THE BLOG
11/12/2017 13:56 SAST | Updated 11/12/2017 14:50 SAST

Dear Delegate: Elect Leaders Who Will Work Hard To Build An Inclusive ANC

The ANC conference is taking place at a time when the organisation is facing the worst crisis in its 105-year history.

President Jacob Zuma (L), former AU Commission chairperson and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (C) and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R).
Mujahid Safodien/ AFP/ Getty Images
President Jacob Zuma (L), former AU Commission chairperson and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (C) and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R).

With the onset of South Africa's hard-won democracy in 1994, December 16, already a public holiday, was renamed the Day of Reconciliation. Previously, the apartheid government called it Dingaan's Day to mark the 1838 triumph of the Voortrekkers over Zulu warriors at Ncome River, which they gleefully renamed Blood River -- the conquerors' latitude.

To bolster Afrikaner nationalism, December 16 was in 1952 solemnly named the Day of the Covenant, to allow Afrikaners to thank their God for ratifying the vow made by their ancestors when they entered the land of the Zulus. Within a decade of its inception in 1912, the ANC and the left movement marked December 16 as a day of protest against white minority rule.

The older of the approximately 4,000 delegates expected to attend the ANC's 54th National Conference will be aware that December 16, 2017, marks the 56th anniversary of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the organisation's military wing. Its war effort, jointly with that of the civic resistance movement, combined to claim a famous victory at the polls during the historic 1994 general elections.

John Moore via Getty Images
Voters wait for hours in a long queue to cast their ballots during voting in the nationwide election April 22, 2009, in the Sweetla Squatter Camp near Alexandra Township, South Africa.

It bears recording also that the international community, inclusive of progressive governments, business, NGOs and church organisations, played an invaluable role in supporting the attainment of our democracy. They mounted effective diplomatic, economic, cultural and sports sanctions to isolate a regime whose apartheid philosophy had been dubbed "a crime against humanity" by the U.N.

The ANC conference is taking place at a time when the organisation, in brutally frank terms, has lost a lot of credibility among large sections of the citizenry, especially in urban areas. It is facing the worst crisis in its 105-year history.

The succession of scandals, corruption-related and gross transgressions of morality, that surround its president; the pervasive theft from the public purse that occurs in all spheres of government; poor public service performance attributable in large measure to the employment of unsuitable but connected individuals in positions of authority; and shocking crime statistics that are exacerbated by questionable leadership appointments in the police and prosecutorial services -- these factors have combined to severely diminish the electorate's confidence in the organisation's ability to govern.

The unpalatable truism is that 'state capture' with its devastating consequences, took place on the ANC's watch.

The ANC leadership crisis is directly responsible for the continuing economic stagnation in the country, what with capable individuals with flawless track records being mostly replaced by sycophants and praise-singers of limited or no inexperience.

Investors, national and international, bewail policy uncertainty and trek elsewhere to find more assured investment opportunities. Inevitably, unemployment rates skyrocket and take a consistently north-bound trajectory. They affect, in particular, new entrants in the labour market, mostly people.

By common consensus, the basic education system needs an overhaul. World Economic Forum comparative studies show South Africa bringing up the rear in math and science when compared with other developing countries.

Bedlam has become a recurrent feature in our tertiary institutions as students demand Freedom Charter-envisaged free education for all who live in this land. Having set up the Hefer Commission to make recommendations on the funding of tertiary education, the president announced an off-the-wall solution proffered by an advisor son-in-law who might have been, which took everyone by surprise. It is clearly not going to solve the problem.

Finally, the unpalatable truism is that "state capture", with its devastating consequences, took place on the ANC's watch. Through its deployment committee, the ANC deploys directors-general and parastatal CEOs, board chairpersons and board members.

The ANC deployment committee cannot, therefore, absolve itself of the blame for the parlous state in which Eskom, Transnet, Denel, Petro-SA, Prasa and several other state-owned entities find themselves. The entry of the Guptas in the lucrative state procurement space constitutes a dereliction of duty by the ANC's deployment agency. It is also an affront to the sovereignty of the country.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Protesters hang a banner as they hold flags in protest ahead of the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa, June 30, 2017.

So, what decisions for the delegates to the conference? They must elect people who will focus on the following:

1. Elect a person to lead the party whose integrity is beyond doubt; who has not been associated with a breach of accepted ethical conduct. S/he must be on record as having taken an unequivocal stand against corruption, including state capture. Similarly with a seat on the national executive committee (NEC).

2. Elect individuals to serve on the NEC who understand that South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world and must sufficiently understand what policies the government must pursue to reduce this disparity. In other words, to adopt strategies that will encourage investment that grow the economy and at the same time create jobs.

3. Elect individuals who recognise that the public education system, in particular, must be overhauled. They must focus on improving the quality of education and infrastructure in every community. They must elect leaders who will also be committed to putting in place a health system that will efficiently service the poor. That current one has grossly failed them.

4. Elect a leadership that will work hard to build an inclusive ANC: one that will endeavour to stop the alienation of members of the so-called coloured, Indian and white communities that is currently taking place. Such a leadership will also work hard to regain the confidence of the urban black/African population. Such a leadership must boldly address the ethnicity and tribalism that is rearing its head within the ANC. Such a leadership must also recognise that the ANC has regressed in the implementation of its historical mission of building a nonexist and nonracist society, it also has a responsibility to improve the currently strained social cohesion in the country. Xenophobia should be anathema to an ANC leader.

5. Elect a leadership that will develop a well-articulated programme for the promotion of entrepreneurship and business skills.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Delegates sing during the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa June 30, 2017.

Their election choices will of necessity be informed by the performance of their organisation and of the government's since the ANC's 2012 conference in Mangaung, Free State. They shouldn't have much difficulty choosing the leadership they want. For starters, they have the maturity to recognise an empty slogan a mile away.

They must know how long back the "white monopoly capital" and "radical economic transformation" crescendo started. Also, whether or how often the targets set in the National Development Plan have been referenced as an indicator of the leaders' performance. Whether the reference is ever made to the Millenium Development Goals? Resolutions around te Women's Development agenda? Many of the NEC leaders have been in office for the best part of a decade and should be able to answer these questions.

The task of electing NEC members should be fairly easy. The majority of them should not be re-elected. The delegates surely know that most of them acquiesced to or tolerated the behaviour that has destroyed the standing of the ANC in society; that they didn't hold President Jacob Zuma to account for the Nkandla debacle, the Gupta plane landing in Waterkloof Air Force base, his contradictory statements on the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan, and his untrue statement on why he wanted to interdict Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report.

The delegates must know that OR Tambo spoke strongly against what he called false and dangerous unity. He taught us that unity should be founded on revolutionary commitment.

Neither did they disapprove of his refusal to face charges of corruption arising from the Schabir Shaik trial. They condoned the breach of his oath of office.

On the other hand, the delegates should know and elect individuals and the constitution of the ANC. They should know who stood on principle and in the process risked their jobs. They should know who stood on principle and in the process risked their jobs. They must know that there are many ANC members from the branches who would make good NEC members, who would be good replacements for those who used their positions to facilitate state capture.

On the question of organisational unity, the delegates must know that OR Tambo spoke strongly against what he called false and dangerous unity. He taught us that unity should be founded on revolutionary commitment.

The delegates must appreciate that so much harm has been caused to the reputation of the ANC that a preoccupation with uniting with those who abetted or turned a blind eye on looting could easily cost the ANC the 2019 general elections.

** Msimang is a former senior civil servant and was a member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe high command during the struggle against apartheid.