First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Thabo Mbeki slams ANC for failing on unemployment, pove...

South Africa

RULING PARTY CRISIS

South Africa risks its own Arab Spring thanks to ANC’s failures, warns Thabo Mbeki

Illustrative image // Former president Thabo Mbeki (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Alet Pretorius) | Tunisian protesters carry flares and shout slogans during celebrations in central Tunis on January 14, 2018, marking the seventh anniversary since the uprising that ousted ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and launched the Arab Spring. (Photo: Anis MILI / AFP) | A portrait photo of Jessie Duarte on display at the memorial service for the ANC deputy secretary-general at he Johannesburg City Hall on 21 July 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | An ANC banner at the service. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The former president honoured fallen anti-apartheid hero Jessie Duarte by pointing out the flaws in the ruling party. Speaking at Duarte’s memorial service on Thursday, he said the ANC’s leadership had failed to renew the party and provide basic services to citizens.

Former president Thabo Mbeki did not mince his words in a speech at the memorial service for ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, saying the party had failed to effectively deal with  issues around its renewal, as well as unemployment, poverty and inequality, which continue to haunt the country. 

In true Duarte style, the former ANC president used his speech at the Johannesburg City Hall to highlight the alarming lawlessness in the country and urged serious action to stop it. 

“Comrade Jessie would have understood a number of things, that as a revolutionary, we really exist to serve the people – that justifies our existence. To serve the people with no expectation of a reward to these revolutionaries except for the reward of fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Another lesson she would have learned, as a revolutionary, was to respect the truth. So, today we pay this tribute to a revolutionary…

Former president Thabo Mbeki at the memorial service for ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte at the Johannesburg City Hall on 21 July 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

“Now I am quite certain that many of us today and other days have made the statement that we need to honour the legacy of this revolutionary Jessie Duarte and indeed, long live the spirit of Jessie duarte,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Thabo Mbeki: Reinvented, but not forgotten 

Citing how poorly ANC-led municipalities had fared according to a report by Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke, Mbeki said local government is one of the areas the governing party has to look into and correct.

“In terms of our commitment to serve people, we have to address those issues. The fact of the matter is, comrades, as I am standing here we do not have an agreed national plan to address these challenges. Comrade President Cyril Ramaphosa, when he addressed the state of the nation in February, that is where he said that in 100 days there must be a comprehensive social compact to address these matters. Nothing has happened. 

“I am saying, to honour the legacy of comrade Jessie, we got to do something about that. We must address local government. All of the reports from the Auditor-General come out and point a finger at the councils which are led by the ANC, that level of government which is directly in contact with the people every day. What message are we communicating to these masses?”

Mbeki used Mangaung as an example of a municipal government that has been paralysed by constant bickering between ANC members. The ANC-led municipality is one of 15 in the Free State that owed Eskom R16-billion as at the end of February 2022. It has been downgraded to junk status twice by ratings agency Moody’s.

Mangaung has been rocked by violent protests, which led to two of its rubbish-removal trucks being torched, while sewage spills have been so severe that the EFF lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission against the municipality for infringing on the human rights of its residents.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Levels of financial stress – The best and worst municipal performers in KwaZulu-Natal

“I think part of the crisis in terms of the local government is illustrated by what is happening in Mangaung, paralysed until the government does something. I think we can all see the growth of lawlessness in our society, every day we see all of these terrible crimes committed. The other day – was it yesterday? – people coming with guns to a supermarket in Benoni in broad daylight. What are we doing about that?” Mbeki said.

Another Arab Spring?

While the party had made a commitment to renew itself, little has been done about it, he said. He worried that South Africa’s problems, and a lack of solutions, could lead to its own Arab Spring.

Mbeki, who was called in to help the Free State ANC start its renewal process, has been an advocate for some elements of the Communist Party’s renewal, including a two-year waiting period before individual membership is accepted. 

Jessie Duarte ‘would have understood a number of things, that as a revolutionary, we really exist to serve the people – that justifies our existence’, Thabo Mbeki said at the memorial service at the Johannesburg City Hall on 21 July 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

“In the last ANC conference in December 2017, we took an important decision and that decision said that the ANC must renew itself and I said for its own survival, if the ANC does not renew itself it will perish – this is four and a half years later,” he said. 

“The national policy conference of the ANC is meeting in a week’s time and on that agenda one of the matters is renewal of the ANC. A very, very straightforward matter. One of the matters we are meeting to discuss is the renewal of the ANC. It is a challenging task, a challenging job because even in the 49th conference, it was in December 1994, even comrades at the conference were saying, we have begun to inherit people who are not ANC. Renewal is going to mean, among other things, ridding ourselves of these people who joined the movement to enrich themselves.”

The outspoken Duarte died on Sunday morning after a long struggle with cancer. She was buried on the same day according to her Islamic faith. 

On Sunday, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe described Duarte as a dedicated cadre of the movement:

“She was both a tower of strength to the organisation, as well as a matriarch and pillar of her family. The passing of comrade Jessie is a great loss, not only to the family, but to the democratic movement and the country as a whole. As a committed internationalist and former diplomat, not only will she be mourned by South Africa, but by colleagues and comrades on the African continent and in the international progressive movement.” DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 21

  • The country is sliding into dysfunction and lawlessness, but the ANC’s biggest sin is not having a plan? There has been no shortage of plans Mr Mbeki, the problem is having incompetent, dishonest and criminal individuals in every sphere of government. Our country is both a kleptocracy and kakistocracy, thanks to the ANC, with Duarte right there at the top during the Zuma-years while her family benefited at the trough. Your denail is astounding, but I suspect par for the course in the circles where you still wallow in the ANC’s ailing struggle rhetoric.

  • Comrade Jessie and the revolutionaries who exist to serve? What planet is Mbeki on? I remember now, Planet African Renaissance where HIV/AIDS don’t exist. This collective amnesia about the corruption that started in the 90s has to be called out. Why doesn’t Mbeki take responsibility for the failures that started under his watch. Jessie Duarte’s integrity was called into question when she lied about who was driving her car when it was involved in an accident. All the useless cadres who were deployed and protected by him: any criticism was racism and part of some plot to undermine the Aftican identity. Now, he has a lot to say?

  • Without electoral reform, where we mostly vote for parities as opposed to candidates who can be held accountable, I doubt if this mess will ever get fixed. The ANC and other political parties will just carry on with internal factional conflicts amongst their un-elected members about appointments in local government

  • No doubt he will still vote for the ANC. In the bigger picture he is part of the problem. I don’t think he actually understands democracy. Its Stockholm syndrome. It is a syndrome most South Africans have.

    • That is so true.
      In his mind, the democracy is what few corrupt politicians decide, being brought to power by ignorant millions.

  • This is probably the most sensible thing Mbeki has said in his entire life (about an Arab Spring, not Duarte). And yet I am still gravely suspicious of him since he has himself contributed in no small way to furthering the ANC’s culture as the natural home of liars, cheats, thieves, and assorted other lowlife miscreants.

  • In spite of the critical stance Mbeki takes in this address, he fails to acknowledge that the fight for survival, or the so-called “renewal” of the ANC is actually undermining South Africa’s fight for survival as a nation.
    And isn’t it just so convenient to blame corruption, the lack of service delivery and the pursuit of self interest and enrichment, on those “non members” who have joined the ANC? Haven’t Jacob Zuma and many other corrupt cadres been lifetime members of the ANC? Wasn’t the arms deal made on Mbeki’s watch – one of the first large, corrupt transactions the ANC concluded to serve the ANC’s interests at the expense of all South Africans?
    And how is it that in all this time no prominent ANC member has been convicted of corruption and served any real time in jail?
    “ANC renewal” is a euphemism for the party granting itself a clean slate, without any accountability.

  • It’s convenient to blame Ramaphosa for dithering while SA burns, but let’s forget that it was Mbeki that created the Zuma Frankenstein that is Ramaphosa’s Nemesis. (Hmm, how the hell did I get all those characters into one sentence? Courtesy ANC)

  • The saddest aspect of all, for me, is how we’re all trapped in angry rhetoric and blame – and what is even worse is that it is justified. That does not mean it is helpful. It is almost impossible to see solutions in this mess. Clearing the rot can be the only meaningful start, and that, on a very literal level, means the ANC in its entirety has to go. The contamination is throughout. Let them point fingers at each other in the wilderness of their own making while the rest of the country begins to clear their mess.

  • There is only one way to change the downward trajectory of South Africa. That is to change the government to one with a free liberal democratic policy. No number of tiny parties will do much good either, even if they sound ok, just do not have what it takes. Best bet is a party that has a record of good governance and record of good delivery. There is only one like that in SA, the Democratic Alliance.

    • Yes, only the DA has the organisational capacity and discipline to administer a country, irrespective of their policies. But they will not wield the levers of power, not in the next generation or 2. The ANC as a whole will not simply be voted out, they will conveniently form a band of thieves with a number of smaller parties and continue the looting, while the death spiral of the society as a whole accelerates.

  • The African has borne the greatest burden and endured the brunt of it all. Reduced to servitude and slavery in colonial times. Elevated into abject poverty in the post colonial period. We console ourselves by seeing some of those who look like us holding influential positions of power and privilege in government and business and wallowing in wealth while we standby in perpetual admiration. The bottom line is that the feeling is better than during Apartheid and those who feel otherwise must have enjoyed Apartheid and colonialism.

  • Same p03p0l that said HIV doesn’t cause AIDS! They are all as delusional and incompetent as each other. He is right about the potential for more violence… but doesn’t take a genius to see that.

  • Strange how death seems to delete fact. Duarte and Mbeki are as much part of the horrific disfunction we are exposed to as all of the rest of the cANCer.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted