NEC CLOSING SPEECH
ANC’s house divided a threat to SA democracy – Ramaphosa slams regression of ethical and moral leadership
Ramaphosa’s staunch supporters are believed to have tried to exert some pressure on him to act against Sisulu with urgency.
President Cyril Ramaphosa faces pressure to act against Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for their to-and-fro over her diatribe against the judiciary last week.
The exchange came in the middle of the party’s two-day National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, which was followed by a lekgotla over the weekend.
Ramaphosa’s staunch supporters are believed to have tried to exert some pressure on him to act against Sisulu with urgency. Some have even expressed wishes of seeing a Cabinet reshuffle before the State of the Nation Address, in about three weeks.
The last time there were rumours of imminent changes, it took almost a year before these were confirmed. Ramaphosa did, however, use his closing speech at the four-day meeting to reaffirm the ANC’s support for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the judiciary, and he distanced the party “from narratives that seek to negate this”.
In this way he created distance between the party and Sisulu’s criticism against black judges and the Constitution, reminding the meeting that labour federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, both ANC allies, supported the ANC’s view.
Cosatu President Zingiswa Losi has, for instance, made it clear that Cosatu didn’t like what Sisulu said.
According to her written speech, and without referring to Sisulu by name, Losi said: “We are now subject to persons who swore an oath to defend the Constitution, running to the media to rubbish the very Constitution this movement of Madiba drafted.
“It is unacceptable and unbecoming for senior leaders and Cabinet members to attack the Constitution. The failure of the ANC to discipline deployees is feeding a culture of mediocrity.”
Ramaphosa again reiterated that it’s the party’s position to support the findings of the State Capture Commission led by acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and said an NEC task team had been established to guide the ANC’s response to the report.
News24 reported that the members of this task team will be Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, former minister Jeff Radebe and NEC members Joel Netshithenzhe and Lindiwe Maseko.
At the end of the written address, Ramaphosa added a few of his own sentences in which he implied that he thinks there are party leaders who are not worthy successors to those who came before. It could well have been aimed at Sisulu, whose parents devoted their lives to working for the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. Sisulu and a number of her family members, too, are deeply embedded in the party.
Speaking about the rebuilding of the party and echoing his own words at the January 8 rally where he emphasised democratic centralism, Ramaphosa said the ANC should “become a movement where discipline becomes the order of the day”.
He continued: “We will not deviate from our dedication as a movement, as leaders, as members, to strive at all times to be servants of the people.”
The script ends, but Ramaphosa continued:
“This is a legacy that was bequeathed to us over generations, counting 110 years. Those who have come before us, have been steadfast in serving the people of South Africa. We who are inheritors of this movement must follow in their footsteps, and we must do as they did to serve the interests of the people, and not to serve our own interests, particularly ourselves as leaders of the ANC and the broader congress movement.”
At one point during the address, Ramaphosa remarked:
“Divisions and factions in the ANC themselves are becoming a threat to our democracy.”
Although it’s Ramaphosa’s duty as the party’s leader to warn of “divisions and factions”, incumbents with second-term ambitions are not entirely impartial and have used such warnings in the past to cast aspersions on any possible future challengers.
Ramaphosa’s lobbyists themselves have been accused of stoking divisions after leaders in Limpopo, before the party’s January 8 rally, declared that they want to see him in office for a second term. This is because the ANC itself — even after almost 28 years as a party in government and no longer underground — is still coy about early and open campaigning for presidential positions.
Although there is talk of reviewing the party’s rules on this, it’s likely that the final word will be with its conference delegates in December — too late for this round of leadership elections.
In his written speech, Ramaphosa said that the party’s lekgotla “recognised our movement is going through a period of decay and degeneration”, but gave a glimmer of hope by saying, “The ANC has been able to extricate itself from similar situations in the past.”
He didn’t proffer any examples of this and fell back into ANC-speak by saying: “It’s important not to lower our guard against counter-revolution.” He defines this as the leftovers of State Capture, an era that saw “the loss of moral and ethical principles within the congress movement”.
Ramaphosa warned that state security institutions are being “weakened, misdirected and hollowed out” as a result, which posed a threat to South Africa’s democracy.
He said that the ANC’s “credibility and legitimacy are being undermined by our inability to act” against the “regression of ethical and moral leadership”.
News24 reported that there was a heated debate at the party’s NEC meeting on Friday about disbanding the party’s National Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mildred Oliphant, for failing to act against the likes of Sisulu. Oliphant, with National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal chairperson Nomvula Mokonyane, have had allegations of wrongdoing levelled against them at the State Capture inquiry.
Ramaphosa called for introspection. “As the ANC, we should analyse and assess threats caused by others and threats caused by our own acts of omission and commission.”
In terms of discipline, it’s not quite clear what the party’s to-do list looks like — a briefing to communicate party decisions is expected in the next day or two. A government lekgotla is also set to follow during which the priorities for Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address will be workshopped. DM