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ANC Elective conference: The new NEC should be a generational mix of the best cadres


Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

The ANC needs its best cadres to serve in the National Executive Committee, not those who are in it for the blue lights.

Branch nominations for leadership positions in the ANC have started as the organisation prepares for the national elective conference. In addition to the top six positions of the ANC, the branches must also nominate additional members into the NEC. For the first time since the unbanning, the ANC conference in Polokwane in 2007 mainly focused on the top six and not on the additional members. This tendency repeated itself going to the elective conference in Mangaung in 2012.

It is an open secret that the ANC is not in a good state. In the 2016 Local Government Elections, it received below 54% of the total votes. The ANC is losing its stature as a leader of society and is on the brink of losing hegemony in South African politics.

This makes the 54th National Conference scheduled for December 2017 the most important conference of the ANC in its 105-year history.

The ANC has a document called “Through the Eye of the Needle.” The question is, is it also used when additional members are nominated? The problems facing the ANC today are partly caused by the fact that its leadership contests have become a free for all. Anyone can now lead because there is no stability in the ANC. The two front-runners, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, should ask themselves what type of ANC NEC they want to lead to ensure they take the ANC back to its glory days when the ANC was a leader of society.

Whoever becomes ANC president needs a strong team to work with. With almost a million members, the ANC has the benefit of a large pool of tried and tested members with different sets of skills and who can turn the fortunes of the ANC around. These include intellectuals, community leaders, brilliant young minds, academics, unionists, organisers, and more.

It is therefore prudent for the conference to choose the best within the ANC and allow the crème de la crème to rise. So, before we throw names of additional members to the NEC, we need to take into cognisance the challenges facing the ANC currently. Then the ANC needs to identify the pool of capable men and women who have the capacity to deal with the challenges of the current epoch.

The ANC has always taught its youth that you can’t lead before those that came before you. What has happened to that notion today? It appears to have been forgotten or overlooked. Young people are not being taught this because political education is dead in the ANC. The ANC is going through a difficult period that needs the best within it to lead it towards self-correction. This process starts with the type of ANC NEC we need moving forward. Where are the selfless cadres of this glorious movement? Why are they being overlooked? Is it because they are principled? Leading at the level of the NEC cannot be reduced to being a status symbol. It is about being a servant of the people. At this present moment, the ANC needs its best cadres to serve in the ANC NEC, not those who are in it for the blue lights.

What is generational mix? In my view, generational mix is incomplete if it leaves out those who led SAYCO and the ANCYL since the unbanning. What happened to the generation of young lions that President OR Tambo referred to in 1985? This is the generation that launched branches of the ANCYL after the unbanning when it was not fashionable. They were the organisers of that generation, as it is known even today that as a member of the ANCYL you are an organiser. It’s the generation of Rapu Molekane and the late Peter Mokaba. This pool of former ANCYL and student leaders would bring valuable experience and skills to the ANC. These are comrades who led youths and students during a difficult period is South Africa’s history, who mobilised communities and rallied students and young people around the ANC and rebuilt the ANC and COSAS in the ‘90s. It is puzzling that this generation would be overlooked for leadership roles in the ANC.

The ANCYL has produced a lot of comrades and I am of the view that some of them should be in the ANC NEC. It is sad that today everyone is available to lead in the ANC NEC, including those who don’t have capacity to lead the ANC during these trying times. History teaches us that the young people who occupied leadership positions in the ANC in the 1950s did so not because of the principle of giving young people a chance, but because they had earned their stripes and had a record of achievements in the youth league. Young people should be given a chance based on merit.

Why are some young comrades in a hurry? They behave as if this is the end of the ANC. Why can’t they wait? Branches of the ANC have serious challenges of gate keeping and factionalism, and while the ANC NEC has been speaking about these challenges for a while, it has failed to resolve it.

This is the year of OR Tambo. As we celebrate his birthday on 27 October, we should be asking ourselves how to ensure that we have best ANC NEC in his honour this year. Maybe we should go back and look at the calibre of the ANC NEC that he led as the longest serving president of the ANC. Great minds served in that ANC NEC, in which it was not about being a howler or going to leadership to gossip about others. President OR Tambo once said: “Beware the wedge driver. Watch his poisonous tongue.” Branches of the ANC and those who will be delegates must do things to save the soul of the ANC. Now is the only time to save the ANC and make sure that those that lead in the ANC are up to the task and are not thrown into the deep end.

In this process, we should not forget that there are those in the current ANC NEC who, when we talk about continuation, should be brought back based on their experience and how they have also tried to assist the movement during these difficult times. The incoming ANC NEC has a duty of stabilising the ANC and taking it back to its glory days. It has to inspire confidence in South Africans, win the 2019 elections and hand over an intact ANC to a younger generation. DM


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