Friday, October 24, 2008

South Africa: Letter From the President - the ANC Will Remain a Beacon of Hope of All Our People

THE ANC HAS BEEN at the helm of the struggle for liberation of our people for close to a century now. In the 96 years of its existence it has left no stone unturned to achieve the unity not only of its members but also of the South African people as a whole. The words of Seme as he made that clarion call on unity amongst the Africans in 1909 still stand today.

The ANC shall continue to strive for the unity of its membership and also of our people to attain the objectives of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. Those who work against the unity of the ANC for selfish ends have not considered the consequences of such disunity so early in our development before we could even make real certain ends of our historic objectives as adopted in Kliptown during the Congress of the People.

In 96 of its existence the ANC has also had an experience of disagreements and even breakaways in its long history of struggle. The basic characteristic feature of such disagreements and breakaways has been about the demand for change in the policies of the ANC.

In the past 60 years or so, but particularly during and after the Second World War, there was a radical push for the leadership of the ANC to adapt to the changed political landscape both locally and internationally. Inspired largely by the independence of India, this demand for change grew in intensity. The ANC Youth League led by Lembede, Majombozi, Sisulu, Tambo and Mandela, demanded radical change - mass action, mass mobilisation of the people of South Africa, as opposed to the main political activities of the leadership of the time which was characterised by representations, deputations and petitions to the colonial masters and apartheid regime.

This culminated into the watershed 1949 ANC National Conference with the adoption of the Programme of Action, inspired by the ANC Youth League conference resolutions of 1948 and saw the replacement of the conservative leadership of Dr Xuma by Dr Moroka, with Walter Sisulu being the first ANCYL leader of the 1944 generation to occupy a very senior leadership role as ANC Secretary General.

There were unhappy and disgruntled supporters of Dr Xuma who broke away from the ANC and formed the African Minded Group led by Selope Tema. This breakaway was linked to policy change brought by the Programme of Action, and the changes and the direction of the newly elected leadership.

The roaring 1950's saw the emergence of the ANC as a mass movement organising the first national strike in 1950 and followed by the 1952 Defiance Campaign. At this point, the ANC needed to articulate a clear vision as to where we are going as a people and ascertain the correctness of some of the actions being taken.

A call for the Congress of the People saw the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 with a Preamble that proudly proclaimed that; "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White". This was a profound turning point in the struggle of our people, reinforcing unity beyond all doubt. Some in the ANC disputed this and objected to the Preamble of the Freedom Charter and insisted that South Africa belongs exclusively to Africans. This led to the formation of the Pan Africanist Congress in 1959.

After the Morogoro Conference in 1969 we saw the emergence of the Group of Eight who objected to the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC and the inclusion of non-Africans in the work of the ANC. This led to their expulsion from the ANC. These were not ordinary members of the ANC, but were its top leaders, including Tennyson Makiwane, Ambrose Makiwane and George Mbhele.

Since 1994, our movement has made major strides including:
  • The longest economic growth, leading to the creation of a 2-3 million people middle-class.
  • Our state-led social distribution programme translated into significant reduction of severe poverty - 12 million receiving social grants ; 2.6 million RDP housing for 13 million people;
  • 18.7 million now access water and 10.9 million with sanitation.

Despite all these achievements, unemployment still remains high, many of our people are trapped in poverty, 3-million hectares of land in former Bantustans remain fallow, with increasing migration from rural to urban areas.

There has been serious examination of the past 14 years and the process of policy development led to a policy Conference towards the watershed Polokwane Conference, where unemployment, rural development, food security, food production came to the fore, to address the shortcomings of the last 14 years.
Many people have said that Polokwane represented a pro-poor stance of the ANC and was a cry for accelerated delivery to improve the lives of our people, because we cannot allow the majority of our people left behind as we develop our country.

This is the context that we see Terror Lekota and his dissident group threatening a breakaway. I have mentioned the watershed ANC National Conference of 1949, the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, yet another watershed ANC National Conference at Morogoro in 1969 that adopted the first in the series of the Strategy and Tactics, where the basis of disagreements had been around the direction the ANC was taking, the policies that the ANC had adopted, the change of leadership in many of these instances.

But listening to Lekota and his dissident group, it seems they are at pain to re-assert that they support the policies of the ANC but at the same time, claim that the ANC has veered from its policies or the priorities therein. But they are unable to clarify what are these policy priorities. They complain about the t-shirts and the rude language of Julius Malema. They are also aggrieved by the recall of former President, Comrade Thabo Mbeki.

They know very well that the recall was properly taken at the NEC Meeting -that being the highest decision making body between ANC National Conferences. They should know that the constitutional requirements were adhered to. Former President Mbeki, as a true cadre of the ANC, accepted the decision and resigned, yet Lekota and his group go around saying things in his name, purporting to be aggrieved more than him by his recall, falsely creating the impression that the former ANC President endorses their ill-found mission.
While the t-shirts were never authorised by the ANC, but we nonetheless need to ask these questions: are the issues of these t-shirts more important than the policies of the ANC? Malema does not speak on behalf of the ANC, but is the rude language of Malema more important than improving the lives of our people? Are these issues important more than the challenges facing our people such as unemployment, poverty and inequalities? This looks like the trivialisation of politics.

When Terror Lekota spoke in Port Elizabeth, he stated that the ANC National Working Committee has suspended him without a hearing. Having been the National Chairperson for the past 10 years and being the custodian of ANC policies, he ought to know that the Constitution of the ANC empowers the NWC to impose temporary suspension in exceptional circumstances such as this one.

Clause 25:12(c) of the ANC Constitution, a constitution which Terror was its custodian as ANC Chairperson, states that: "Exceptional circumstances, as determined by the NWC or National Disciplinary Committee or PWC, as the case may be, warrant immediate decision of temporary suspension of a member without eliciting the comment of such member."

From what we hear from their letter, the statements they make in meetings in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and recently in Limpopo and the Free State, they do not seem to be challenging the ANC policies. They make snipes against the NDR. The NDR is not a swear word nor is it a Marxist or communist term.

We may ask, is the NDR their newfound swear word? Why is it that they who were at the centre of our policy processes now consider the NDR too ideologically laden, hence they make the claim that their new party would be free from such ideological baggage?

When we talk about the NDR in South Africa, we are really talking about a major transformational process. The NDR consists of three words, which carries a lot of meaning in the overall transformation of South Africa as a whole. We dissect the NDR into its composite words:

The "national"

Is the NDR out of date? Has the national project succeeded? Have we accomplished the formation of a single-nation? Have we achieved a national consensus towards a non-racial and non-sexist society? If the answer is no, then we must proceed. In the ANC, we have never embraced the lie that some to swear by today, that building a nation is easy and can simply be accomplished overnight or in a mere 14 years! While ours is a rainbow nation that in line with our constitution must celebrate its rich diversity, nonetheless we must forge for those unifying golden threads in society that give the real impression that we are a united nation, whose integrity we must defend with equal vigour, irrespective of race, gender or ethnicity.

The "democratic"

Are we a full democracy? Have we succeeded in educating our people so that our people should benefit from our democracy? Have all our people accepted the institutions of democracy as sacrosanct basis for the apportioning of rights, priviledges, responsibilities, duties and all that accrues from the wealth, development and natural endowment of our country? We have a Constitution, yes, but have we attained all that is contained in the Constitution? Are we all equal beyond the constitutional declaration by the bill of rights? Do our people have required skills to enable decent employment? Are we protecting all our citizens from cradle to grave as it happens in developed democracies?

The "revolution"

Ours is not an evolutionary process, which shall leisurely take 100 years to accomplish. When early leaders of the ANC demanded a vote from the white man, they were told that it took several centuries for Europe to attain universal adult suffrage. One Security advisor of President Carter, Brzezinski, once remarked that Africa was 600 years behind in civilization and that with regards to information technology revolutionary process taking place, Africa is 1,000 years behind. Should we wait for 1,000 years to catch-up with each stage of economic development? If the answer is no, then we need to intensify processes for the attainment of full democracy.

The answer to these questions is that we need to proceed with our National Democratic Revolution! All these three words in "NDR" speak the common language about the need for urgent, concerted and protracted change that requires the unity of our people to make it real into the future.

From what we hear from Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa, it seems we do not hear substantive policy issues. Recently they asserted that they will strive for constituency based electoral system as opposed to proportional representation simply because they do not want the ANC to have a say on who becomes the President of our country.

This is a direct attack on the integrity and hegemony of the ANC by people who not long ago were at the helm of the very same organisation! Shilowa knows very well we chose this proportional representation system so that all our people benefit. Without it we could have wiped out minorities from our country.

From our observation world wide on the application of constituency based electoral system, it seems the constituency based electoral systems are applied in largely homogeneous societies - such as those of Britain, New Zealand, Canada and USA. Have we evolved through the NDR to the point that we can claim to have nearly reach homogeneity? The ANC believes in proportional representation precisely because it seeks to take into account the various national groups and demographics of our country.

Terror Lekota and his dissident group also complain that that the ANC is dominated by COSATU and SACP. As long-standing members of the ANC, they ought to know, that the ANC is a universal organisation, the parliament of the people. No one is subjected to fidelity tests. We do not ask whether you are a communist or not. We embrace all who are committed to our strategic vision, the Freedom Charter.

In the ANC Constitution, on being accepted as a new member, one is expected to make the following solemn declaration:

"I ..., solemnly declare that I will abide by the aims and objectives of the African National Congress as set out in the Constitution, the Freedom Charter and other duly adopted policy positions, that I am joining the organisation voluntarily and without motives of material advantage or personal gain.. that [I] will defend the unity and integrity of the organisation and its principles, and combat any tendency towards disruption and factionalism."

Accordingly, in line with their newfound vision, Terror and his dissidents claim that our Secretary General, comrade Gwede Mantashe, cannot hold full-time position as Secretary General of the ANC and Chairperson of the SACP simultaneously, as this undermines the traditions of the ANC. What traditions, we may ask?
JB Marks was both the National Chairperson of the SACP and chairperson of the ANC, chairing the Morogoro Conference of the ANC in 1969. He was also the President of the ANC in the then Transvaal in the 1950s, while being the Chairperson of the SACP.

Duma Nokwe was elected the Secretary General of the ANC in 1958 and he was a leading theoretician of the SACP.

Moses Kotane was the General Secretary of the SACP as well as the longest serving Treasurer General of the ANC.

Furthermore, the ANC has a tradition of deploying its cadres in the broader movement in various capacities. For example, Shilowa himself was deployed to the position of Premier in Gauteng after serving as elected Secretary General of COSATU. His predecessor in COSATU, comrade Jay Naidoo, was also deployed as Minister without Portfolio in our first democratic government.

The last three Secretary Generals of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, Kgalema Motlanthe and the current Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, were all leading unionists, having been Secretary Generals of the National Union of Mine Workers. What then is the basis for the allegations that COSATU or the communists have hijacked the ANC?

It is very clear that after these watershed events of the 1949 ANC National Conference, the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, the Morogoro Conference in 1969, those breakaways were about policy.
The current group of dissidents, are the least honest amongst those who ever broke-away, which leads one to make reasonable inference, that it is their loss of leadership positions in Polokwane that is behind their actions!

They also complain that the ANC leadership is purging members of the ANC. What purging? Terror Lekota himself was recalled from being Premier in the Free State at a time when comrade Nelson Mandela was still President of the ANC and President of our country. Was it purging?

Many Provincial Executive Committees had been disbanded under the leadership of former ANC Presidents comrades Nelson Mandela and Mbeki. Those included the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng. Were these purging?

Again, it is for this reason that we make the conclusion that this breakaway group is the least honest amongst those who ever left the ANC. This group of dissidents is targeting for recruitment the areas where they know the ANC face genuine organisational challenges.

Comrade Mandela spoke about these challenges in Mafikeng. Comrade Mbeki spoke about these challenges in Stellenbosch and in Polokwane. The then ANC Secretary General, comrade Kgalema Motlanthe, spoke about them elaborately in the Organisational Report to National Conference in Polokwane last year.

The ANC will remain the beacon of hope of all our people. We will continue to strengthen the alliance, which includes the SACP, COSATU and SANCO, as a democratic and revolutionary platform in the mobilisation of all our people. Our success historically, currently and into the future depends on working hand in glove amongst all the alliance partners.

The recent economic summit is part of the convergence building, that is a building block for closer working relations and to bury the mistrusts of the past, while forging ahead with a vision for change that must benefit all our people in line with the Freedom Charter.

Therefore, as we answer the question: why is the ANC where it is today, it becomes self evident that this is essentially the result of hypocrisy of leaders who lost elections in internal party democracy and then went about dishonestly alleging deviation from party principles, tradition and policies. Mine was merely to demonstrate that these claims run contrary to the lived experiences of our organisational history as a movement.