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…
“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.
“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.”
President Thabo Mbeki, “There is no national plan to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality. It doesn’t exist…”
— Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) July 21, 2022
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