Unity is key, but the quest to achieve it should be based on robust and frank political engagements, not on horse trading, which reduces a succession debate to a hollow leadership race laced with personalities, opportunism and hatred.
The August 2016 local government elections showed that the African National Congress (ANC) has significantly lost public confidence, from 62% in 2014 to 54 % in 2016. I do not want to sound like a scratched record by reciting the reasons for this. All I can say, these are self-serving problems which are the direct results of the divisions, far from ideological postulations which have kept the ANC since 1912 up until recently as a formidable leader of the society. There is no gainsaying. Corruption and state capture must be dealt with for the ANC to regain its lost credibility and moral high ground.
Therefore, notwithstanding the importance of unity and gender parity, the narrative dominating the succession debate should be about rooting out corruption, restoration and preservation of ANC’s values and principles. There is no way we can achieve genuine unity that is beneficial to the organisation as long as we are divided by tolerance to corruption and respect or lack thereof for the principles and values of the congress movement. This is what is dividing the ANC members, starting from the National Executive Committees (NEC) to the Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) and Regional Executive Committees (RECs), down to branches, the most basic units of the organisation. It is worth noting that the branches allow themselves to be abused by upper structures, to follow personalities instead of the values, principles and policies of the organisation.
And we all agree that the ANC desperately seeks unity more than ever before. Its electoral fortunes in 2019 elections depends on it. But the method from the leadership of the upper structures to achieve this unity is not based on robust and frank political engagements, but on horse trading which reduces a succession debate to a hollow leadership race laced with personalities, opportunism and hatred. Thus, there is now a talk of a compromise candidate, having realised the hardened positions between two presidential hopefuls Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ17) and Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa (CR17).
The talk of a compromise candidate or a “third way” as it is called under the guise of unity and outside the principle had sent ANC members in particular and the public in general on a wild goose chase and speculation overdrive. This begins to question the sacrosanctity of Dr Zweli Mkhize’s (ANC Treasurer General) integrity, who is touted as a suitable candidate to unify members of the congress movement. Cognisant of what has pitted comrades against each other, which is not ideologically grounded, parachuting a presidential hopeful under the guise of unity, whose integrity, credentials and leadership qualities in terms of the ANC policy “Through the Eye of a Needle” have not been proven to surpass the sitting deputy president, does not only advance pseudo unity, but also remains cowardice and escapism at the expense of the ANC. This remains a simplistic solution to a complex problem and the same rings true about a woman presidential hopeful as a rallying point.
In a robust and frank succession debate with the interest of the ANC at heart, gender as the rallying point ought to be a non-starter as it does not automatically translate into best leadership qualities and competencies that are required to arrest the electoral downward spiral of the congress movement. Instead we should be talking about ensuring gender balance in the top six of the ANC. Much to the dislike or annoyance of serial liars, truth-pinchers and people with selective amnesia, I would like to reiterate that in principle and on numerous occasions, former deputy presidents of the ANC succeeded the presidents, which begins to suggest that this became the rallying point for the majority of ANC members.
This was well and good as it proved that the organisation had a sound succession plan. However, based on the current challenges the ANC and the country are facing, it is abundantly clear that the policy document (Through the Eye of a Needle) which guides the selection process of the best cadres for leadership positions, was overshadowed by this principle (deputy presidents succeeding presidents) which is now not acknowledged and appreciated by President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. With that said, I am of the view that this principle should be challenged on the basis of the integrity, credentials and leadership qualities of the sitting deputy president. Therefore, in a progressive succession debate and as a point of departure, we should be asking what other presidential hopefuls could offer anything that CR17 could not offer. If there is dololo, then there would be no sensible reason to subject the ANC to a bruising leadership race which is based on deflection issues. Deflection issues do not help the ANC other than being used by proponents at various levels and structures of the organisation for parasitic reasons.
Let me hasten to say, I respect the constitutional rights of other presidential hopefuls. My attempt here is to steer the succession debate in a direction which is based on a succession plan, not the whims of individuals and their ruthless bargaining tendencies (what is there for me?). This approach is disheartening and making a mockery of a governing party, and the 105-year, oldest liberation movement in the continent.
The less I say about Mosebenzi Zwane the better. He is a strange breed. His reckless comments have brought the processes of the ANC into question and disrepute. How can he say that they already know who will succeed Zuma before the December elective conference is concluded? Who is he representing and which interest do they have? It’s people like him and his masters who are relentlessly dragging the name of the congress movement through the mud. While the fallen heroes and heroines must be turning in their graves, I ask this question, what are they going to benefit by destroying the ANC of Isithwalandwe Oliver Reginald Tambo? Kubi (It’s sad). DM
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