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Change to ANC electoral system is urgently needed

Delegates attending the ANC Eastern Cape Provincial conference at East London Conventional Centre. Picture: Bheki Radebe

Delegates attending the ANC Eastern Cape Provincial conference at East London Conventional Centre. Picture: Bheki Radebe

Published May 13, 2022


Mogomotsi Mogodiri

Pretoria - The ugly scenes and prolonged delays during the ANC conference in the Eastern Cape recently were another terrible advertising instalment of Brand ANC.

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What took place, including the delay of the conference due to quibbling about credentials, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the organisation.

It is common cause that Brand ANC has not only lost its shine, but unfortunately has also become associated with shenanigans, including corruption, incompetence, factionalism and even senseless killings.

This 110-year-old movement, which historically has been regarded as a dependable vehicle for decolonisation that gave hope to and inspired South Africans, has morphed into a tool for self-aggrandisement, at best, and an impediment to a transformative leap forward, at worst.

Hadebe Hadebe, in one of his recent instalments, describes this great organisation with a rich history as “not about serving the masses, but it is a speed cable car to reach the top of Table Mountain”.

The events of not only the Eastern Cape conference but also those of Mpumalanga and eThekwini and, worse still, some of the killings in North West and other provinces seem to form an integral part of a pattern.

Hadebe’s sentiments could easily be ignored. However, they are telling in as far as how an agent of change and a carrier of hope and an inspiration to not only South Africans but also the poor, oppressed and downtrodden the world over can morph into a weapon to entrench injustice and (white) privilege.

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But what happened or brought the ANC to its lowest ebb, and what needs and can be done beyond lamenting, whining and whingeing?

How unfortunate that the “slogan” thath’mali kodwa uvote kahle (literally meaning, grab the money but vote correctly) has not only gained currency during the hotly contested eThekwini regional and the Eastern Cape provincial conferences, but seems to be becoming an accepted norm.

Even though the intersection of politics and money is as old as humankind itself, we cannot forget that the ANC 2017 national conference became a pinnacle of the demonstration of the ruthless and corrosive power of money when, reportedly, billions of rand were spent to influence the outcome of that gathering.

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It has been widely reported, especially on social media platforms and even during the proceedings of the Zondo Commission, that loads of cash exchanged hands leading up to and during that conference. This misdemeanour was meant to influence inappropriately, corruptly and unlawfully the outcomes (policy positions) of conferences, and the composition of the leadership has corroded, if not completely eaten away, the soul of the ANC.

It seems that there is an unwritten rule that if you or your “sponsors” do not have deep pockets, do not bother to even think about making yourself available for any leadership position, even at a branch level.

Occupying a leadership position in the ANC has become lucrative as it is a guaranteed ticket to state power and its trappings, including procurement.

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Being an ANC leader is tender (pun intended). Hence, comrades turn against comrades to the point of some losing their lives.

Where does this leave the ANC? Unfortunately, the ANC is in tatters as members and leaders alike are preoccupied with senseless, internecine factional battles in pursuance of a place at the looting trough.

The sometimes fatal competition for proximity to, and control of, state resources has meant that the ANC has neglected its historical role as a leader of society and an agent for change.

Its members are preoccupied with everything else, including self-enrichment, while bread-and-butter issues, such as ensuring quality service delivery, have become irrelevant to them.

There are also matters of illegal immigration, with the concomitant violent crimes that have left citizens vulnerable and feeling neglected by their government.

It should, therefore, not be surprising that pressure groups are mushrooming to take up these issues on behalf of desperate South Africans.

Mogomotsi Mogodiri is an ANC member and media specialist. Picture: Supplied

Given this precarious state of affairs, what should the ANC do to turn not only its fortunes around but also ensure that the genuine transformation agenda is put back on track?

In looking back at the past five years since the last national conference, one cannot but come to the conclusion that each year was an annus horribilis.

Objective factors, including the coronavirus pandemic with its devastation notwithstanding, we can only look back in anguish at five years of the ANC tumbling from one crisis to the next with a leadership devoid of vision, courage, principles and moral fortitude.

We can also only lament the countless lost opportunities for gigantic revolutionary forward movements or leaps.

The ANC is in its worst shape ever, with branches and other structures either weak or moribund.

The derelict and self-censored membership further complicates an already messy and shocking state of lack of accountability, arrogance, aloofness, incompetence, indifference and moral bankruptcy.

Structures, including regions, provinces, leagues and even the national executive committee, are fractured and paralysed, with provinces like North West having most of its regions, if not all of them, and the province itself is run by interim structures while a number of municipalities are under administration – a less-than-ideal situation, especially at the current juncture when the ANC is under relentless attack and its legacy is being contested.

In short, there is a crisis, if not deficiency of leadership, with the ANC being inwardly looking and preoccupied with senseless, internecine factional battles while neglecting its historical support base, comprising mainly the landless, poor and economically excluded natives.

The devastating effect of the opportunity loss occasioned by our failure to catapult our revolution to a higher trajectory by accelerating radical economic transformation cannot be overemphasised.

The humiliating, if not humbling, results of the recent local government elections, where the party’s traditional voters withheld their votes and the ganging up against the ANC of disparate political parties that are only in agreement in their irrational hatred of the ANC and its transformational policies, should therefore not come as a surprise.

They should be viewed as a sobering opportunity that should lead to an honest introspection and a serious wake-up call to sustained and meaningful action.

While we engage in a post-mortem and diagnosis of what led to the general decline in the party’s electoral support across the country, we need to also cast our eyes on other factors that have contributed to the decay within and across ANC ranks.

While this is not a new phenomenon in the ANC, the devastation visited on the moral fabric of the movement and the paralysis being witnessed combine to bring this alien culture that eats away its moral fibre into sharp focus.

The upcoming conference that comes on the back of the previous and recent ones, having seen unprecedented amounts of money exchanging hands to influence and/or determine their outcomes, also makes this issue more pertinent and urgent.

The sad reality is that those with deep pockets or “sponsors” who are hell-bent on either hijacking and/or liquidating the ANC will do their damnedest utilising their money (at times ill-gotten) to achieve their nefarious agendas that delay or derail genuine decolonisation.

Various proposals have been made in this regard, one of them being an unavoidable need for the total overhaul of the ANC’s internal electoral systems and processes.

A serious, focused discussion that culminates in a constitutional amendment or electoral review regarding what is termed “one person, one vote” should ensue within and across ANC structures without further ado.

This concept refers to a provision that enjoins us that, during regional, provincial and national conferences, every ANC member in good standing casts her/his vote for and/or gets voted into any leadership position, irrespective of their geographical location when that conference takes place. Technological advancements with checks and balances will be enablers in this regard.

This revolutionary move would enfranchise all ANC members while devaluing or stripping the delegate of any traction or usefulness for the ruthless and self-serving vultures who circle around them carrying loads of cash during conferences.

Anyway, when a delegate loses value regarding her/him being bought for ulterior motives, conferences will be re-established as forums to debate policies and other pertinent issues facing the movement and the country, and there will be little or no pull for charlatans and other unsavoury characters.

By abolishing provisions that only entitle delegates to vote in conferences and opening voting to every member in good standing, the composition of the leadership corps of the ANC will reflect the will of members (a sum total) rather than that of delegates who have hitherto proved to be susceptible to bribes and other criminal acts by unscrupulous characters.

Built into this proposal should be the establishment of an electoral college/structure, sufficiently empowered to have teeth to enforce the rules and deal decisively with “errant players”. The electoral structure will, among others, organise, oversee and manage those elections and reinvigorate our electoral systems and processes.

Unless and until genuine ANC members decisively tackle the elephant in the room (the corrosive influence of money to re-purpose the ANC), the much-punted renewal of the party will remain a mirage.

The critical role of political education cannot be overemphasised.

Pretoria News