South Africa


Mbeki warns 2021 results represent reversal for progressive movement and advance for right-wing forces

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Thabo Mbeki recommends some introspection, and his quotes from party documents seem to suggest that nothing from the era of former president Jacob Zuma holds sway anymore.

Former president Thabo Mbeki has outlined four steps that he reckons could help the ANC become a “dependable agent for people-centred progressive change” again. 

Mbeki penned an unsolicited eight-page letter to ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, which emerged one day after the date on it, 24 November 2021, in which he warned that the outcome of the 1 November local government elections “represents a serious reversal for the progressive movement and a significant advance for the right-wing forces”.

He continued: “I would like to believe that all of us in the ANC have fully taken on board the hard and incontestable truth that we carry much of the blame for this outcome.” 

His analysis of a serious reversal wasn’t quite shared by the party’s head of organising, Nomvula Mokonyane, who at a press conference on Thursday night said the election results, compared with 2016, don’t show a decline but rather that “in actual fact the ANC has not grown, we remain at the same level that we were in the past elections”. 

But she did admit that the serious contestation and infighting for positions had something to do with the party not growing, while the party’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, laid much of the blame too on the problems the campaign encountered with perceptions. Some of this was due to the way the media highlighted certain problems, he said. 

“People would sit in an RDP house and say, ‘We don’t vote for the ANC because they are stealing,’” he said. 

Part of the reason parties campaign before elections is to sway perceptions, but best not tell the ANC’s head of elections that. He was already complaining that the Constitutional Court gave parties only 42 days to campaign when it ruled on elections during a pandemic, while the ANC needed three months. 

What he neglected to say was that all parties were in the same boat, and despite the upheavals created by the Covid-19 lockdown, some, like the IFP, the EFF and the FF Plus still managed to grow their share of the vote.

New kid on the block ActionSA, which has existed for a longer time under lockdown than it has outside, even managed to get enough seats in some of the metros it contested to become key players in the coalition talks. 

Mbeki in his letter recommends some introspection, and his quotes from party documents seem to suggest that nothing from the era of former president Jacob Zuma holds sway anymore. It could also be that he one day accidentally recycled everything written from 2007 to just before the 2017 Nasrec conference. 

“It is obvious that if nothing changes with regard to the conditions and factors which helped to produce this outcome, and certainly if matters get worse, this will certainly lead to a strategic defeat of the progressive movement and a historic victory for the right-wing,” he wrote. 

It is not clear whether by right-wing he means the DA and the FF Plus or the populism of the EFF, or perhaps both, but further down in the letter he refers to the “alert” sounded in the 1997 version of the party’s Strategy and Tactics document, which talks about “counter-revolution”. 

He quotes from the document as follows: “The networks used by the regime, especially in its ‘dirty war’ both within and outside South Africa remained intact, either burrowed within the state machinery, or concealed in front companies and other private enterprises.” 

The objective of “these counter-revolutionary forces is to disorganise, weaken and destroy the ANC, the vanguard of the NDR [National Democratic Revolution], both from within and from outside its ranks.

“Uppermost in the immediate objectives of these counter-revolutionary forces is to disorganise, weaken and destroy the ANC, the vanguard of the NDR, both from within and from outside its ranks. It is in the interest of these elements that the masses of the people should be left leaderless and rudderless, and thus open to manipulation against their own interests.” 

This is perhaps one way of interpreting EFF leader Julius Malema’s words at the party’s press conference on Thursday: “We are here to bury the ANC.” 

The EFF and ActionSA resolved to vote in support of DA mayors in a number of metros with the sole aim of ousting the ANC, which saw its support drop to under 50% in most of the biggest metros. 

Mbeki, who during the ANC’s elections campaign said the party was “too big to fail”, identified “Four (4) Urgent Tasks” in his letter, namely:

  • The renewal of the ANC;
  • Social compacts;
  • Ensuring a “truly capable developmental state”; and
  • Implementing election promises.

The renewal of the ANC includes making good on where the ANC has lost touch or where there is factionalism and corruption. 

On this, Mbeki quotes the Communist Party of China saying: “The quality of its members is the core element for the Party’s long-term development. If those who neither perform the member’s duties nor qualify [for] the member criteria are not timely eliminated from the Party, the overall impression of the people about the Party will be damaged.” 

Mokonyane, in the briefing, touched on a similar aspect when she said the party would not only look at rebuilding itself, “but will also look at the character of the members of the ANC” and at cadre development.

Mbeki wrote that the party’s Veterans’ League had offered to help the National Executive Committee with the task of renewal. “It is perhaps time to take up this offer if it is still in place,” he wrote. 

With regards to his admonitions on election promises, there was perhaps one small irony from the man who, as president, at times appeared to have been in denial about the growing crime problem in the country. 

He said: “One of our commitments in all our manifestos is seriously to fight crime and therefore radically improve the safety and security of all our citizens. This must be done!” 

Mbeki also urged that the ANC “constitute the necessary municipal governments as quickly as possible” to focus on its historic mission of bringing about transformation in society. 

“The ANC has never existed for itself or simply to perpetuate its own existence,” he wrote. “This means that during the democratic era it cannot be that it exists merely to access power and remain in power.” 

Mbalula, however, has only one focus. Referring to the upcoming general elections, he said: “2024 we must win.” He promised that the party would look at challenges without playing a blame game. 

It would do a “thorough review” on the polls based on an elections report that was submitted to the NEC. There were many external factors that contributed to the ANC’s poor performance, such as the fact that the elections were on a Monday and not a Wednesday as usual, but, ultimately, Mbalula said “we must blame ourselves”. DM


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All Comments 25

  • He continued: “I would like to believe that all of us in the ANC have fully taken on board the hard and incontestable truth that we carry much of the blame
    WOW!!! Takes a genius to work that incontestable truth in only twenty something years. Brilliant, the world truly applauds your powers of deduction.

  • Mbeki, every time you open your mouth, you contradict what you’ve said before. Yesterday: “The ANC is too big to fail”. Today: “Right wing forces are to blame, although we carry much of the blame”.
    Was watching/listening to the press conference held by Mbalula and Mokonyane (yes, she’s still not in jail) yesterday on YouTube and carried by the SABC. It lasted for almost 2 hours. Never have I heard so much drivel, rubbish by ANC leaders (are they?). What made it worse, were the pathetic questions by members of the press. Can remember three of them (one each from Sunday Times, SABC, and Newzroom Africa). At one stage Mbalula became so emotional I thought he was going to cry. They, the right wing sources, is to blame. Malema, the DA, IFP, ActionSA, are all ganging up against us, when we only wanted to be friends. But we are still the strongest, the best, the most trusted, the most honest….by and large, this glorous movement will still rule till “Jesus Comes”. Dear Lord, please send your son ASAP, as Sodom and Gomorrah is encroaching on us, yet again.

    • Given that “progress” has been backwards and accelerating, I for one look forward to the reversal.

      Your ANC has taken a country with so much potential for everyone and done your best to destroy it for the very people you claim to represent.

      Shame on all you greedy, arrogant, incompetent looters.

  • Introspection? No, action! Get rid of the crooks in the ANC. News flash: the ANC does exist “merely to access power and remain in power.” And there’s no “merely” to it. Mbeki should leave the ANC – that would show more integrity. He could explain his denial and refusal to tackle corruption in his time, and take some responsibility for the mess we are in!

  • Conclusion: The ANC is ideologically obsolete, unrepentant, and crooked, and is thus nothing but a burden upon the citizens of South Africa.

  • “People would sit in an RDP house and say, ‘We don’t vote for the ANC because they are stealing,’” he said. What a pathetic statement – these houses are firstly paid for by the taxpayer not the ANC and secondly millions of more houses could have been built if the ANC hadn’t stolen the trillions that is has done since JZ came into power.

      • It started with the signing of the arms deal, which if I remember correctly, was during the Mbeki era, when a host of his comrades (many having ‘distanced’ themselves since) tried to convince us it was in the ‘interest’ of the country … and not the ruling party and its cadres !

    • Correction : people sit in their RDP houses with their free water free electricity free health free universities and state welfare grants and still they are not grateful enough to vote for the ANC.

      What more is needed?


  • What rubbish you sprout Mr Mbeki. It is not only the right (the miniscule Freedom Plus Front) but the centre (the Democratic Alliance amongst others) and worst of all the extreme left (the Economic Freedom Fighters) that have reduced the percentage of votes the African National Congress gained in the recent local government elections.

    It was on your watch that Aids denial was most prominent, with that appalling Health Minister (who has since mercifully passed away). It was on your watch that the Scorpions were disbanded, which enabled the unbridled looting of Eskom, Transnet, the SABC and the Post Office, to name but a few.

    Admit it; the reason the ANC’s percentage of the vote dropped in these elections was because incompotent members of your party (cadres if you wish) were employed to do jobs about which they had not an inkling. And who instead voted for themselves exorbitant salaries, far above what they are worth. Thus using (stealing) money which should have been used to provide housing, roads, electricity and water reticulation and sewage for the poor and needy.

    In short you were a bitter disappointment as president of South Africa, not as bad as Zuma, but not on a par with Mandela and Motlanthe, or even Ramaphosa, for all his dithering.

  • Where is the point about the rampant looting? Problems about enormous corruption on municipal levels have been known for two decades by now. Eskom’s entrenched corruption is another example. The patronage networks driving assassinations within the ANC is yet another. The entire Zuma presidency should have been the final straw in this discussion. The ANC couldn’t even stop looting of pandemic funds.

    It seems to me that the ANC cannot admit its biggest problem: that it has been hijacked by criminality. And criminals don’t care about ideology or delivery, Mr Mbeki. Until the ANC admits this to itself, it will remain a lost cause.

  • Until the ANC tackles it’s corruption it has taken nothing “on board”. The epicentre of ANC corruption is the illegal practice of Cadre Deployment. South Africans are sick of ANC corruption, Thabo. It’s such a waste of our future.

  • As if, at this late stage, the talking and the warnings will stop the rot consuming the ANC!What is needed is action, get rid of the corrupt and incompetent cadres, change outdated policies , punish the criminals , including “the known instigators” of the disgraceful July insurrection etc etc etc. Action , not words! Will this happen? Don’t hold your breath!

  • ‘Ensuring a “truly capable developmental state”’

    You have to be joking Thabo?

    In 27 years the ANC has appointed the most incapable, incompetent, corrupt, venal and useless cadres to almost every position available in government and SOE’s.

    Why would anything change now ?

    Ramaphosa, was a few months back, pleading with the Zondo commission not to publish adverse findings regarding ‘cadre deployment’. This after years of evidence being presented to the same commission that ‘cadre deployment’ was the main reason for State Capture looting project.

  • “Mokonyane, in the briefing, touched on a similar aspect when she said the party would not only look at rebuilding itself, “but will also look at the character of the members of the ANC” and at cadre development”. Presumably she is an example of the “character of its members”. .

  • As one of your commentators said, Mbeki should disappear into the sunset …. for his intellectual arrogance in denying the science on Aids (causing thousands of premature deaths) and his ethical bankruptcy (for not apologising – let alone take responsibility). Regarding the reference to the Veterans League’s offer to assist…he should note the only ‘veterans’ with any semblance of ethics and intellect capable of providing useful direction, are now six feet under ! Whatever remains of it, including himself, must be the dregs … trying desperately to be relevant ! The greatest tragedy is that the components that still pretend to be ‘responsible’ are the worst part of the dregs, but simply refuse to get into orange overalls.

  • The veterans! Half the ANC problem is that it is still run by the old leaders from all the old alliance partners on an impossible to maintain basis of Consensus. Old communists, old trade unionists, old ANC exile people, old UDF people.

    Consensus among corrupt incompetent cadres = what could possibly go wrong

  • It was said that when Mbeki was president he was paranoid about all kinds of imaginary forces against him. Can check with Ace on this one. It seems nothing has changed. He also forgets that he should have been jailed for mass genocide under his watch by refusing to admit that HIV caused AIDS and preventing the roll out of ARVS. He is paranoid , delusional and a along with Ramaposa a condescending arrogant very rich outcast from the real world . Not one president after Mandela has ever admitted any responsibility for the corruption , incompetence and cadre system of the ANC. The real joke is that he has a 4 point plan which we all know the ANC would be incapable of implementing. May you be joined with the hundreds of thousands who died from AIDS under your watch. They are waiting for you ! “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not waiting for

  • Nomvula Mokonyane, she of “Money down the Drain, Corruption in South Africa’s water sector” fame.
    the report by authored and researched by Mike Muller and sponsored by Water Integrity Network and Corruption Watch still has not seen the light of day in Parliament or in any official prosecuting authority. she screwed up the Dept of Water & Sanitation and yet she still shouts the odds. small wonder we sit in a country run by incompetents and pay them.

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