ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
Mbalula accepts Mbeki’s ‘constructive criticism’ but insists ANC is focused on organisational renewal
Following criticism from former president Thabo Mbeki, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said the party was paving a path to renewal, which is essential ahead of next year’s general elections.
Speaking on the first day of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said the party embraced former president Thabo Mbeki’s criticism of it, even though his comments were made “in the midst of our enemies”.
Mbeki recently suggested the ANC had failed to act on resolutions made at its 2017 and 2022 conferences that committed the party to organisational renewal.
On Saturday, Mbalula insisted that the party was working towards ensuring that organisational renewal was achieved, even if it was yet to meet some of its commitments.
“It is not up to us when elders make comments and criticise us. President Mbeki is a veteran of the party and a stalwart, and [is] decorated. When you see him, you see the ANC itself. The issues he raises about renewal, we are addressing it. We have appointed a renewal committee and we are no longer at the conceptual level.
“His views about renewal could be justified, given the pace and where the organisation is at and if you are an organisation which has elders like him you do not argue with them, you embrace what he says as a constructive criticism,” Mbalula said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC’s internal renewal campaign may leave Ramaphosa sitting pretty
Mbalula said the party was looking to make changes to the terms of reference for its Integrity Commission, which is led by Frank Chikane.
“We have taken steps as a party; there is no other party that has done what the ANC has done. You know of the step-aside [ruling]. It is as a result of renewal that we tightened these measures.
“There have been issues about the Integrity Commission’s functioning and interventions and as the new NEC we have taken strides and we are rectifying these issues. That is why we have taken the decision that we are going to finalise the terms of reference of the recommendations of the NEC,” he said.
The party formed a renewal commission last year which is tasked with developing a roadmap for the party towards its 120th anniversary in 2032.
Mbeki has in recent times been vocal about the decline of the governing party. On Thursday, 12 October, at the memorial service for Struggle stalwart Aziz Pahad, Mbeki raised concerns about the party’s failure to arrest its decline and lashed out at the party for the slow pace of its renewal project.
Mbeki said that instead of political currency a different trend was shaping South Africa over the medium term.
“This is the receding power of the state. Its loss of authority and credibility, its inability to translate plans into action, growing disconnects between the ruling elites and those they govern. This process will play out over a period of years, but it is already well under way, and I think this assessment is correct.
“What this will lead to in the end is that you will have capital and civil society running the country, and the democratic state will have disappeared. For the democratic state to disappear means that the overwhelming majority of our people, the poor, lose hope because capital and the civil society will not help them.” DM
UPDATE: In his closing remarks at the three-day NEC meeting, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the measures the party has taken to further its renewal programme. He highlighted that it is not a “one-day event” but a continuous process.
He said the party has mechanisms in place to ensure that there is progress, but it is not always guaranteed they will be successful.
“All these developments, and many other initiatives we have embarked upon in our organisation, are proof that the process of renewal and unity is firmly under way and, as we have said before, is irrevocable and irreversible.
“There will be times when we take five steps forward and three steps back, but our commitment to renewal is unwavering. We must keep at it and reposition our organisation,” he said.
He reiterated the party’s keen interest and determination on the part of the NEC to ensure that the renewal of the ANC succeeds during his term in office.
“The Veterans’ League remains at the forefront of the renewal of the ANC, and building and strengthening our movement. We are, therefore, looking forward to working with the new leadership of the Veterans’ League to develop and enhance programmes to take our movement into the future, whilst maintaining organisational ethos, culture and traditions.
“The appointment of veterans to lead the Integrity Commission and disciplinary process is part of engendering discipline and integrity back in the organisation. The veterans are also working closely with the political education team to revive political education and cadre development in the movement,” he said. DM
This article was updated on 16 October 2023 at 9.47pm to reflect ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments.