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Political education will reconnect the ANC with its roots

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Jessie Duarte is the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC. She writes in her personal capacity.

The ANC, as the leader of South African society, must ensure that all its leaders are thoroughly educated politically while always remaining grounded with the people.

Antaneus was the son of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, and Gaea, the goddess of the Earth. A Greek hero, Antaneus was very close to his mother. Herein lay his strength. He was undefeated in battle, regarded as an invincible hero and as a result many of his enemies wondered what the source of his strength was.

His power simply came from the earth, his mother, and as long as he was grounded, he received immense strength. The vulnerable spot, as a result, was being lifted up from the earth or being too long in the air. Eventually, his enemy would discover this weakness and took advantage of it. When the opportunity arose again during a battle, the enemy grabbed the chance to lift Antaneus into the air and kept him there for as long as he could while throttling him.

This story from Greek antiquity came at the heart of the address by the Secretary-General of the ANC, Comrade Ace Magashule, to the cadre’s forum hosted by the Dullah Omar Region (Cape Town Metropolitan) recently. The message was clear and simple: If we, as the ANC, are not grounded, on the ground, among the people, we will be throttled.

Being grounded and among the people, “our people” as many in the ANC would articulate, is at the very heart of the existence of the ANC. At the same time, this cadre forum encapsulated the other side of the coin: Political education. In other words, while being grounded and among the people was important, one could only reflect upon the experiences of being among the people and the necessity to be with them through political education.

Put differently, the ANC has had a long history of theory, where political education is emphasised, and practise, where the work among the people is insisted upon. It is from this tradition that slogans such as “mobilise, organise and educate” emerge. However, one of the greatest challenges for the ANC, since 1994, was to implement an effective and efficient political education programme. Many of the challenges faced by the ANC today and as a result the rest of society is the fact that many ANC members and even deployees have not undergone a thorough political education programme.

For example, while it was a given that the apartheid state sought only to serve the minority in the country and while much evidence exists to suggest that this state was rotten with corruption to the core, the question that must be asked is: How is it was possible that some ANC leaders and members, those who were supposed to champion the very transformation of this state, simply fell victim to it and thus became impediments rather than enablers of the development of our people?

Notwithstanding that leaders and members of ANC have done by far more good than bad in South Africa, in the last two-and-a-half decades, a story not often told among the chattering classes, it would seem that it is often the story of the bad that we do that lives on while the good was interred with the generation of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.

No doubt, one of the challenges of the ANC, post 1994, has certainly been the lack of a vigorous political education programme and mature political consciousness. Our inability, at times, to point out our political progress and rather over-inflate the propaganda pursued by the enemies of transformation, comes about precisely because of this lack of political education.

At the cadres’ forum, the secretary-general went on to quote extensively from the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, when speaking about those in the CPC who lacked political consciousness, when he said:

The greater power and higher position they hold, the less they take the Party political discipline and rules seriously…” Xi was addressing the 18th plenary of the CPC’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

He went on: “…Driven by their overinflated political ambitions and eagerness to personal gain, or the benefit of their inner circle, some resort to political conspiracies against the Party and plot to undermine and divide it. Some place themselves above the organisation and consider themselves to be the ultimate authority.

In an attempt to form factions, cliques and coteries, they treat the places that the Party entrusts them to administrate as their own independent fiefdoms, they search for others to support them, some take egoism and insolence to extremes, ignoring decisions and plans of the Central Committee in a roundabout way and even wantonly attack the theories, guidelines, principles and policies of the Party and spread malicious slander against Party leaders.

They also suppress or crack down on those who disagree with them. They persist in their belief that their great chance is coming, and try to eliminate anyone in their way”

The address by the Secretary-General of the ANC was therefore pertinent to the context as found in South Africa. Only through political education, he suggested, can we defeat in South Africa that which even President Xi identified happening in the CPC.

Even more so, he went on to point out that the inclination for some within the ANC and government to defy decisions of conferences or any decisions taken by the collective leadership of the ANC to be counter-revolutionary.

As a result, Comrade Magashule reminded members that “…the enemy hidden in the same colour, wearing the same regalia, singing our own songs, and appearing to more be revolutionary than the revolution itself, is the most dangerous one…”

Significantly, while pointing out the exchange programmes with some ANC cadres attending short courses in Cuba and China, the announcement of the construction of the Malume Julius Nyerere School of Excellence, which will be run and intended to train cadres from the former southern African liberation movements — the ANC, Swapo, Zanu-PF, MPLA, Frelimo and Chama Chama Cha Mapinduzi, must be welcomed.

The ANC, as the leader of South African society, must ensure that all its leaders are thoroughly educated politically while always remaining grounded with the people. It cannot succumb to the latest liberal stance of promoting that which is “apolitical” for this in itself is a contradictory anomaly.

As an organisation that firmly believes in hegemonic politics, the ANC must ensure that all its members and leaders behave like the Greek legend, Antaeus, understanding that they can only be strong if they keep contact with their mother, who in this instance is the masses of our people, who gave birth to our movement, the ANC, and who reared it over the years. DM

Jessie Duarte is Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC.

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