Defend Truth


The ANC’s centre of collective leadership remains a truism more than a century later — despite Barbara Hogan’s averments


Obed Bapela is Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and an ANC NEC member.

If Barbara Hogan understood and appreciated that it is the ANC that decides where and when a cadre is deployed, she would have recognised the role of the deployment committee.

Barbara Hogan, who recently made headline news, should be commended and hailed as an anti-apartheid hero. When many of her fellow young white countrymen and women decided to turn a blind eye and benefit from the privileges of apartheid, Hogan stood head and shoulders above the rest of her peers.

Her time spent in jail is irreplaceable. She sacrificed her youth, her life and the trappings that accompanied white South Africa during those dark days to literally fight for justice, for equality and for a non-racial South Africa. History can count on one hand the young white men and women at Wits University who decided to take the narrow path.

Some in the social sciences have termed what Hogan, Beyers Naude, Bram Fisher, Neil Aggett and many other white compatriots did as “voluntary displacement”. A good definition of this would be going against the inclination to settle in a situation that provides false contentment. In other words, when the odds are stacked in your favour, you move and act consciously against the inclination simply to accept these privileges.

George Orwell in his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier tells of his own desire for voluntary displacement. How uneasy he was in his middle-class upbringing and surroundings, but how he eventually used these to fight for better conditions for the working class in Wigan Pier.

The sacrifices that Hogan made are therefore deeply admirable. Our nation and country will remain ever indebted to her and her generation for fighting apartheid from within the belly of the beast. Forsaking family, freedom and a future, Hogan put her life on the line and there is no doubt that if push had to come to shove, she, as brave as she was, would probably have echoed the words of Nelson Mandela, spoken two decades before her own treason trial: If needs be, it is a cause for which I am prepared to die.

She deserves our admiration, our praise in the history books of our country, but all that she did and all that she sacrificed simply did not entitle her to a spot in the national Cabinet.

From the memoirs of people such as Nelson Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli and while reading of the lives of JB Marks, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Moses Kotane and Lilian Ngoyi, we are taught that the suffering one endures is not done for gain. Even more so, one was always aware of the principle that we all serve at the behest of the ANC as a centre of collective leadership. The right of an organisation, such as the ANC, to deploy and recall its members is one of the cardinal principles that most political parties have for all its members in positions of responsibility.

Opening the 52nd National Conference of the ANC in Polokwane with his political report, the outgoing president of the ANC, Thabo Mbeki, acknowledged this “new” institutional culture that had somewhat engulfed the movement when he said:

“…Our collective responsibility in this important gathering is to ask ourselves whether in the recent past our movement has not gravitated away from its moral axis on which have pivoted the leadership of Dube, Makgatho, Mahabane and Luthuli among others”?

If so, what measures are needed consciously to restore the moral force of our movement so that, within the organisation and throughout all levels of the state our movement is inoculated from the insidious enticements of corruption, patronage and lust for power…”

Not for a moment is one suggesting that Hogan demanded or asked for a spot in Cabinet. But often this is the mentality of those who have sacrificed and laid down their lives for freedom. This became the institutional culture of the ANC post-1994 and as a result what became extremely problematic for the ANC, as identified by the leadership since, is that ordinary South Africans were joining the ANC precisely in order to make a quick buck. Yet it would not have been easy for new members had the institutional culture of the ANC not been susceptible to this culture of entitlement.

If, therefore, Hogan understands and appreciates that it is the ANC that decides where and when a cadre is deployed, she would have appreciated the role of the deployment committee. A committee which, since 1994, has enjoined the membership of the likes of Trevor Manuel, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu, the late Zola Skweyiya, the late Henry Makgothi and many more.

Yet the importance and significance of this committee is signalled by the mere fact that unlike any other sub-committee of the ANC, this committee is headed by the deputy-president of the ANC and co-ordinated by the deputy secretary-general. Deployment of political appointees are as common in democracies as are elections. A simple “Wikipedia” search will indicate that in excess of 4,000 political appointments are made — whether reviewed, filled and confirmed — by an incoming US administration, and nearly 1,200 of these need Senate approval.

Hogan, who is a student of developmental studies, albeit before the rise of the Asian Tigers in the late 1990s, would also be well informed enough to know that Chalmers Johnson, the first to write on the developmental state after studying the case of the Japanese ministry of international trade and industry, appreciated the special orientation of Japanese bureaucrats.

Peter Evans would later reveal the label this orientation — “gakubatsu”. The bureaucrats had studied together, came from the same university, were formed together to enjoy the same character and were subsequently deployed to various strategic positions in the state, including to head state-owned-enterprises and multi-corporations such as Toyota.

Since the emergence of “gakubatsu” in development studies, those studying the role of the state and bureaucrats would understand that the question of merit is now broadened to include now no longer just the right qualifications and experience, but also the orientation and mindset that ensures that the aims of the developmental state are worked towards and achieved.

The public sector is simply not the private sector and just because someone excelled in the private sector does not mean he or she would excel in the public sector. In fact, in the Japanese case and the rest of the developmental states of the east, it was the exact opposite. Those senior and well-groomed in the public sector would be deployed to head industries and corporations in the private sector.

Democratic centralism, political deployments and even “gakubatsu” are principles and practices that we simply cannot throw out simply because of the lapse of judgement of a few individuals. Particular instances can never dictate the universal principles that must be defended within a movement such as the ANC.

There may be people in the ANC, in the past and at present, who regretted the appointment of Hogan as Minister of Public Enterprises. Yet she can rest assured that her deployment was an ANC decision, despite the executive authority and prerogative of the President of the Republic, and one which the ANC in all likelihood would defend. In fact, the ANC would appreciate Hogan’s time in office as all of us appreciate her contribution to the fight for freedom. DM

Obed Bapela is Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and an ANC NEC member.


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