The vote in a moment of crisis

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 30: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shares a moment with NEC members during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on June 30, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference is a gathering of about 3500 delegates from branches across the country to discuss the party’s policies going into the elective conference in December, where changes and new policies will be ratified. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Masi Losi)

As the ANC goes to its conference, it is clear to everyone that the party is in trouble.

The dark cloud that hangs over the movement has prompted analysts, detractors and cynics to predict the imminent demise of the ANC.

They assert that the conference is nothing but the beginning of the end for the ANC.

The party itself has admitted that the movement faces a serious crisis, which is characterised by a decline in ethical and moral conduct among certain elements within the leadership.

The decline is multifaceted and characterised in the main by the emergence of alien tendencies that are an antithesis of the raison d’etre of the movement.

These tendencies take on an intensity that manifests in factionalism and destructive struggles for dominance of one group over the other.

As these internal battles for dominance rage, it is no longer the survival of the movement that is paramount in the minds of the players, but the survival of a faction.

As the factions win temporary victories against each other, there is a sense of triumphalism and the victors prepare to deliver the devastating blow to finish off the vanquished.

There is little recognition during the frenzy and the fury to achieve the total control of the soul of the ANC.

This amounts to the systematic and total destruction of the ANC as an organisation, together with all the values, principles and whatever victories it has achieved over slightly more than a century in existence.

In his diagnostic report before the ANC’s policy conference in June, party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe identified the malaise afflicting the party as “the blurring of the common purpose for the cadres of the movement; the growing trust deficit between the people and their movement; the decline in the ethics, values and traditions of the movement; the impact of the perception of the ANC as entirely corrupt; the poor quality of the branches and the membership in general; the decline in the ideological outlook of the movement; divisions and factions that have become a seemingly permanent feature of the movement; the rapid collapse of organisational discipline; low levels of trust among comrades; and failure to focus on solutions”.

All of these are manifestations of an organisation that is at war with itself.

The intensity of these internecine struggles leads to a state of paralysis and renders the party incapable of acting in self-defence. It is an organisation in its death throes.

It is one thing for Mantashe to diagnose the malaise afflicting the organisation, but it is another completely to summon the courage to act resolutely to combat what has been correctly identified as foreign tendencies threatening the very survival of the party.

Which brings us to the questions that every delegate to the conference must answer honestly: Can the ANC pull itself back from the brink?

Does the ANC have the leadership and the membership that has the courage and the vision to pull the ANC from the dark and bottomless abyss?

Can the ANC master the courage to rescue the legacy of this glorious movement from the abyss and redirect its energies towards the fulfilment of its historic mission?

It is very important that the ANC itself should understand this because sustained and pervasive unethical conduct on the part of the ANC will inevitably cause it to lose the respect and support of the people as a whole.

It will weaken the ANC from within, which will inevitably be accompanied by paralysis – making it impossible for it to carry out its historic mission.

Much of what we see happening within the party has happened in South African politics before and is something the ANC vowed to destroy – the very corruption that defined the apartheid state.

Apartheid was characterised by high levels of malfeasance, which found expression in the corruption of public servants by the private sector, the low level of tax morality, white collar crime and the subversion of business ethics.

The ANC is exhibiting venality, dishonesty, sordidness, theft and fraud within the public sector; corruption in the criminal justice system; and the uninhibited commitment to unbridled self-gratification.

However, there is a glimmer of hope that the ANC can be pulled from the brink.

After three days of robust deliberations, the stalwarts and veterans’ national consultative conference issued a declaration in which they expressed the belief that “the ANC can and must be saved”.

While the stalwarts and veterans believe that the ANC can still be saved, they are under no illusion that “turning it from its present destructive path will be a simple matter”.

They assert that a programme of self-correction must be embarked upon that “must build on the ANC’s historic values of service, selflessness and integrity”.

The declaration states that “self-correction will require sustained introspection, critical analysis and concerted action to restore the ANC’s credibility as a leader of society and a humble listening organisation that is rooted among the masses of our people it seeks to lead”.

The declaration also makes the assertion that “the ANC needs organisational renewal”, and it calls on the conference to, in accordance with the rules of the party’s constitution, establish a committee to design and develop a renewal document, and oversee a thorough renewal of the structures, including the branches, and to assess and scrutinise the suitability of the elected leadership at all levels.

Further, it must take urgent and practical steps to professionalise and modernise the party, with priority given to the membership system.

– Ntenteni is a member of the stalwarts and veterans task team.

This article first appeared in City Press on 10 December.

(Photo credit: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Masi Losi)