South Africa

Open Letter: Comrades, you can stop this – bring our ANC back to the centre

By The Nobodies 3 April 2017

We all put our trust in the ANC to make a better life for all. Many other women we know have given up on the ANC. We have not. We see our ANC as South Africa’s only hope. We know we are nobodies. But our activist training tells us that our voices matter. And so we write this letter. By THE NOBODIES.

(The identities of the writers are known to Daily Maverick)

Dear ANC comrades in the NEC and ANC Members of Parliament,

We are angry. We are disappointed. Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint’ imbokodo.

We know “who we are” will matter. This is a battle. This is a serious battle. So, we understand that some may look quickly to see our names, and ask: but who are these people? What do they know? What can they claim? Why should they matter?

So let us be clear: We are nobodies. We are just ordinary South African women. Some of us are ANC members. Some are ANC voters. Some of us study. Some of us look after our children. Some of us care for other people’s children. Some of us are job seekers. Some of us live in townships, some in rural villages, some in suburbs. Some of us are lawyers, some are doctors, some are musicians. Some are teachers, some are nurses, some are ECD practitioners. Some of us work for our ANC government. Some of us are unemployed. Those of us who work, work mostly in townships and rural areas. Many of us are in the social development sector.

We all put our trust in the ANC to make a better life for all. Many other women we know have given up on the ANC. We have not. We see our ANC as South Africa’s only hope. We know we are nobodies. But our activist training tells us, that our voices matter. And so we write this letter.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC MPs,

We know that parts of the state may be captured. We know that parts of our ANC may be captured. We know too that the majority in the ANC – both its members and its voters – are NOT captured.

We know that our president has not consulted our top six on his Cabinet reshuffle. We recognise his right to make these changes. However, as president, he must make sure that this is in the best interest of our country. We do not think this is the case. In addition, the process, and the reasons he has given for his latest move, are of grave concern to us.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC MPs,

We know we must do far more for our poor, for our people, for women and children struggling to make ends meet. We know that:

  • Conditions in the township ghettos must be improved.
  • Rural areas must be improved.
  • We have a good story to tell. Things have improved in our rural areas and townships under your watch.
  • Far more is needed.
  • Radical economic transformation is key.
  • White monopoly capital must be challenged.
  • The private sector has a far bigger role to play in reducing inequality and creating the South Africa we dream of.
  • Land redistribution must be accelerated.
  • Our Constitution needs updating.

But right now, we are not discussing policy. We can have our policy debates in our branches and at the policy conference. Right now, we are pointing at our president and asking for a disciplinary investigation and recall. We ask:

  • Are you certain that the way to further transform our society for the better is via Saxonwold?
  • Are you certain that a nuclear deal that benefits a few people will benefit us, the nobodies?
  • How is the nuclear deal going to lead to radical economic transformation in the next few years?
  • How is SAA going to alleviate or eradicate unemployment and equality?
  • How is a Denel deal (for arms and weapons) going to help create decent work for our youth?
  • Do you feel certain the best way to make social changes is via a president who thinks he is above the party?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC Mps,

We belong to a glorious movement. We have so much to be proud of. This year, which is dedicated to comrade OR Tambo, must not be mired by embarrassment. This is not about personalities or factions. This is about unity. We ask:

  • Where is unity in action when decisions take place outside Luthuli House?
  • Where is unity in action when even the top six are informed and not consulted?
  • When is unity in action actual just an instruction which must be blindly followed?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC Mps,

Some of us have started young. Some of us were detained in women’s prisons. Many of us lost loved ones and family members to our struggle. Some of us only joined and contributed to our movement when our Number 1 was Madiba. We all stood tall. We worked hard then, as we continue to do now.

But our president is not Number 1 any more. Some call him Number 783. He has embarrassed us. He used our people’s money for his own house. The Constitutional Court had to rule against him. Maybe this was an honest mistake. It certainly made campaigning difficult. He has now paid back the money in part. We thank him for this. But we ask:

  • Can we still proudly wear our ANC gear in the streets and when campaigning?
  • Did you choose the more neutral ANC regalia over our usual T-shirts with the president’s face?
  • Do poor people look at you now and see the ANC we know?
  • Do South Africans look at you and ask questions about Zuma, Zuma, Zuma?
  • Could you discuss policy issues, or were you just asked about Zuma? Zuma? Zuma?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC Mps,

We know it is mainly us women who struggle to find a way to manage with the R380 per month for each child we care for. We know the child grant and pensions are the centre of our pro-poor ANC policies. We know now that Minister Bathabile Dlamini has tried to extend an illegal contract for this service. She has worked with White Monopoly Capital to allow Allan Gray and Net 1 (big private companies) to benefit from our social grants. She has allowed people to make money off our grant recipients. She has allowed people to sell products that reduce our grant money. We see this in newspapers and in the courts. And yet, when our president acts to change the ministers for better efficiency and effectiveness, she keeps her job. We ask:

  • Why is there an illegal contract for our social grants?
  • Why can big businesses make money out of our people getting social grants?
  • Why not, Bathabile? Can you explain this to us please?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC Mps,

We know the value of education. Many of us are studying. We know that free, quality public education is a national priority. We welcome the increased focus on ECD and primary education. To get a place at university, we know education starts with us – the mothers of the children in our nation. We now know that our president’s decision, taken without agreement from even the top 6 in our party, resulted in R86-billion being lost from the stock exchange. We know that even more money was lost last time – with Nene and Des.

  • We hear some say this is white people’s money.
  • We know this is not true.
  • We know that businesses pay tax.
  • We know that for us to work, and for our children to grow healthy, we need strong businesses, farms and factories.

We ask:

  • Where will our children and we work if we chase away the businesses?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

ANC NEC comrades and ANC MPs,

Zuma has told us that he gets this game. That he knows the past, he knows what is happening now, and that he can see what is coming. Zuma has told us that he knows things. We realise that some of these things may be about you. We know. It’s okay. We will find a way together through what lies ahead. We know that it is very difficult to allow yourself right now to be noticed. There is great risk in showing your hand. It will be chopped off. Appear at the memorial service and lose your job. Clap at the wrong thing and you may be out in the cold. Delay on signing a deal or ask too many questions and you will be gone. Our president is ruthless. We know. We see it.

Zuma wants you to stay loyal, or he will reveal your secrets. This is exactly how an abuser behaves. We are women. We know about abuse. We know ending abuse is one of our big challenges. An abuser uses his words or his position or his actions to abuse you. He makes you keep quiet and believe that it is you who are in the wrong. We know this behaviour. We know how hard it is to say NO! To walk away. We know what it is like when your abuser is also kind to you. When he treats you well and gives you a good life. We know. When the good times are good, and you are being looked after, it takes tremendous strength and courage to walk away from the bad. He says he wants you to be loyal to him, or he will tell. We ask:

  • Loyal to what?
  • Loyal to State of Capture?
  • Loyal to decisions made in Saxonwold and not at Luthuli House or at conferences?
  • Loyal to ANN7 and a campaign run by Bell Pottinger?
  • Loyal to stealing from our people, our women, our children?
  • Loyal to allowing our state-owned enterprises to benefit a few (and others who are not South African) and not the many?

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

Finally ANC NEC comrades and ANC MPs,

We speak with respect to each one of our ANC comrades in the current ANC National Executive Committee and to all our ANC Members of Parliament.

  • We remind you that you are a very small privileged minority who are representing us at this historic moment.
  • We understand why the ANC mandates a position in Parliament. This is to implement its agreed policy position.
  • We know that policy is debated at branch level and then at policy conference and that we can shape resolutions.
  • But we know too that sometimes things go wrong between elections.
  • We trust the National Executive Committee as the highest decision-making body between our national congresses.
  • We know currently that voting in the NEC does not take place, and that things are agreed “by consensus”.
  • We know that you are instructed and that you must follow orders.
  • We know that showing yourself carries great risk.
  • We know you want to protect yourselves and your families.
  • We know how hard your position is currently.

So our plea to you is this:

(1) Think. Think about what you are doing. Is this the best you can do? Is this what we all struggled for?

(2) Recall our president. We think this is the immediate way to create a new path.

Failing a recall, our plea to you is to:

(3) Support a vote of no confidence in the president. We know that this will be very messy. It will be difficult for our party. That is why we ask first for a recall.

And then what? Then we can regroup as the ANC. We can realign as a movement and have our discussions and debates on the way forward at our policy conference in June. We know the depth of leadership in our organisation. We have had a caretaker president before. We can have one again.

You can stop this, comrades. Our future is in your hands. Bring our ANC back to the centre.

Please, we beg you. Hear our cry.

Yours in struggle,

The Nobodies. DM

Photo: Leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, President Jacob Zuma (C) arrives to address the party’s final pre-election rally in Johannesburg, South Africa, 31 July 2016. EPA/CORNELL TUKIRI

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