Former president Thabo Mbeki says the ANC is facing a threat which challenges its very existence, a situation the party has been in only twice before in its 105-year history.
Giving the keynote address at a packed OR Tambo Centenary Memorial Lecture at the University of Witwatersrand on Friday evening, Mbeki said the ANC is confronted by another "threat of destruction" which emanates from within the party.
The Tambo family who gave us their dad, husband, brother, uncle 🙏🏾🙏🏾 cut his 100th birthday cake. In red tie is Oliver Tambo Jnr. pic.twitter.com/A4SpvOozyY— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) October 27, 2017
He said in 1940, the ANC's first threat was caused by gross negligence on the part of its leadership whom he believes were "preoccupied with the pursuit of [their] own individual professional interests". Then again in 1960, the party faced its second threat when it was banned by the apartheid government.
"I would now like to make the firm and unequivocal observation that the ANC is now facing the third most serious threat to its very existence of 105 years . . . The immense and historic challenge we face is to answer the question: does the ANC have the required members who will successfully intervene to address this new threat to the very survival of the ANC?" he asked.
"This time that threat emanates from acts of commission originating from within the ANC itself."
Graca Machel. Dikgang Moseneke. Max Sisulu. Andrew Mlangeni. Dali Mpofu. Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Njabulo Ndebele. All graced with applause pic.twitter.com/uCoPMl6a0B— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) October 27, 2017
Mbeki said after 1994, the challenge which arose with the ANC's access to state power was, and still is, that it could be abused for purposes of self-enrichment.
"This means that the ANC contains within its ranks people who are absolutely contemptuous of the most fundamental values of the ANC . . . These are people who only see the ANC as a step-ladder to enable them to access state power for the express purpose of using that access for self-enrichment," he said.
"These are people who are card-carrying members of the ANC, but who have completely repudiated the value system which inspired [Tambo] throughout his life."
Pres Thabo Mbeki laces OR's life into the history of the ANC; easy to see why there is such a fight on to save rather than leave the ANC. pic.twitter.com/7uVCSVe7a1— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) October 27, 2017
Speaking to an audience which cheered every time he denounced the current state of the party, Mbeki said the historic value system of the ANC has become so corrupted that its replacement, which is unprincipled access to political power and the related corrupt self-enrichment, has become the norm within the organisation.
"It is this reality which has led to the universal scramble for deployment and indeed the repugnant phenomenon of the murders of and among municipal councilors," he said.
Mbeki blamed the current situation in the party on resolutions taken at the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007, when he was ousted by President Jacob Zuma.
Lifestyle audits can help determine who are the real ANC members. Will they fit theough the eye of the needle? Mbeki on fire at #Tambo100— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) October 27, 2017
He said the Mahikeng conference in 1997 took a decision that those who are elected to leadership positions in the ANC should be ready to discharge their responsibilities in that regard, with no expectation that their positions in the ANC entitled them to positions in government.
But in the run-up to the Polokwane conference, a "spurious argument" emerged within the ANC about what he described as a so-called "non-existent problem of two centres of power".
"As a result of this, the Polokwane conference took the diametrically opposed position to the Mahikeng conference. It now said that the person elected as president of the ANC would be the ANC candidate for the position of president of the Republic," Mbeki said.
"This unfortunate decision meant that formally the ANC took the decision that occupation of senior positions in the ANC was the guaranteed route of access to state power, exactly the kind of understanding which the movement had sought to discourage among the membership as a whole."
He said this allows for party members to behave according to a "rapacious value system of conscious abuse of state power for corrupt self-enrichment" and permits itself to be influenced by a leadership informed by that value system.
According to Mbeki, the consequences of this are: corruption and the weakening of the ANC and state institutions, the undermining of the country's constitutional democracy and state capture.
He warned that the first step to fixing the party is that the ANC must genuinely accept that the movement is "immersed in a deep crisis" and then proceed to characterise the source and nature of the problem.
"Without a correct diagnosis, there can be no effective and successful cure," Mbeki said.