Well, it seemed a good idea at the time
28 November 2014 13:52 (South Africa)
South Africa

Road to Mangaung: Limpopo wants a better president for all

  • Ranjeni Munusamy
  • South Africa
ranjeni limpopo

What are the qualities of a good president? The ANC in Limpopo, through a new discussion paper on leadership, has spelled out what it is looking for in Mangaung: Tolerance of political differences (including from its leagues), commitment to radical economic transformation and the ability to articulate ANC policies in public. Judging by the document, Jacob Zuma need not apply. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

The ANC in Limpopo is perhaps not the best example of fine, upstanding political leadership, considering the province is being held together with second-hand duct tape and spit. Setting aside the serious problems with governance in the province, the ANC Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) has compiled a discussion document on what type of leadership the ruling party needs as it heads towards its national conference in Mangaung in December.

The document, ANC Leadership in the Current Phase of the National Democratic Revolution, will be distributed to party branches in Limpopo, which will soon have to make nominations for leadership positions in the party.

It’s purpose, it states, is to serve “as a framework to facilitate discussions within Limpopo ANC structures on the leadership challenges in the current phase of our national democratic revolution. This discussion should assist us towards generating a common perspective in electing the ANC leadership in the forthcoming 53rd ANC National Conference. This is also done with the aim of improving the existing ANC discussion documents on organisational renewal and leadership issues.”

Nominations for the top six officials and the 60-member National Executive Committee (NEC) open in October. The ANC’s Electoral Committee would then collate the nominations and ask the nominees if they were prepared to stand for election at the Mangaung conference. Only then will South Africa know for sure who will be running against Jacob Zuma for the position of ANC president.

Apart from attempting to influence branches, the leadership discussion document will also be used as a basis for lobbying other provinces and ANC structures for Limpopo’s preferred candidates. The nominations process is likely to open up intense horse-trading between provinces and leagues over leadership and policy. Limpopo is at the forefront of the “forces for change” lobby which wants Zuma and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe removed.

The paper said discussions on leadership in the ANC are informed by “where we are in our revolution, which path to take and what kind of leadership we need to lead us”.

“In all the phases of our struggle, the ANC produced different types of revolutionary leadership, which inspired the oppressed, and the exploited into revolutionary action, mobilised and organised resources, correctly framed people’s demands (e.g. The Freedom Charter, 1955) and produced strategies and tactics (e.g. the 1969 Morogoro conference).”

The drafters of the document obviously see similarities between the state of the party in the 1960s and now.

“The convening of the 1969 ANC Conference, which charted a new strategy and tactics for the movement, also marked the emergence of a new type of leadership.  The 1969 ANC conference was convened after the ANC was undergoing serious political challenges raging from uninspiring leadership, factionalism, imposition of decisions and harsh disciplinary measures by the leadership. However, courageous ANC cadres and leaders stood up to force the ANC leadership to convene the watershed conference, which elected new leadership and adopted a well-informed strategy and tactics and militant program of action.”

Limpopo, like the ANC Youth League in which it is in close cahoots, is championing the campaign for radical economic transformation through, among other things, strategic nationalisation of mines. The document motivates that the ANC needs bold new leadership to take charge of this process, which will involve changes to the Constitution.

“We also need to go beyond moralistic leadership requirements such as that, leadership must be beyond reproach in their conduct and should act as a role model to both ANC and non-ANC members (important as these are). Our choice of leadership should be guided by the concrete tasks at hand, such concrete tasks are about devising ways to advance, and not to sabotage, the revolutionary program in the prevailing circumstances. However, it is worth re-emphasising that the ANC leadership must embody the kind of society we seek to create.

“The ANC needs a revolutionary leadership committed to radical transformation of the economy, as clearly outlined in the third, fourth and seventh clauses of the Freedom Charter.… In our view this means first and foremost, strategic nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries. Our ability to lead society will depend on our ability to work together with the popular classes to meet their material interests.”

This would be “the only way to strengthen the ANC’s hold of the state apparatus to ensure that it undertakes structural transformation of our society. Therefore we need bold leadership that will lead fundamental economic transformation, including changing certain constitutional clauses that (prove) to be impediments towards strategic nationalisation.” 

The paper called the fight over positions in the ANC as one for access to the state for “narrow economic interests”.

“The downside of the ANC’s ascendency to state power has been that the contest for leaders has tended to become a struggle for access to material resources associated with being in the ANC. In certain instances, levers of the state tend to be used for narrow economic interests, including dispensing patronage and corruption, as opposed to promoting the developmental agenda of our people… In certain parts of the country, this has also (led) to the killing of fellow comrades.

“This means we need an ANC leadership, which is not captured by narrow business interests for narrow personal economic interests, and capable of appointing competent and professional, yet revolutionary state bureaucrats,” the document states. “It does not mean however that the leadership should not have relations with business… On the contrary, the ANC must elect a leadership capable of building a patriotic bourgeoisie, which is not an appendix of white monopoly capital.”

The Limpopo PEC argued that unifying the ANC and the Alliance is key to advancing the “national democratic revolution”. It said the reversal of revolutions in countries like Zimbabwe, Iran and Nicaragua was “not just a function of external imperialist intervention and objective challenges related to the inability to deal with the socio-economic (problems), but it also has to do with the fragmentation of the revolutionary forces, after attainment of state control.

“In the last 18 years, the ANC leadership and some in the Alliance have tended to deal with this problem through labelling (e.g. ultra-left, workerist etc.) and abuse of state apparatuses to punish critics of the status quo and reward those who uncritically agree with the incumbent leadership.”

It also called out what it said was a tendency to lump together “revolutionary dissent within and outside the ANC as counter-revolutionary and the turning of almost every political difference into a disciplinary case”.

The ANC Youth League plans to motivate to the Mangaung conference for its former President Julius Malema’s expulsion to be overturned. The National Conference is Malema’s last hope to be readmitted into the ANC, as every other internal appeal has failed. The Limpopo document laid the groundwork for the league’s petition, arguing for more tolerance of political differences.

“In the current phase, the ANC needs a leadership that tolerates revolutionary dissent and political differences, including from its leagues. In other words, the leadership does not have to agree with or like the different views, but it must create a conducive environment for different views to be discussed and debated without fear of being disciplined. In instances where discipline has to be enforced leadership has to do so consistently.” 

The document also put a premium on building international relations and co-operation “to wage the struggle against imperialism”, which it said has seen “the undermining of national sovereignty of the formerly colonised through amongst other things, military means and through subverting democratic electoral outcomes.

“Has the post-Polokwane leadership been consistent in the fight against imperialism in Africa?” the document asked, obviously hinting at Zuma’s consent to the military action in Libya.

So Limpopo is not looking for much then: “To sum up, the current phase of the National Democratic Revolution requires a leadership collective that can be described as state institution builders, economic transformers, organisation builders, mass mobilisers, revolutionary internationalists, scientific strategists and thinkers, and more importantly revolutionary democrats.”

Each individual leader, it said, must be committed to economic transformation, including strategic nationalisation, revolutionary unity of the ANC, building revolutionary (not factional) ANC alliances, tolerance for revolutionary dissent and differences and the ability to articulate ANC policies in public.

There needs to be “specific qualities for individuals required to occupy officials’ positions” in the light of their responsibilities, it said. Zuma and Mantashe would need to read the following to find out why Limpopo is not supporting their candidacy:

“For instance, the ANC president needs to be committed to radical economic transformation, have a scientific outlook of the material world, unifying abilities and the ability to bring new theoretical and strategic insights into the movement. The secretary general should be occupied by a person with the same qualities that of the president, but more importantly should have the capacity to mobilise and organise the motive forces behind the ANC through organisational building (including political education).”

The subtext of the final part of the document shows how the ANC Limpopo plans to go on the offensive once the official lobbying period begins, and that they intend breaking the domination of people from Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

“In ensuring the geographic spread and nation building, we should not fall into trap of ethnic and racial chauvinism. It should be emphasised that the ANC is not a confederation of ethnic groups with each having a proportional representation in the ANC NEC based on the population size of a particular ethnic group. Leadership in the ANC should be based on the capacity of a core of cadres capable of carrying out the tasks.”

The Limpopo document alongside the Gauteng ANC’s push for organisational renewal and stricter criteria for leadership is likely to inform the argument for major change at Mangaung. While all factions want Gauteng on their side, the Limpopo ANC is likely to come under a bombardment from the Zuma camp, which would most likely to point out the irony of leaders from the most dysfunctional province setting the criteria for good leadership in the ruling party.

They’ll also probably be ticked off that they never thought of the idea first. To stay ahead of the pack on the road to Mangaung, you don’t have to be untainted. Just shrewd. DM

Photo: Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale (L) and South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe drink during an African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) rally in Limpopo province March 25, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

  • Ranjeni Munusamy
  • South Africa


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