Opinionista Faiez Jacobs 23 August 2017

Remembering the UDF: Renewing, rebuilding and repositioning the ANC

A challenge has been made to the leadership of the ANC at national, provincial and local level, forcing us to ask why our leadership is not behaving as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Dora Tamana, Chris Hani, Mama Zihlangu and others have in the past. Which begs the question: what would Walter Sisulu do?

 

The UDF was remembered in a wonderful event held on the 34th anniversary date of 20 August at the site of its launch, the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain. Many former members attended, while many, sadly, stayed away.

The meaning of the UDF is still contested, despite its disbandment in 1991 after the unbanning of the ANC. In remembering the UDF, the many who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, for our democracy, were also remembered. A clear message was heard from the speakers who made inputs at the meeting, including the former Secretary-General of the UDF, Popo Molefe, as well as the inputs that were made from the floor by ordinary, working-class people who live on the Cape flats, in the townships previously demarcated for Coloured, Indian and African or Black people, as apartheid defined them. They want the UDF to be remembered and its values and principles practised in the ANC.

It was instructive to hear the diagnosis of the meeting held to remember the UDF, that the issues raised in the Freedom Charter were still demands the majority of people make. Poverty was identified as a challenge for at least half of our population. Inequality was still as it was or even more extreme than it was before 1994, many said. Unemployment still faces nearly a quarter of the working class of our country. Landlessness, poor services and the current water crisis in the Western Cape were all raised as terrible conditions suffered by the majority of people, the majority of these being overwhelmingly those who apartheid would have defined as Black, Coloured or Indian.

Other issues raised echoed the Diagnostic Report that the Secretary-General of the ANC delivered at the recent ANC policy conference. These were identified as:

·        Blurring of the common purpose for the cadres of the movement;

·        The growing trust deficit between the people and their movement;

·        The decline in the ethics, values and traditions of the movement;

·        The impact of the perception of the ANC as entirely corrupt;

·        The poor quality of the branches and the membership in general;

·        The decline in the ideological outlook of the movement;

·        Divisions and factions that have become a seemingly permanent feature of the movement;

·        Rapid collapse of the organisational discipline;

·        Low levels of trust among comrades, and

·        Failure to focus on solutions.

Speakers and individuals from the floor raised these very issues. The ordinary members also raised the issue of gate-keeping in branches, where members are either not allowed to join the ANC branches or their forms are “lost” or simply thrown away.

In raising these issues, a challenge has been made to the leadership of the ANC, at national, provincial and local level. It forces us to ask the question, why is our leadership not behaving as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Dora Tamana, Chris Hani, Mama Zihlangu and others have in the past. It is useful to consider what a leader such as Walter Sisulu would be doing were he alive today. All his political life was spent striving for unity and cohesion, for building the ANC through recruiting the brightest and the best, as well as the broadest range of women and men into the ANC.

Surely, Walter Sisulu would have celebrated the anniversary of the UDF, which carried the banner of the ANC during the time of its banning. He did so at the National Welcome Back Rally of 1989. Surely, Walter Sisulu would have been travelling the length and breadth of the country to organise, educate and mobilise ANC members against the tendencies contained in the diagnostic report. Like the very speakers who, in remembering the UDF, argued for the ANC to be built and strengthened by ridding it of corruption, factionalism, ill-discipline, ideological work, a common vision and programme and most of all by focusing on the problems of the people of our country.

Sisulu always inspired hope and the positive. He said, “It is a law of life that problems arise when conditions are there for their solution.”

The mood, spirit and message of the UDF commemoration is exactly that. The people of our country and the members of the ANC will correct these tendencies by voting in the kinds of leaders the ANC needs at this time; selfless, disciplined, honest servants of the people. DM

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