The idea of an irredeemably lost ANC was succinctly expressed by Carl Niehaus in an “Open Letter” he penned following his resignation from the ANC. He argued that “the disastrous outcomes of the 55th National Conference of the ANC, both in terms of the leadership election results and the utter lack of serious policy engagement that simply confirmed that the sell-out neo-liberal economic policy programme of the ANC is not going to change, means that the ANC, that myself and many other comrades joined is no longer – it has died. I am firmly of the belief that the ANC that I have joined has deliberately been killed off, and in fact that it no longer exists. As I have stated in my media statement: “I have not left the ANC, the ANC has left me.”
Niehaus succinctly captured the sentiment of many ANC members who felt that it was no coincidence that the organisation they had faithfully dedicated their lives to had deliberately been forced to deviate from its policies and ideals. The right wing of the party had triumphed and entrenched the “sell-out neo-liberal economic policy” dictated by white monopoly capital within the party leading many stalwarts to believe that the ANC “has deliberately been killed off” and reduced to a shell of the once gallant liberation movement. This poses the inevitable question – if the ANC of yesteryears is dead how can the same entity be saved through any means including through splinter organisations?
For starters, it is an undeniable truth that the right wing of the party which has now firmly entrenched itself within the ANC is well resourced and has lots of money to burn. It was white monopoly capital that invested heavily in the Ramaphosa-led right-wing faction of the ANC. The immediate result of that intervention was the bribing and paying branch members to nominate certain people as candidates and delegates to ANC electoral conferences. In short, the use of money and the paying of bribes in ANC elections became the norm or modus operandi through which the entirety of the current ANC NEC was elected. How many left-oriented parties championing true radical economic transformation can match or outperform the current right-wing ANC which is a beneficiary of a largesse from white monopoly capital? Even the ludicrous advice that ANC members offered bribes should “take the money but do the right thing” at election times has not borne any fruits. The culture of using money to buy votes and to marginalise and isolate members with radical ideas is now well-entrenched and the right-wing of the party will fight to death to defend such practices. Any radical economic transformation idealist nursing hopes of changing the ANC from within must accept that no amount of vociferous preaching against this deeply rooted practice of vote-buying will ever change it. Even worse, the practitioners of these corrupt practices have reinvented themselves and claim to be on a path of “renewal of the ANC” as part of the “Thumamina” mission.
As if to underscore the cynical manipulation of ANC process President Ramaphosa wrote a long, letter to ANC cadres dated 23 August 2020 which is emblematic of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the ANC under his leadership. The letter is bristling with heated rhetoric about the ubiquitous corruption within the ranks of ANC cadres and ends with a poignant observation that the 2017 Nasrec conference, in reflecting on corruption, noted that there is an increase in corruption, factionalism, dishonesty and other negative practices that seriously threaten the goals and support of the ANC. The President then proposes a series of clearly unconstitutional, ham fisted and bizarre proposals which are antithetical to the very ANC constitution he purports to champion. He elaborated further by calling for those implicated in corruption to be immediately suspended from office and for the party to distance itself from them. This must happen even where the accusations and reports are woven entirely from untested hearsay, the gossamer strands of speculation and surmise emanating from one’s political enemies.
In Ramaphosa’s view, to address corruption in the ANC means implementing without delay the resolutions of the 54th National Conference on dealing with corruption, including that:
Every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices must account to the Integrity Commission immediately or face disciplinary processes.
People who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures should be summarily suspended.
The ANC should publicly disassociate itself from anyone, whether business donor, supporter or member, accused of corruption or reported to be involved in corruption.
Require ANC leaders to make regular declarations of financial interests. Conduct lifestyle audits of all ANC leaders and public representatives.
Develop a clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state. We must acknowledge that once one accepts a leadership position, a higher standard of behaviour applies.
When the tables were turned and Ramaphosa was himself accused of corruption in the Phala Phala matter, he refused to lead by example and invoked the old adage of “do as I say, not as I do.” Instead of accounting to the Integrity Committee he reduced the latter to a mere puppet and denied it the opportunity to even produce a cogent report on the matter. Ramaphosa never gave an acceptable explanation of the Phala Phala matter to anyone. Nor did he voluntarily step down while an investigation was underway. He faced no disciplinary action of any kind and he was never summarily suspended. Even worse, the very ANC that was supposed to “publicly disassociate itself from anyone, whether business donor, supporter or member, accused of corruption or reported to be involved in corruption” was mobilised to defend Rampahosa at all costs. Members of Parliament were forced under pain of expulsion to vote to exonerate Ramaphosa. He managed to repurpose the entire ANC as a ruling party to serve and protect the interests of its president. Anyone who thinks that he can rescue such a corrupted and captured ANC must be mindful of this reality.
Carl Niehaus also bemoaned the “utter lack of serious policy engagement that simply confirmed that the sell-out neo-liberal economic policy programme of the ANC is not going to change.” He has been vindicated in that the ANC has failed to implement even one of its conference resolutions on social and economic transformation, most notable the land redistribution policy. As if to underscore its corruption, the ANC failed to agree with progressive parties such as the EFF, ATM, UDM, PAC etc on the Section 25 constitutional amendment on the land question. But the same party was able to collude with the DA to obtain the two-thirds majority required to remove a black woman, Advocate Mkhwebane from office when she had less than a month left on the job. Once again, all ANC MPs were pressured to vote along with the DA on the Mkhwebane removal issue and 99.9% of them sheepishly complied.
The deep-running corruption widely believed to have captured the entirety of the ANC is inextricably linked with sheer incompetence which has led to the near collapse of all state-owned enterprises. It is impossible at this late stage to imagine an ANC untethered to big money capitalists and unencumbered by financial shenanigans or acts of malfeasance in government. The EFF policy programme offers the only hope of building a capable, ethical and competent developmental state in our lifetime. Only the EFF will lead the charge towards a developmental state that is going to develop the economy, create jobs and improve the conditions of society standard of living and create a proper corruption-free judicial system.
Dr. Paul M. Ngobeni is a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). He wrote this article in his personal capacity.
By Dr. Paul M. Ngobeni