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Mavuso Msimang reached a critical tipping point with the ANC — will the voters follow?

Mavuso Msimang reached a critical tipping point with the ANC — will the voters follow?
Illustrative image | Mavuso Msimang (Photos: ANC logo | Rawpixel | Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)

The decision by the veteran ANC leader Mavuso Msimang to formally resign from the movement he belonged to for over 60 years has the potential to seriously damage the governing party, because of his own track record, the state of the party, and growing public perceptions that it is inherently corrupt. The timing of this announcement, as our politics is in a state of flux, could also be of significance.

There can be no doubt of the anger and despair currently felt by Msimang. In a radio interview in the hours after his resignation letter became public (leaked by Luthuli House, apparently), he said he was relieved it was a radio discussion, because if people could see him, he would be embarrassed.

It was a testament to the emotion he was feeling over this decision.

And it is easy to understand why. He joined the ANC during the Struggle, back in the 1960s. The party has literally shaped his entire life. And he has sometimes shaped the ANC.

In 2014 he spoke with authority about events he was involved in in the party back in 1969.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Chris Hani and the Arms Deal bombshell: A death that still hangs over us

While some talk of the ANC’s Magoro Conference almost in mythical terms, he was a real role-player.

And, famously during the Zuma years, he was the one ANC member who was prepared to publicly criticise the party that he was still loyal to. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC veteran of 60 years Mavuso Msimang ‘painfully’ severs ties, tenders devastating resignation

Even after his resignation, speaking in Welkom in the Free State, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Msimang was “someone who I continue to hold in the highest regard”.

Now, the veteran whom Ramaphosa still holds in the “highest regard” has said in his resignation letter that “the corruption we once decried is now part of our movement’s DNA”.

Perhaps worse than that, he puts the blame for almost all of the problems in our society, from corruption through to mismanagement and our social problems, squarely at the foot of the ANC.

This could further legitimise the criticism expressed so strongly by many important people of South Africa. People still deciding whether to support the ANC again may see Msimang’s example as one to follow, and themselves walk away from the party, too.

The critics will see his statements as a confirmation they were right all along, and allow them to repeat their claims without having to worry about being painted as simply “anti-ANC”, or worse.

However, the real power of his letter may be what appears to have been the tipping point for Msimang.

He points out that his own former structure in the party, the Veterans League, had passed a resolution that the ANC’s leadership should ensure that no one accused of criminality should be allowed to continue in office. This is particularly about the Zondo Commission, which made findings against a large number of ANC members and leaders.

As he notes: 

“The Veterans league specifically recommended that such individuals be considered ineligible for nomination to represent the ANC in the 2024 national and provincial elections. Unfortunately, the ANC NEC has shown no urgency to deal with this matter”.

Msimang is putting his finger straight on the spot that is probably the most important dynamic of the moment. As has been noted on these pages many times, he is entirely correct.

The ANC NEC has declared that those implicated by the Zondo Commission must refer themselves to the Integrity Commission. And yet, as many as 95 of them have refused to do this.

Last year, the chair of the party’s Integrity Commission at the time, George Mashamba, claimed that this was not a problem. During an interview with Newzroom Afrika he left an unfortunate impression that the party was less than determined to act against these people.

Since then, Frank Chikane has taken over as Chair of the Integrity Commission and promised stronger action.

Msimang and others are still waiting.

Key to this dynamic is the fact that it is the ANC NEC who has to decide what to do with those who have failed to heed its own instruction.

And the NEC includes people like Zweli Mkhize (Digital Vibes), the liar Malusi Gigaba (described by the Zondo Commission as a “Gupta Minister”) and a woman beater in a parking lot, Mduduzi Manana.

They are never going to vote for action to be taken against themselves.

By resigning now, Msimang may well have reminded voters what is at stake. As he himself said in that interview, the party is surely going to suffer in the elections by nominating these people to positions in Parliament.

The ANC’s response shows that it possibly fails to understand the scale of the problem.

Despite the obvious fact the ANC is not acting against those implicated in corruption; the party’s spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri says the party is determined to fulfill its conference resolutions around discipline. And she says, “There is sufficient evidence of the strides that are made”.

What evidence?

Ninety-five ANC members (95!) have failed to heed the NEC instruction and report to the Integrity Committee. And nothing has happened to them.

While Bhengu-Motsiri may believe “there is sufficient evidence of the strides being made”, voters may ask what more evidence do they need that the ANC cannot act on corruption?

Meanwhile, the timing of Msimang’s resignation may give this added power.

At the moment, our politics appears to be in a state of flux, where players and leaders do not know which direction to go in.

The attempts by the opposition to form a coalition, or Multi-Party Charter, the new players like Rise Mzanzi, the introduction of independent candidates, and the possible entry of individuals like Roger Jardine all suggest that major changes could be on the horizon.

Even in the ANC, there is evidence of titanic struggles, with some structures disobeying the national leadership. The fact the Gauteng ANC is still in coalitions with the EFF despite NEC decisions they should stop show how little control there is over events within the governing party.

All of this suggests there could be a lot more movement in our politics in the next few months. The main reason for this is that the ANC is no longer the only party to belong to by default, as there are now other routes to power.

Msimang’s resignation may well be a part of this longer process, a spark that started the fire. And he will not be the last to leave their political home, even if it is where they have lived for over 60 years. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Frank Fettig says:

    Sounds too good to be believed. But hasn’t it so many times before? Will the electorate wake up from their incomprehensible slumber?
    Why did it take so long in the first place?
    Good luck, SA!!

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Resigning from the ANC doesn’t make you a beacon of morality any more than resigning from the Nats in the 80’s would have. Being a member for the last 20 plus years of non stop pillaging by the organization says all you need to know. Too little too late and the fawning over him is unseemly.

    • brett marshall says:

      Good point, Mike. Bit like Ramaposa decrying the wasted years and the corruption during Zuma presidency whilst he was 2IC at the time.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      @MAM your – wilful? – lack of insight into the powerful – and obvious – forces that would have shaped the DNA of Mr Mr Msimang and other honorable ANC veterans paint you clearly as privileged – and objectively poisoned.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        I don’t need insight into the mythology of the ‘glorious ANC’. I have the reality of what they have done to the country for the last 20 years at least to refer to. You are welcome to make weak excuses for the people that have held high office in it if that makes you feel better. Oh and “honourable ANC” is an oxymoron but I think you knew that already.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          Maybe as an African having lived under apartheid your perceptions would differ a little. Just maybe.

          • Middle aged Mike says:

            My perceptions wouldn’t change reality any more than yours do. The ANC is exactly what it does and leaving it now just means that you’ve been wrong for a very long time. Most people in South Africa weren’t even born when apartheid had ended and it won’t be very long before the current regime has been in power as long as the last. Might be time to move on.

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    The ANC is a terrible orginazation that has fooled the world .
    In the end it was just a race to get to the keys of the safe , just common thieves .

    The feelings and comments from a stalwart like Mr Msimang are spot on but the bus left a long time ago.

    Vote DA there is no time left.
    Save South Africa

  • Con Tester says:

    Ramaposeur’s public response to Msimang’s resignation was a near-perfect example of a polyptician’s dilatory, mealy-mouthed blather. Still, it served as a timely reminder how much of a gutless, spineless, sackless, feckless, useless grinning marshmallow SA has for a first citizen.

    • Ivan van Heerden says:

      I don’t think you should insult gutless, spineless, sackless, feckless, useless grinning marshmallows by comparing them to the lump of dung and his associated blowflies

  • David Walker says:

    Wow, Msimang has revealed that the ANC is corrupt. Who would’ve thought??!!

    • Just Me says:

      If he had any true moral compass, he would encourage all South African people to votela DA.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      It is easy to see the view when you are at the top of a cliff.

      It is also easy to fall.

      We should as a nation appreciate the dignity and honor, sacrifice and despair that must have brought citizen Msimang finally to this point.

      It is men like him who will ultimately save our country.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Stephen, there were three by-elections in SA yesterday, and the ANC won two of those comfortably. The one in the Western Cape was won – by a stunning margin – by the EFF. There is little evidence in those outcomes that South Africans are tired of corruption, lies, populist fakes or incompetence.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Can anybody actually find one of those old NAT voters now? Not a sign of them! Same will happen with ExANC supporters, in a few years they will just be a bad memory.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Possibly that by-election where the EFF won by a big margin is a sign of what the voters think of the ANC, more than what they think of the EFF.?

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        You won’t find many who admitted voting Nat, but you still find (including on these boards) plenty who resonate with what the Nats stood for (or feared). The EFF win is scary because it suggests that those who have abandoned the ANC – rightfully so – are seeking solace in the lunatic fringes of our politics.

        • Denise Smit says:

          The EFF is promising free electricity, free water, free houses, free land, nationalisation of everything. IT is an undeliverable but will sound attractive to every plain person in the dire state the country is in now

    • paul Volker says:

      Spot on! Voters love corruption and then go on to moan about their miserable lives.

    • District Six says:

      Yes. This is because people vote a certain way for a vast array of reasons. Simply pointing to the Western Cape (with all its intractable social blunders) – as DA acolytes regularly do here – and telling people, “you are too stupid to vote my way” is privileged arrogance.
      Having a vote means people are free to cast it any way they deem necessary. Or not.
      It has nothing to do with people being stupid or uneducated.

      Here’s a tip: instead of telling people, “you are too stupid,” how about meeting people where they are. Listening to them. Which also presupposes not lecturing them about the alleged benefits of colonialism! This means doing the hard work of community engagement. It is far too easy for the DA to moan and groan on the comment sections of the DM than actually doing the work required to change the political narrative.
      And therefore you will remain a 20% party.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        A good upstanding, morally sound and idealistic perspective.

        A simple truth is that we live in a world in which decisions made require education – including voting decisions.

        Education is not optional, and it should be a requirement for voting or any form of government position, just like being 18 is. Yes, it will initially seen unfair to the uneducated, but if we continue as we are things will never improve for them – which will be more so.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        Stupid is as stupid does and refraining from calling it stupid doesn’t stop it from being so. Voting for the ANC within the last 15 years at least is the very definition of stupid unless you see the collapse of the country as somehow positive. The consequences of those stupid voting decisions are quite impossible to ignore and have been for a long time.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    How many others will follow Mavuso Msimang? With the party being for all intents bankrupt, split in all directions and not trusted by anybody, I think the jumpers could be a significant number.

    Where will those bale-outs go to? Some will go to the DA, they will see it as a respectable party with a good chance at winning the election, with their coalition partners. I believe a large number will not vote at all. They will not vote for a criminal party, but won’t have the º¡º to take the big jump to the DA. Some, no doubt, will go to the EFF. That will cause mayhem in that party!

    • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

      If our wish-thinking of people changing from voting ANC will vote AD, the AD must change their leader(s) and speedily so. Having created the multi-party thing might help though……maybe.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    It could well be a powerful development in the road which will advance the demise of the putrid anc – a vile, criminal, parasitic, rapacious, treasonous, hypocritical, useless and all thieving party/government. Whilst Mavuso woke up a little too late, it is nevertheless a very positive and welcome move and lets hope, for all our sakes, that there will be another couple of stalwarts/anc members who will follow suit. The anc is all about corruption, patronage, self interest etc. and it has severely betrayed and given the middle finger to this nation to the point of it being a failed state. They think that they are untouchable, arrogant in the extreme and have a good story to tell. Like hell they do – nothing but poverty, misery, a wasteland left behind whilst they, the elite, the connected and the cadres live the high life with total impunity.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      “the putrid anc – a vile, criminal, parasitic, rapacious, treasonous, hypocritical, useless and all thieving party.”

      Nothing to add, just wanted people to read your words twice!

      • JAMES GOODWIN says:

        I think we need to read it a third time and fourth etc..

        It is not certain what the next government will look like but you can bet the ANC campaign will be designed to coincide with 30 years since “liberation” that of course they gave us. For many it will rub salt in their wounds as we see poverty worse and the near collapse of basic functioning like electricity and a crime rate that needs intervention now. A country cannot develop further if it hampered by unacceptably poor leadership where corruption is a casual pass-time and apathetic complacency is mandatory for government ministers.

        How long into going into political opposition before they self-destruct from the inside-out and the cANCer is diagnosed as terminal. I doubt the survival beyond 1 parliamentary term.

  • Mike Batley Batley says:

    Does the NEC follow basic rules of good governance – all those in the NEC who have been named cannot participate in that decision. It would be interesting to know how many that leaves to make the decision!

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    One can imagine the pain and the weight of the decision that Cde Mavuso Msimang has gone through to arrive at the decision. To actually put pen to paper, as well as the decision must have been the most excruciating moment of his entire life. Those who have never had a relationship with liberation movement have no grasp of the weight of the decision and the pain that goes with it. For over 60 years he lived and breathed the ANC and in his most productive years was in the ANC camps and faced death without knowing whether his family at home would ever find his grave. At that moment the ANC and the struggle for liberation was everything to him,and what made him to survive that burden he carried were the comrades he was with and the higher calling of liberation that burned inside him and carried him daily in life. The 1994 breakthrough was the part fulfilment of his dream and he rolled his sleeves to work as a public servant to use the skills and education the ANC helped him to acquire. He met the ups and downs of governing convinced that the service to his people remained a priority and the ANC was the vehicle to deliver the promised liberation from poverty, unemployment and inequality. When he saw that the ANC was deviating he raised his voice that it was not what he sacrificed for. When Cyril came into power his hopes like the rest of us were raised that the country will be on the right path. Only to realise that these were con people. He chose the most honourable thing to do.

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      “He (Mavuso Msimang) chose the most honourable thing to do.”

      Now now, let’s not overdo it. Apart from a little bit of complaining he stood by the ANC for the last 20 years of looting, lying and dismantling of our democracy step by step. While we can applaud him finally seeing the ANC for what it has been for a long time already (even before Zuma the decay was already set in motion), it really is to little and much to late. Now if he would use his influence and power to actively campaign against the ANC during an election year, that would be an honorable thing to do. But I think we can all agree, never going to happen.

      • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

        The record will show he never stood by. He was the first in the ANC to call for the resignation of Zuma. He led a branch that actually also took a resolution for Jacob Zuma to resign. He was the most vocal of the 101 veterans of the ANC and attended civil society meetings against state capture with the late Kgabisi Mosunkutu. Do not peddle ignorance as we were there as he spoke publicly calling on the ANC NEC to call for a consultative Conference and to relieve Zuma of his position. P;lease do not come out of a hole and talk ignorance.

        • Middle aged Mike says:

          Waffle. All it amounted to was waffle and he kept on paying his subs. Membership of an organised crime network that funds it’s activities from corruption and the theft of state resources is what it is. No amount of revisionist hagiography is going to change the historical accounting that the ANC and all of its members and useful idiots will be subject to.

          • Denise Smit says:

            Msimang has always been brave to call out the ANC if need be. I am from another party but have great respect for him

        • Geoff Coles says:

          I guess…… but at a tortoise pace, inevitably

        • Karl Sittlinger says:

          “Please do not come out of a hole and talk ignorance.”

          You get to have your opinion, I have mine. Let’s leave out the ad hominem attacks pls. I stand by what I wrote: I applaud him for finally understanding what the ANC is, but it’s really to little and to late. He remained an ANC member through years of destruction, lies and theft, no matter how you try and justify it.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      “When Cyril came into power his hopes like the rest of us were raised that the country will be on the right path.”

      Speak for yourself. The people that had their hopes raised were credulous midwits who chose not to trust their lyin’ eyes.

    • Denise Smit says:

      Thumbs up for Msmang, hopefully Dr Chikane , Trevor Manual who are serious about the country will follow

    • André Pelser says:

      The problem with reading your comment is your use of the word “comrade” – it clouds every subsequent word.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Yes Cunningham, you are quite right. BUT, please stop this Comrade crap! It is so old, so stuck in the past, so inappropriate and it means nothing but failure, stupidity of a bygone miserable and poverty-inducing communist era.

  • Henry Coppens says:

    Several things will help the ANC.
    1. In a feudal or tribal system you always vote for the chief. They can do no wrong. There are strong elements of this especially in rural areas.
    2. If you don’t vote ANC you will lose your grants – no matter how much the other parties will protest that this is not case.
    3. If you don’t vote ANC the cadres will lose their jobs. This may be true and happened in the WC. The prime role of the cadres is to ensure the ANC remains in power by serving their ANC masters, and nothing to do with service delivery. In the same way the NHI has nothing to do with providing equitable health care. Many cadres were put there specifically to be corrupt for the benefit of the ANC masters, and of course themselves. In other words the ANC used taxpayers money to buy the support of millions. Solution: don’t pay taxes and boycott companies that do. Dreaming, I suppose so, but hope…..

  • Hilary Morris says:

    A lot of wishful thinking in this article. I think (and maybe incorrectly), that Msimang’s resignation has more symbolic than real value. Sadly there are so few honourable people left in the ANC that two consequences are inevitable. The first is that regardless of their crimes, the bad guys will continue to be nominated, in part because there are too few good guys. The second is that because the baddies are so entrenched in positions of power, they are not about to get rid of their comrades. And I agree with the comment regarding the outdated, inappropriate use of the word. Another one, incorrectly used and irritating beyond belief is cadres. It is not a singular, nor does it refer to any individual – but hey! Who gives a damn, certainly neither the comrades or cadres. I guess we should be grateful that it’s only the EFF that has a mandatory dress code! Hard to define how comrades / cadres should dress. (Sorry, early signs of mind-boggling).

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Of course, Ramaphosa himself is an ANC veteran, at his age, as will the likes of Mantashe, Pandor, Mrs Zuma and a whole raft of the current Cabinet,…..and yet life continues.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    No the voters will not follow.

    Mavuo is part of a shrinking handful of the remaining honourable and educated ANC elders who imagined and spearheaded the party a long LOOONG ago.

    The ANC of today is populated by a total different political animal, one who is only focused on self enrichment.

    As sweet as this old guy probably is, and as much as he most likely did good work many MANY decades ago, the ANC now doesn’t care about anything beyond their next tender.

    When the ANC were willing to wheel out a sickly Mandela and parade him to try and glean a few more votes, I realised that the soul of the ANC was dead, putrid, rotten, festering.

    There was a time where certain of the old school imagined that the ANC was something more than a terrorist organisation and that it had the intellectual capital and drive to save South Africa.

    Now we all know the truth.

    The ANC will go down in history as one of the most corrupt, self destructive and utterly useless organisations in human history.

    I feel for this poor gentlemen, but the thing he was trying to hold onto was already dead and buried over a quarter of a century ago.

  • Ingrid Kemp says:

    I actually admire a man who realises he was wrong and has the courage to leave the ANC. Better late than never.

  • Patrick Veermeer says:

    Good for him. For some the gesture may be too little, too late. But I think the timing is good. And the message is unambiguous. He’s a heavyweight member and it will surely influence other members who are disillusioned. I often wonder how Derek Hanekom, Trevor Manuel, Barbara Creecy, Frank Chikane, Patricia de Lille and Barbara Hogan etc live with themselves. The lustre of a once defensible liberation movement has long since transmogrified into a grotesque mafia. Where is their moral fibre to do the same as Mavuso Msimang? If they renounced the corrupt ANC and aligned themselves with a broader opposition alliance, in the way that the UDM did, we may yet be able to salvage something out of this f***ing mess. What did we do to deserve this?

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    The problem is that the mass of voters are not aware of developments such as this. How do you rectify this problem in an environment of “disinformation” and “misinformation”?

  • maphongwanen says:

    It was coming by a long shot l have been saying it the ANC cannot be renewed.Msimang is correct corruption is part of the ANC DNA and it is historical read the “external mission of the ANC”.And Mandela’s biography on one of his first public address after coming out of prison expressing a concern that there are criminals masquerading as comrades that have joined the ANC.We must also not forget that the white bougoirse offered many comrades shares in their companies excluding the black poor majority by so doing exclusively creating a culture of entitlement amongst political elite a foundation for arrogance and corruption.But the unfortunate part is that the ANC faces it’s demise like the National Party since there are relevant patterns like that the National Party its failure to transform the lives of black poor,high levels of unemployment, a poor basic education system,a disfunctional health system,landless black people,high crime rate amongst poorer communities,corruption, disfunctional transport system and the black poor still leave far from economic opportunities.These are the same thinks that happened under the National Party.

  • Charles Thatcher says:

    Q: “Mavuso Msimang reached a critical tipping point with the ANC — will the voters follow?’
    A: No

  • Mike Walwyn says:

    I would have thought that SG would know the difference between Magoro and Morogoro!

  • Louise Roderick says:

    I personally think that this will end up as a storm in a teacup. Ge will be written off as an d man that no one in the ANC needs anymore.

  • André Pelser says:

    No, the voters won’t follow, too many comrades depend on ANC patronage, favour and funding. Generation Z does not respect elders, they vote for the EFF. Under the ANC regime crime pays, why vote for law and order? The majority vote is being abused to advance Socialism – equality, freedom and rights being abused as blunt instruments to bludgeon all opposition and warnings. Msimang and all other ANC voices or reason will be drowned out by the aggressors, in SA violence rewards its perpetrators.
    The change we all want is only possible when crime, violence and corruption are not rewarded.

  • G. Strauss says:

    Given a plate of pap and a new TV, the voters, like Msimang, will return. How likely is it that the ANC would stick to their word and exclude people suspected of state capture or any other form of corruption from the electoral role? In five years’ time, they can come up with a new ruse.

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