longer necessary and we must now create an open democratic party, fit for purpose. Today, secrecy only feeds unacceptable behaviours, factions, slates and deals that have no place in a democratic party of the future," the stalwarts said.

African News Agency/ANA