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To end a dictatorship of the minority, we need ‘One ANC Member, One Vote’


Omry Makgoale is a rank and file member of the ANC. These are his personal views.

I’m hoping this will be the last ANC National Elective Conference to be decided by a minority vote – the last where a minority of ANC members elect leaders for the majority, and where a small ANC minority nominate leaders for the entire population of South Africa.

Elections within the ANC have always been conducted by a minority, an elite on behalf of the entire membership in which the elite of delegates have been trusted to place the interests of their branches ahead of their personal interests. Sometimes the delegates have been chosen depending on whether they had their own resources to travel to the conference venues. This was the ANC in the 20th century, the ANC of Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Zacharias Richard Mahabane.

The banned, underground ANC led by Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo was forced to change the methods of electing delegates to the elective conferences. Fear of infiltration led to the introduction of scrutinising and thorough screening of would-be delegates to the elective conferences to minimise the chances for apartheid state machinery infiltration.

In exile, members of the National Executive Committee were mostly co-opted rather than elected. New appointees reflected the personal assessments and judgement of OR Tambo as deputy president (and later, president) of the ANC, acting together with the general secretary of the South African Communist Party and the general secretary of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, as partners in the Congress Alliance. Rank and file members of the ANC had little or no impact on the election of leadership into the NEC or Revolutionary Council (at the head of Umkhonto weSizwe).

The unbanning of the ANC in 1990 led to the first full campaigning for ANC leadership positions since the 1958 elective conference which elected Duma Nokwe (a member of SACP) as secretary-general, OR Tambo as deputy president and Chief Albert Luthuli as president.

Delegates who attended the Durban elective conference in 1990 were elected in a haphazard manner, with some comrades still left in exile in Zambia, Tanzania, Angola and Europe. Only those with resources who could travel from all corners of the globe attended the Durban elective conference. Accreditation of delegates was not ideal: it depended more on who knew you rather than who you represented. This was the beginning of the life of the ANC in power.

It took place, further, less than one year after the NEC had annulled a fully representative democratic election of committees by all ANC members in Tanzania, in which members had chosen their representatives individually, by name, in terms of the record in the camps. The elected committees were dissolved because the NEC did not like some of the members who had been chosen by the voters.

This was the undemocratic prelude to the ANC’s internal electoral system following its return to South Africa, and in its negotiations to create South Africa’s present electoral system for the National Assembly, the provincial councils and the municipal councils.

It was not a healthy start. The problems which South Africa inherited from that time have never been properly resolved. They are still with us, and they determine South Africa’s political problems to this day.

The rigging of ANC internal elections was initiated from the 1991 Durban elective conference. Since then, every elective conference comes with different permutations for the rigging of internal ANC elections, which in turn determines who represents the ANC in the legislature at all levels. This is logical in the struggle of various factions as they strive to get access to state power.

At present delegates to elective conferences are chosen on the basis of a minimum of one delegate for every 50 members. Rounded up, this amounts to 2% of ANC members electing leaders for 98% of members.

This is a minority of the minority. Worse still, this 2% of ANC members in turn elect ANC Members of Parliament for the 55-million-strong South African population. This is a dictatorship of the minority.

Far from ending the minority rule of the apartheid system, this continues the abuse in a different form. It is well over time that we replace minority rule with majority rule in the ANC. We need One ANC Member, One Vote from now onwards to establish majority rule in the ANC.

Once we establish a fully democratic method of electing ANC leaders, we will no longer have fighting and killings over accreditations but, on the positive note, all ANC members will have the opportunity for the first time in their lives to elect their president, secretary-general, treasurer-general and other office-bearers.

This is the way to get rid of slates, factions and rigging of internal elections within the ANC, and all the horrors we are ashamed of today. DM

Omry Makgoale is a rank and file member of the ANC. These are his personal views


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