The first graduates of the ANC political school tipped their caps yesterday after a year of study. It’s a key part of rejuvenating the party, but Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile used the event to call for leadership change, while Kgalema Motlanthe played it as straight as ever. By GREG NICOLSON.
Deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC Gauteng chairman Mashatile looked sharp next to each other. They stood in suits as the ceremony began with the national anthem. Under his jacket, Mashatile wore a black-and-white cardigan over a red tie. Motlanthe wore the simpler sweater under his jacket, sporting black lace-up boots. They made a good couple, one we soon may see much more of.
Mashatile used his introduction to say ANC cadres needed to be politically educated and that the party needed a “generational transition” to overcome the turmoil over leadership and appoint leaders prepared for today’s challenges. “The ANC must change this year. It must modernise,” he said.
Along with provincial secretary David Makhura, Mashatile is a key powerbroker in the lead up to the party’s national elective conference in December. They appear to favour change, but have played their hand carefully. Unlike provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, Gauteng knows it’s strong enough to play the game in its own interests until the chips are down.
Mashatile, however, indicated on Sunday that he wanted a change in leadership. “We must come out of Mangaung with a renewed ANC,” he said, suggesting the organisational renewal document must be adopted, a pet project of Makhura’s. He added: “However, renewal of the organisation must include renewal of leadership.” The graduates and their families murmured throughout the hall at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus.
Mashatile ended his introduction with the words “Viva, Kgalema Motlanthe, viva!” and welcomed “the son of Gauteng” to the lectern. It was likely a show of support for the deputy president, tipped as President Zuma’s top challenger. Throughout the speech, he sat customarily stone-faced on the stage.
But Mashatile and Makhura have been critical before without flaunting the ban on discussing leadership until the official nomination process starts in October. It’s clear they want change, but it’s important to look closer to home. It seems the men want to be part of the ANC’s top six and they might throw their lot in with who can deliver. But seeing organisational renewal seems a Gauteng goal, it makes sense to back anyone but Zuma.
Mashatile was addressing the first comrades through the Walter Sisulu Leadership Academy, launched in 2011. In June, the ANC national policy conference’s Commission on Organisational Renewal noted the many challenges among members, including corruption, lack of competency and ethics. It recommended the introduction of a political school system. An education programme might look like what was seen in Gauteng, where cadres took courses in South African and ANC history, analysis and strategy and structures of the party. The stage presence of Humphrey Mmemezi, forced to retire from his MEC position, wasn’t, however, encouraging.
Motlanthe began his address by pointing out that not all ANC members are cadres, but all cadres are members. He focused on three areas – the role of political education, its value and the need for cadres to be informed from society’s perspective.
“A cadre is a frame, a frame that we use to keep old photos and posters in shape,” he said, adding that educated cadres can keep South Africa’s structures in shape like frames protect photos.
The address didn’t touch on any of the current hot political issues like the textbooks saga, “Zumaville” or allegations that Motlanthe’s partner Gugu Mtshali tried to solicit a bribe in a sanctions-busting deal selling helicopters to Iran. At times it verged on academic and boring.
“As the ruling party the ANC is no longer facing the challenges of the liberation party. Joining the struggle was a risky affair that took risking one’s life for a cause. Today joining the ANC potentially holds out benefits and rewards. In itself the act of wielding power is a challenge if individuals do not have a humane and human-centred world view,” said Motlanthe.
“[The] historical leadership we have been providing [to] society is still expected of us. It then places massive responsibility on us to maintain a clean and impeccable image that inspires our people. While we need to survive as individuals… we must also be sensitive to the ascendant culture of material acquisitiveness and loose morals.
“As cadres of the movement we should not be caught with out fingers in the till. It gives the ANC a bad name and an image of an organisation overrun with greed corruption, venality and loose morals. History shows even the most glorious liberation movements driven by the best interests of humanity are not impervious to the corrosive influence of the benefits that come with incumbency.”
He also stressed the value of education. “Another important consideration as members of the ANC is to value education. Under conditions of freedom and democracy there is no justification for our members not to further their studies for their own empowerment.” He finished, “Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile.”
The address might have been a little dull at times, but Motlanthe’s message was clear: many ANC members have lost the values and education they need to continue governing, and it’s ruining the image of the party.
While he didn’t engage in the most pressing political issues dominating newsprint, without obviously electioneering, he aligned himself to those championing an ANC that faces the need to renew the organisation. It’s not a bad position ahead of Mangaung, where he’s expected to run for the top spot. As he stays relatively quiet and talks about values, President Zuma continues to be embroiled in scandal after scandal. DM
Photo: Kgalema Motlanthe and Paul Mashatile (Greg Nicolson/Daily Maverick)
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall