Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has come out guns blazing and called on ANC members to stop being arrogant and to start listening to what people say.
The usually reticent leader took on patronage in the ANC, supported the veterans calls for organisational renewal, and stopped short of completely slamming President Jacob Zuma's leadership in what seemed like an indication that he is ready to contend for the top position.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the Nelson Mandela foundation on Monday evening, commemorating the third anniversary of the beloved former president's passing. He used the opportunity to finally speak on the many issues facing the ruling party and its leadership. He called on those in leadership positions to start listening to the cries of South Africa people.
"This is the time to listen, this is not the time to display a sense of arrogance. This is not the time to ignore our people and this is the time to heed what they are saying no matter how difficult it may be. This is the time to heed everything our people are saying. This is indeed the time to put the interests of our people ahead of our own parochial interests as leaders and to do so as we listen to what our people are saying," Ramaphosa said.
He went further to challenge his party not to isolate or shut out the veterans and stalwarts who have called on the party to return back to its rightful course. He said the veterans should be afforded the opportunity to impart their wisdom.
Yes we need to listen to those veterans of our struggle who believe we may have gone astray.
The ANC's National Working Committee (NWC) has met with the veterans and stalwarts on two occasions where the latter raised concerns which they believed the mother body had to address. The points of those meetings were then taken to the National Executive Committee for further deliberations.
At least 101 veterans of the movement including Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Cheryl Caroulus, Frank Chikane, Frenie Ginwala, Sphiwe Nyanda and Fazel Randera have grouped themselves under the banner of "For the sake of our future". They have expressed concern about the future of the party and the country.
The group has been very vocal regarding what they viewed as "ills that have befallen the organisation". The veterans believe they can contribute meaningfully to the rebuilding and reshaping of the party while returning it to its original course moving forward.
In November, they met outside Pretoria, when poet Walley Serote explained that the veterans wanted to see a change in the leadership of the party, with some expressing discontent with Zuma's leadership. Zuma was called in front of the integrity committee to have a meeting over organisational issues and other problems facing the party.
"We also need to listen to our students. We need to listen to them even when they are protesting in our campuses," Ramaphosa went on to say. "We need to listen to the workers of our country who are eking out an existence on a paltry wage, to the communities whose taps have run dry and yes we need to listen to those veterans of our struggle who believe we may have gone astray. It is time to listen and heed what they are saying for if we are to succeed in uniting the people of our country, those of us within the congress movement need to be united," said Ramaphosa.
It is through a united action that we will be able to counter corruption and to deal with the sense of entitlement and also the unrestrained scramble for positions and resources.
He added that as the party seeks to weather the storms of incumbency, they should recall the words of former president Oliver Tambo in 1985 when he said that "each member and each leader needs to regard themselves as the principle guardians of the unity of our people and the unity of our movement. It is only through unity that we will become effective agents of social change in our country and it's only through unity that we can improve the lives of our people."
Ramaphosa has traditionally been quiet about the challenges facing the party under Zuma's leadership, even as his name has been put forward as a successor. His comments this evening, in front of a large audience and media contingent, represented a significant departure from his more diplomatic stance previously. As he spoke repeatedly about the importance of unity, many read his fiery speech as a signal that his campaign trail leading to the party's elective conference in 2017 was officially underway.
He said it would be through a united action that the ANC could collectively counter the effects of patronage.
"It is through a united action that we will be able to counter corruption and to deal with the sense of entitlement and also the unrestrained scramble for positions and resources. It is only through unity that we can defeat the virus of consumerism, individualism, and blatant greed. Unity is not the same as closing ranks. Unity is not a conspiracy of silence in the face of misdeeds. Unity is not an excuse to avoid the difficult, painful questions that we need to ask ourselves," Ramaphosa said.
He called on members to work together to tackle the challenges currently facing the organization and to make a conserted effort to correct some of the deviant tendencies that have infiltrated society and the party.
He said the current moment called for unity, a renewal process was also needed.
"It calls for the renewal of the values and character of the congress led by chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela [and] Walter Sisulu. It calls for the restoration of a culture of selflessness, a culture of sacrifice and a culture of service. It also calls for the renewal of the structures of our movement so that they may no longer serve as instruments of self-enrichment but as instruments of fundamental socio change and it also calls for the revival of the moral tenants that guide the conduct and inform the outlook of the members and leaders of our movement," he said.
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