South Africa

Coming soon: Survivor ANC – featuring extreme disciplinary action and fatal subtraction

By Ranjeni Munusamy 18 January 2013

The new ANC leadership elected at Mangaung is steadily closing the loopholes and blind spots that led to dissent and divisions in the party ahead of the national conference, and opposition to Jacob Zuma’s presidency. One of the ways of cracking down is to make an example of a few high-profile leaders to follow Julius Malema into political no man’s land. The North West’s suspended provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge seems to be contestant number one in the all-new “Survivor ANC”. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

In the closing days of the ANC’s 53rd national conference in Mangaung, there was already speculation among the Forces of Change – the colloquial term for those opposed to President Jacob Zuma’s second term – as to who among them would be facing the whip first. With their presidential candidate Kgalema Motlanthe relegated to the political wilderness after his defeat against Zuma, they guessed that would not be the end of the mission to teach them a lesson.

Although Zuma has said several times since the ANC conference that he had no plans to reshuffle his Cabinet, those who openly opposed his second term such as Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale seem to be in an untenable position and can’t remain in Zuma’s administration. However, it might actually be greater punishment and humiliation for them to remain in the Cabinet, having to genuflect before the man they hoped to depose. 

The focus of Zuma and his new leadership team, however, is on the ANC and the ways to contain and suppress factionalism and dissent, now that they have free reign at the top. Their most tactical move to neuter the Forces of Change was to expel former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and his lieutenants before their campaign to dislodge the incumbent leadership picked up pace. 

After Malema’s expulsion, the Forces of Change began pulling in different directions and were unable to agree on a common strategy, or even a top six slate. The absence of a uniting force and the uncertainty around Motlanthe’s candidacy led to complete disorganisation, and gave the Zuma camp leverage in their campaign to crush the challengers and gain complete control of the ANC national executive committee (NEC). 

Now that this has been achieved, the focus has moved to deal with pockets of resistance and clamp down on party discipline. Zuma has been firm on the issue of party discipline from the ANC’s National General Council in Durban in 2010, when the ANC Youth League under Malema caused a commotion over their demand for mine nationalisation. 

From last year’s ANC policy conference, the issue of discipline has been a constant theme in Zuma’s speeches. After the ANC threw the book at Malema in his disciplinary case, it set a precedent for how the party deals with internal dissent and errant behaviour. 

In Mangaung, the ANC constitution was amended to further strengthen internal disciplinary processes to make it easier to quell dissent. Disciplinary action will now be instituted against any ANC member, office bearer or public representative “doing any act or making any utterance which brings or could bring or has potential to bring, or as a consequence thereof brings, the ANC into disrepute.”

There is particular focus on members who challenge the party and its decisions publicly, particularly through the courts.

In his closing address in Mangaung, Zuma said the following: 

“Through political education and cadre development as well as decisive action against ill-discipline, we will be able to root out all the tendencies that we have identified over the years. These include factionalism, the sowing of disunity and confusion within the movement, the use of money to buy members, positions or influence in the organisation, the hurling of insults or even worse, the attacks on members of the ANC.

“We will be able to deal with the comrades who disrupt ANC meetings and those who want the ANC to be now run on technicalities and through the courts. We will be building cadres who respect actions taken by the movement to enforce discipline against others, who know the implications of working with members who have been expelled from the organisation, assisting them to undermine the organisation. 

“There must be consequences for such ANC members,” he went on to say. 

Zuma reiterated the sentiments in last weekend’s ANC anniversary rally in Durban, saying the party would prioritise organisational discipline and “eradicate the alien tendencies that have crept into our movement over the years”.

Among those already running scared is the stand-in leadership of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). The League under acting president Ronald Lamola remained at the forefront of the campaign to unseat Zuma, albeit with less vitriol, even after Malema’s expulsion. This prompted Zuma’s supporters to motivate at Mangaung for the dissolution of the League’s NEC.

Ahead of a high-level meeting between the ANC and the ANCYL leadership on Monday to work out the way forward for the League, Lamola has capitulated. 

Speaking at last weekend’s ANC rally, Lamola said the League had accepted the outcome of Mangaung. “We are not suffering from the Mangaung hangover. We accepted the outcome of the conference and we will support Zuma and the new NEC,” he said. 

The other structure on the target list is the ANC provincial leadership in Limpopo, who were also the ringleaders in the campaign to oust Zuma at Mangaung. Rumours have been rife for several months that the ANC’s national leadership intends dissolving the Limpopo provincial executive committee. The ANC has now deployed an NEC team of Zuma heavies to the province with the obvious objective of crushing dissenters and purging possible troublemakers. 

Among those in the team is SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and other key Zuma supporters, including Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, SA National Civics Organisation president Ruth Bhengu and former National Intelligence Agency director-general Billy Masetlha. The composition of the team is a ready-made attack squad and confrontation with the Limpopo leadership is inevitable.

But the person likely to face the ANC firing squad first is North West provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge, who was suspended by his province two days before the Mangaung conference. In late November, Mataboge, who has been engaged in a long-running war with North West ANC chairman Supra Mahumapelo, was the target of an assassination attempt when his car was shot at outside his home in Mahikeng. 

Mataboge’s suspension came amid a complex battle in the North West, which led to parallel provincial conferences and disputes over delegate credentials and culminated in a court battle. 

According to the letter of suspension signed by Mahumapelo, Mataboge faces six charges including “manipulating branch delegates to the 53rd national conference of the ANC and thereby prejudicing the integrity of the ANC by undermining its effectiveness as an organisation and engaging in conduct which brings the organisation into disrepute”.  He is also charged with convening a parallel provincial nominations conference to the one organised by Mahumapelo, which the suspension letter states also brought the ANC into disrepute.

As evidence of the tighter disciplinary measures, the terms of Mataboge’s suspension is that he is barred from participating in or attending ANC activities, or entering the ANC offices. This is in sharp contrast to what happened to Malema, who was allowed to address and attend ANC events until all his disciplinary processes were exhausted. Mataboge was also instructed to return all property belonging to the ANC, including his laptop. His disciplinary hearing is scheduled for mid-February. 

Others also on the disciplinary hit list are dissenters in the Free State and the North West who took the ANC to court, which embarrassed the party ahead of the Mangaung conference. 

At the ANC rally last Saturday, Zuma had this to say to members of his organisation: “We drew a line against ill-discipline at the National General Council in 2010. Anyone who crosses that line will face the consequences.” 

It was a nicer way of saying: “Fall in line or face the axe”. 

Those in the ANC who might still harbour ambitions to challenge the new ANC leadership will be at risk of facing political purgatory if they follow through on their objectives. As Malema’s isolation is proving, there is little that can be done from outside the ANC to influence decision-making or to stay financially and politically afloat. 

The most tactical option for dissenters therefore is to sit tight for the next five years. But that might prove to be more insufferable than facing disciplinary action. 

Only the tough, the politically astute and really patient will survive. DM

Photo: President Zuma (Greg Marinovich)

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