25/08/2017 06:02 SAST | Updated 25/08/2017 09:15 SAST

Zweli Mkhize: The Advent Of Democracy Weakened ANC Values Of 'Trust, Honesty, Integrity And Selfless Service'

But he's still not saying if he is running for the presidency.

lANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize says the party needs to elect leaders with integrity to overcome a trend of weakening values in honest and selfless service.

In an exclusive interview with HuffPost SA, Mkhize said that a change in South Africa's political environment from pre-to-post democracy resulted in the weakening of trust, honesty, integrity and selfless service in the ANC.

The Alfred Nzo region in the Eastern Cape last month raised Mkhize's name as its pick for party president but he has not publicly announced, as yet, that he would enter the presidential race. There has been speculation that Mkhize may run for the top spot if nominated.

Leaders should be role models
"Being a member of the ANC, you had to be highly disciplined, you had to be very courageous, you had to know that you have to trust the next person and not expose yourself... The reward was death. It was detention, it was exile, it was torture," he said.

"At that time, there was no immediate reward in terms of material gain, financial gain and any positions in society. Everything was about service."

Mkhize said all that changed when the "risks associated with apartheid" were removed and replaced by a new set of incentives which were about personal benefit.

"That has weakened quite a lot in terms of the firmness in which we adhered to the values of trust, honesty, integrity and selfless service. This environment has tested all of that. It therefore means that the ANC has been affected by that whole change," Mkhize said.

"It is important to insist on the values being the most important defining characteristics of the people who are going to be part of the membership of the ANC... We also need to ensure that we select into leadership positions leaders whose integrity is strong, leaders whose focus is discouraging opportunistic tendencies."

Do as you say
Mkhize said there is also a need to strengthen discipline in the party.

"The message that comes from the party showing disapproval of a particular conduct of a leader is a very important thing. It sends messages to people out there that the party will not accept this kind of behavior and the party will not accept mediocre performance," he said.

"There's nothing better than having leaders that are role models who when they condemn some behavior, they can be believed and seen to be honest about it because they themselves are not indulging in such."

"At that time, there was no immediate reward in terms of material gain, financial gain and any positions in society. Everything was about service."

The KwaZulu-Natal born politician made reference to the Chinese Communist Party, saying it deals "with the tigers and the flies".

"It means you can be senior in the party, and you will be disciplined in the same way as anyone in the lower ranks of the party. They will arrest members of the party for corruption," he said.

State capture is a lesson for the future
Mkhize, most noted for his dedication to the ANC and its rhetoric, said he supported president Jacob Zuma's proposed establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture and that it was the best and only way to solve the issue.

"It might be quite traumatic at the moment, in terms of how everyone is feeling very hopeless about the situation. But in fact, it may not just be a bad thing for the country. In future, we will know something about state capture because we have never come across it before in democracy," he said.

"So from now on, we have learnt something that people, the public in general, will say as we look and see things happening, we must be aware that there could be some kind of conduct that is completely unacceptable."

Mkhize said the revelations of state capture has given South Africa an opportunity to clearly define the boundaries of relationships between individuals, government and businesses.

In future, we will know something about state capture because we have never come across it before in democracy.

"Those lines are very important early on in our democracy to make sure that when we go into our future, we've got clearly marked precedences so that we will be able to know how to respond when we find a similar sort of conduct in the future," he said.

A long road ahead for unity in the ANC
Mkhize, who has been preaching the need for unity in the party in most of his public appearances, said the party needs to make sure everyone understands the ANC exists for the sake of uniting the people.

"Unless the ANC is united, there is no way the ANC can continue to carry its historical mission of liberating all the people of SA. It is a long way ahead that we need to go, but the ANC needs to be united and focused to do that... We have to deal with issues of discipline so accountability is strengthened within the party," he said.

"You want to be able to ensure that the leadership of the ANC reflects the best of leadership in society and it must also attract the widest sector of society. Once you fix the ANC, you want to make sure that the ANC rule of ensuring accountability in government, efficiency in government as well as a culture of impunity and intolerance of corruption is strengthened."