Crunch Time for the ANC: Why NEC members need to speak out
- Thembinkosi Gcoyi
- 17 Mar 2016 (South Africa)
The announcement by Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas that he was offered the post of Minister of Finance by the Gupta family has rightly created a lot of indignation from all sectors of our society.
Coming as it does so soon after the announcement by former African National Congress (ANC) MP Vytjie Mentor about being offered the post of Minister of Public Enterprises in 2010, the revelation has created a sense of urgency about the need for the ruling party to reaffirm its position on state capture unequivocally and without reservation. Any sense of equivocation by the organisation would have ghastly consequences for our statehood and the nation-building project.
At no point can the ANC or any member of society, in good conscience, accept that there are individuals within our society who have the power to unduly influence executive decisions and appointments. As the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states, the appointment of the Executive is the prerogative of the State President, and may not be ceded to any other actors in society.
None of us should accept that the ANC may have outsourced its responsibility to govern to unelected members of society, neither in business, labour, nor civil society. As a party with a long history of fighting for an equitable society, we must continue to believe that the ANC takes the mandate bestowed on it by society very seriously. It is a privilege that many fought and died for.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC will be convening over the coming weekend to reflect, among other things, on the revelations of the last few days. The Secretary-General of the party, Gwede Mantashe, has stated unequivocally that the matter of private family influence over senior members of the party and Cabinet appointments has been flagged as one that requires robust discussion.
All of us have a reasonable expectation that members of the NEC will express themselves unequivocally on this matter, mindful that lack of action will have disastrous consequences not only for the ANC, but also government and the state. It would literally mean that Cabinet members are fronting for nonelected interests whose only pursuit is their personal advancement.
There is also a reasonable anticipation that the NEC will acknowledge that it has not lived up to the expectation to exercise oversight on behalf of those who elected them to this important leadership structure.
At the very least, all of us expect that they will accept that theirs has been a monumental failure in leadership oversight. There is no need here to enumerate the many governance lapses that have brought us to where we are today. What is certain is that this NEC has opted for the path of least resistance and closed ranks to protect leaders of the party, in the process neglecting to champion accountability, transparency and equity as virtues worth holding high both in word and in deed.
The latest incident comes at a time when the party should be dedicating its energies to rolling out its local government machinery. A lot of people still believe firmly in a strong ANC as a force for socio-economic progress. The ANC has a historical mission to make ours a glorious nation that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. This is not to downplay the capabilities of other political parties.
Indeed, the DA has demonstrated good leadership in the Western Cape, whatever other disagreements we may all have about its class and racial orientation. The UDM has been a champion of accountability. The EFF has been a breath of fresh air in a political environment that had assumed a tinge of predictability and accommodation between the main political parties.
Right now, South Africa needs the ANC to fix itself. We need the members to engage meaningfully with party processes and reconcile this party with its glorious past. The current trajectory is not sustainable. There is simply nothing attractive about supporting a party that seems to privilege the interests of individuals above those of society. Members of the party cannot continue to accept that things are what they are and the party will self-correct in the absence of their engagement.
In reconsidering the shape of the party, it will also be important to pay less attention to the supposed standing of certain of its members. Though the Secretary-General and spokesperson are trying their best to convince us that there is nothing wrong with the party, only some individuals, the conclusion that the party itself is a shadow of its progressive self is inescapable. If this were not the case:
- Mcebisi Jonas would never have had to deal with the Guptas about a Cabinet position;
- Vytjie Mentor would not be regaling us with tales of seduction by Atul;
- Minister Des would not be Minister Des;
- Minister Mbalula would not have to issue denials about receiving news about his ministerial appointment from the Guptas while defending the country from accusations made by Fifa and the FBI; and
- Minister Ramatlhodi would never have had to skip dinner in Saxonwold.
This was only made possible by the fact that the NEC has been sleeping at the wheel. Party and individual have been conflated beyond recognition. “Revolutionary morality” has become mere bombast and verbosity. Thus, any attempt to fix the party must start with asking the question, “What it is about the current state of the party that enabled peripheral interests to assume such a detrimental level of influence over the party and its deployees”?
The party must accept that it may not have been as vigilant as it could have been on exercising oversight. Perhaps too much room was created for posers to use their proximity to decision-makers for their personal advancement. In the case of the Guptas, the party may have been too slow to recognise the corrosive effect of the intimate relationship between the president, his family and the Gupta family. The revelations by Jonas, Mentor and Ramatlhodi provide an opportunity to change this situation. Failure to change will leave enough regret to go around come the local government elections in August 2016.
So what is to be done? The party must call upon its entire membership to remain engaged at this difficult time for the movement. This is not the time to look for alternatives to what is still a glorious movement that has as its historical mission the total liberation of our country. Now is not the time to jump ship. Now is the time to reclaim the moral high ground and pride of place in societal imagination. Now is the time for the many ideas that have the potential to reinvigorate the movement to get oxygen and stake a claim in the ongoing battle for hegemony in the party. This will not be easy. But then again, nothing worthwhile ever was.
Depending on the choices made over the next few days and weeks, the party will either transcend its current challenges and move on to reclaim its moral standing in society, or accelerate what seems to be certain decay and loss of electoral mandate from its members and the noncommitted (quite a few of these, it must be said).
There is no doubt about this. Without exaggerating the importance of this NEC, one can conclude that how we view the ANC in years to come will come down to what the 80 or so attendees will decide and the actions that will follow such decisions in the aftermath. The time for talk is over. Now is the time to grab the damn thing by the scruff and restore the dignity that no longer resides. DM
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