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Yonela Diko Opinion

Yonela Diko is currently the Spokesperson of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape. Prior to assuming his role in the ANC, he worked in various companies in the private sector. Between 2007-2009 he worked for one of the Leading Retirement Fund Companies, NBC Holdings as an Employee Benefits Consultant. After that he joined the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development (CSID), an Economic Research Unit housed under the School of Economics at Wits University. He did his BCom degree at the University of Cape Town majoring in Economics.

The problem for the ANC is that its democratic developmental state is not properly defined and/or not properly differentiated from the very neoliberalism it purports to be in a contest with.

The ANC voice has become a site of struggle, sending its communicators into paralysis while trying to find a co-ordinated and disciplined manner to set the agenda in the battle of ideas. The fact is the ANC is a multi-class, multi-ideological and multi-political formation which inevitably culminates in serious ideological struggles from within, making it hard to have a disciplined and co-ordinated voice in setting up the agenda on the battle of ideas. The recent battle between Accelerated or Radical or Inclusive is but one prime example that has exposed these contradictions.

The ANC has always appreciated that the battle of ideas between the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the democratic developmental state and the neoliberal paradigm seats at every site of struggle in our society, whether its at universities, businesses, in communities and in the lenses through which the media sees the country’s development.

The past events have affirmed the ANC’s observation that market forces are being used to try to dislodge the democratic forces as the drivers of change and the substitution of the NDR objectives with a neoliberal market-driven paradigm. The problem for the ANC is that its democratic developmental state is not properly defined and/or not properly differentiated from the very neoliberalism it purports to be in a contest with. As it stands, particularly in our actions, democratic developmental state is just neoliberalism with extra government intervention.

While all ANC conferences have resolved on increased participation of ANC cadres in public debates and that cadres should be trained to respond effectively to the growing onslaught against the movement in all media, the preoccupation of all debates, at a massive scale by ANC members, has been about the internal struggles of the ANC, particularly about leadership.

There is in fact a very high level of participation of comrades in public debates but they are individuals representing but a particular aspect of the ANC against another view of the ANC, since we are this multi-ideological formation. This means what used to be internal contestations of the ANC about which better route to take in the contest of ideas has become so polarised and so public such that it is no longer clear what has brought these different elements together.

Although necessary and well-intentioned, the recurring conference resolution around the ANC political education syllabus is also facing these ideological challenges. If the NDR itself is a site of struggle, how shall it be taught?

An organisation with over a million members should be able to develop its own communication platforms that can contest any media space in the country. The 53rd conference also resolved that editions of ANC Today, Umrabulo and other ANC publications should always include articles from ANC government executives (ministers, MECs and mayors). ANC Today has come back to life and is beginning to syndicate to other publications. This is an affirmation of what happens when ANC resolutions are acted on. We have to find ways to reignite interests in other publications or scrap them altogether, whatever their historical significance.

Today, both internally and externally, there is a raging attack on the nature and character of the movement. This again flows from the fact that such nature and character is not properly defined or differs with each grouping within the organisation. Centrally defining the organisation’s nature and character has to be one of the main discussion points for the ANC Policy Conference, especially the first two days.

Opposition parties have taken advantage of these contestations, questioning the outlook of the mass democratic movement and substituting it with their own visions. The media has also found in these contestations and the fuelling of them a rich source of selling news and expanding audience. This has resulted in what the ANC calls a ganging-up on the ANC and the movement’s representatives by the media analysts, media commentators, the ultra-left and ultra-right forces.

Whether we like it or not, we need the kind of media we have, and opposition parties help show just how refined and above reproach our leaders are. Also, in today’s world, where people themselves have tools to dominate conversations in public, when you are doing your best as a leader and giving your highest possible performance, when you are strong and united, the people will endorse you and it won’t matter as much what the media, ultra-left or right will say.

The ANC Policy Conference must reiterate this one truth. That ANC believes the media enriches democracy and that the media stands as the greatest enabler for the project of democracy. We believe that Freedom of the Press is sacrosanct and as long as it is protected, along with journalists and editors, there will always be hope for democracy. We believe that no media should ever coddle government or the ANC, because nobody owns government or the ANC but the people and members, we are all privileged to be chosen by our people to serve.

The inability of the ANC however to be coherent and united has resulted in the ANC failing to set the agenda in the national discourse through the limited dialogues on all media platforms. In the meantime, the ANC cadres have not actively contributed to the degree required into public discourse.

The ANC is a very big organisation to rely on resources that it has deployed to government and public service. The ANC must be independent, strong, and must operate with such grandeur and stature that being deployed into government is a less attractive option.

Engagements with strategic allies and other progressive forces that can influence the media and help drive the thrust of the national democratic revolution in the media platform spaces, as critical as it is, speaks to an ANC that no longer leads society but relies on elements of society to help it with its image. The ANC must lead all forces in society and its image must in the main depend on what the organisation itself does.

The ANC is leading a continental super power and there should be no limit in the resources it injects in its communication department and there should be no limit in its human resources, drawing from some of its best members across the country, many of whom have unmatched skill in this field. Communication is the lifeblood of any organisation and it should never be short-changed. The task of measuring ANC successes where it governs, of packaging such success stories and disseminating them through all media platforms, should happen speedily.

All ANC leaders should be aware of what is happening in every corner of the country.

More important however is that as the ANC we need to accept the reality that neoliberalism and laisse-faire Ideologies are presented everywhere else, at universities, in corporate South Africa, in social gatherings, in entertainment and global culture, as the divine ideologies, the common sense ones if not the natural ones and the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), or Democratic Developmental State or even socialism only exist within the ANC and its alliance partners, creating this sense of ANC vs The Rest of the Country or more often these days, ANC vs ANC.

If therefore the media comes across as neoliberal and even promotes neoliberalism and promotes those ANC leaders who seem to have neoliberal leanings, it is irrational to then accuse the media of having a neoliberal agenda when the rest of the country espouses neoliberal values.

The truth therefore is that as long as the ANC itself is not singing in one voice of what NDR is, how it should be achieved, and how it should be communicated, the media will get into those gaps and sell news. DM


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