Over the past few weeks a debate has emerged on social media regarding the plight of coloured people and their treatment within the ANC.
This debate, which was sparked by some ANC members from the West Coast region in the Western Cape, flares up every so often. It is more commonly referred to as the national question within the context of the Western Cape. Having this debate allows us to reflect on progress in respect of the ANC vision of a non-racial and non-sexist society. Second, it allows us to reflect upon the implementation of the national question and the development of the non-racial character of the ANC and government.
What then are the key issues being raised?
First, the issue of representation of coloured leadership in ANC structures. There is a sense among many coloured ANC members and supporters that the ANC has over the past decade begun to lose its non-racial character at a national, provincial and regional level. There arguments rightly or wrongly are based on the perception that the ANC no longer creates the necessary conditions for electing a sufficiently inclusiveness leadership. I.e. a leadership that includes coloured, Indians and whites at national, provincial and regional level.
These contradictions become most stark in a province such as the Western Cape where the coloured population which is a national minority is a provincial majority. It is argued by some that since the 47th national elective conference of the ANC the number of coloureds, Indians and whites elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) has decreased at each conference. The decrease was not a deliberate attempt to undermine the issue of the representation of coloureds, Indians and whites. Rather, it was an unintentional negative consequence of the “winner takes all” slate politics.
Regrettably, the outcome of the 54th national conference has followed a similar trajectory. Of the 86 elected members, there are only four coloureds elected to the NEC. The outcome is furthermore complicated by the fact that none of the coloureds come from the Western Cape where approximately 50% of the coloured population resides. Furthermore, there are no “Cape Malay” coloureds even though they constitute approximately 50% of the coloured population and have been a historical support base for the ANC in the Western Cape.
The second issue that has been raised is that ANC policies, particularly at a national level, do not reflect the key issues and concerns of the so-called coloured population. An analysis of all the historical policy positions indicates that this argument is less fact and more fiction. All the ANC policies positions developed to address the historical injustices of colonialism and apartheid apply to all black people i.e. Africans, Indians and coloureds. This includes among others employment equity, land ownership, participation in the economy and recognition of cultural rights etc.
The third issue raised is that government policies, regulations and programmes that have been designed to address the historical injustices of the past are excluding coloureds. There is a sufficient body of evidence that indicates these concerns are real. Examples include, first, the alleged failure to recognise the Khoisan as traditional leaders, their culture as well as their First Nation status. Second, current fishing allocation policies, which prejudices small fishing communities. Third, the draft employment equity (EE) regulations of 2014. These draft regulations called for national demographics to apply to the top three echelons of management in all provinces. They were scrapped after the intervention of the ANC precisely because of its prejudicial effect on the coloured and Indian populations in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
It appears that some government departments have disregarded and or misinterpreted both the letter and spirit of the ANC redress policies and programmes in its implementation. Both the draft EE regulations saga and the correctional services employees court case in which the department applied national demographics to promote employees in the Western Cape are examples. The ANC supported the outcome of the court case which struck down the action of the Department of Labour. It re-affirmed our position that provincial demographics should apply when recruiting and promoting employees.
Regrettably the current re-emergence of this debate has sunk to the point of personal attacks and counterattacks among ANC members. There have been allegations and counterallegations of racism, tribalism and narrow and crude coloured and African chauvinism by most of the participants involved. Furthermore, by choosing social media as the medium to raise these issues the debate has at times been reduced to very narrow, populist, demagogic and myopic rhetoric. Rather, we need to be confronting the issues in a politically sensitive manner and in a structured environment.
The timing of the debate also suggests political opportunism by those cadres who have sparked this debate. These members had ample opportunity during 2017 to raise these issues in the run-up to and during both the ANC policy conference and the national conference, yet they failed to do so. Their silence on this critical issue during this period cast aspersions on their real intentions. It perpetuates the perception that these comrades are deliberately attempting to create a crisis within the ANC in the Western Cape in order to establish a new Khoisan nationalist political party. There is also sufficient anecdotal evidence that the debate and breakaway party is being instigated by Marius Fransman, being a case of sour grapes because of his suspension. Alternatively, some argue that the protagonists are using the issue to position themselves for higher office in the ANC. Whatever their intentions, the effect will be the same, i.e. the destabilisation and division of the ANC as it prepares for the 2019 elections.
The ANC will not allow this debate to be abused for ethnic and racial mobilisation in our province and the dilution of our non-racial character. The days of culturally divisive mobilisation of the goons, coons and loons has ended. Nor will we allow our members to use this issue to create a crisis, instability and division in the ANC and society when we should be building unity, cohesion and consensus. Precisely now while the DA is undergoing its own crisis of hegemony as it relates to coloured leadership, racism, corruption and maladministration.
Despite the possible nefarious intentions and integrity of the messengers the debate remains important as some of the current concerns raised are real and therefore need to be addressed, while others are misperceptions which need to be debunked.
Historically the ANC has never shied away from this issue despite the sensitivities, challenges, controversies and inherent tensions it throws up. The ANC has always had the courage and foresight to address this issue in a politically mature manner. It is precisely this maturity that has ensured its survival and relevance since 1912. The outcome of the 54th conference has given South Africa and the Western Cape a second chance to rebuild Mandela’s dream of a truly non-racial and nonsexist society where all races live in harmony and share in our wealth as envisaged by the Freedom Charter. Therefore, the ANC will confront these challenges in a robust and disciplined manner through the “battle of ideas”. We will engage with our members, supporters and broader civil society to address the legitimate concerns. The ANC remains committed to affirming all our communities coloureds, Africans, Indians and whites. We will strengthen African and coloured solidarity to build a non-racial future and home for all in the Western Cape. We will address the coloured fears and sense of alienation by building inclusive programmes and ensuring that coloureds feel that they are part of the development of the ANC and society. DM
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