This is the first time that ANC staff have protested against the governing party since its unbanning and the opening of offices in SA in 1990.
Two sets of state reform have hurt the ANC’s coffers – the Political Party Funding Act sets limits on funding and also provides that all donors must declare funding above R100,000 to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
It also prohibits state-owned enterprises from funding political parties – the SOEs were generous party funders until now.
In addition, the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has repeatedly returned to the theme of how funds from companies it is investigating won tenders, and then round-tripped some of their revenue back to the ANC.
This tap has likely been turned off with the Zondo Commission’s public scrutiny.
The commission has heard testimony that funds from the Prasa trains purchase – from the Gupta family via former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba and from the logistics company Bosasa – was funnelled to the ANC.
At Luthuli House in Johannesburg, the staff, who are organised by the trade union Nehawu, held posters reading, “We demand our salaries with immediate effect.”
Only 50 staff protested for an hour because of Covid-19 regulations, and they wore either ANC regalia or Nehawu T-shirts.
“Members have not been getting their salaries on time – there are very few times when members (staff) haven’t received their salaries,” said staff spokesperson Mandla Qwane.
“People get anxious because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They don’t know if they will be able to pay for school transport for their children. They don’t know if they will be able to pay their medical aid; they don’t know if they will pay their debts.
“That creates anxiety, confusion and frustration,” he told Daily Maverick.
The ANC has 1.4 million members in branches across the country, so the staff complement is relatively small for the organisation’s size. Previous reports have said that suspended ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule, ballooned the size of his office with senior staff, which strained the payroll.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously stepped in to meet the party’s commitment to its staff.
Magashule’s spokesperson and MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) representative, Carl Niehaus, tried to project himself on social media as a co-organiser of the protest and came dressed in his camouflage uniform. The staff did not give him a platform.
Because of the pandemic, the party has not held any gala events through its Progressive Business Forum, which is a key source of funding.
“The ANC doesn’t generate profits. It lives on donors. If donations are not coming through, the ANC will not be able to pay salaries. People who used to help the ANC with donations can’t. The new party funding act prohibits them,” said Qwane.
“The ANC, even before the Zondo Commission, had been struggling with finances over a long period.”
Staff handed over their memorandum to deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte.
Spokesperson Pule Mabe said the party had a plan in place to pay the provident fund and medical aid contributions. There would be no salary reductions, but retrenchments were likely.
“We are committed to paying staff salaries, and whilst the payments may not be at the end of every month, there will be a monthly payment,” the party said in a statement.
The ANC denied weekend reports claiming it was paying “ghost workers”, but said it still paid long-serving staff members who had retired without benefits. DM