Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 15 January 2020

Oh ANC, ANC! Wherefore art thou, my ANC?

The ANC has been infiltrated by unwanted, ill-disciplined and self-serving individuals who care nothing for the historic mission of liberating our people and ensuring economic emancipation. They now make up the bulk of the leadership of our beloved ANC.

It seems the love affair with our beloved ANC is under severe strain as we enter the new year of 2020. As we listened to the 8 January speech of the ANC National Executive Committee in Kimberley this past weekend, I could not help but hear how so many of you were yearning for something more than what you got. Disappointment all round it seems, after an uninspiring, visionless and tart speech by the president of the ANC.

I kept on thinking whether the ANC had forgotten its historic mission, whether they had forgotten how to apply the “tools of analysis” to the current situation and the balance of forces in South Africa.

It seems the ANC is experiencing an identity crisis: Are they still a liberation movement in pursuance of the ideals of a national democratic society, or are they a modern political party in government concerned only with remaining in power so as to transform the ordinary lives of our people? I mention this because of what I consider the unfair comparison with previous 8 January speeches, notably those delivered by former ANC president, OR Tambo, which most agreed were filled with revolutionary fervour, scientific analysis and were always very clear as to the direction we had to take moving forward.

But that was a time when we were not a governing party in government, we didn’t have to worry about the electorate with regards to the next local government elections and we certainly did not have to address challenges such as keeping the lights on.

It was a very different era and as such, when listening to the pundits and analysts prior to the delivery of that speech, they were all talking in the main about matters of state to be addressed and not revolutionary fervour, nor theory, but about the challenges on the fiscus, a possible Moody’s downgrade, Eskom, unemployment and the inequality levels facing our country.

What perhaps they wanted from the president was a cogent analysis of the true state of the ANC, where we are at with regards to the historic mission of the ANC, the latest about the fightback clean-up campaign, and then how the president of the ANC envisaged pulling us out of the current morass.

Now, there are those that argue that the ANC should stop obsessing with revolutionary theory and address the challenges and immediate crises at hand. To those, I can only say, practice without theory is blind and theory without practice is suicide.

The ANC understood that to pursue a bourgeois revolution and to overthrow the apartheid regime in a South African context would mean to effectively also deal with the race domination matter. After all, the French revolution of 1789 and to a certain extent the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were indeed bourgeois revolutions.

Joe Slovo reminds us (1988) in this regard: “It could, of course, be said that we are struggling at this stage for some of those political rights which were articulated by the ideologists of the rising bourgeoisie at the dawn of capitalism (the franchise for all, civil equality, national unity, self-determination, etc). These have become traditionally labelled ‘bourgeois-democratic rights’. The banner of ‘democracy’ helped the emerging bourgeoisie to mobilise the working people in the towns and the serfs in the countryside against the old feudal order and to establish its own hegemony.”

If only it was as straightforward here in Mzansi as well.

He continues: “In the world as a whole, capitalist exploitation does not necessarily involve race domination. But the historically-evolved connection between capitalist exploitation and race domination in South Africa creates a link between national liberation and social emancipation. In our conditions, you don’t have to be a doctrinaire Marxist to conclude that a liberation which deals only with a rearrangement of the voting system and leaves undisturbed the race monopoly of 99% of our wealth, is no liberation at all. Any honest black nationalist understands that white political privilege has been the device to create and protect white economic privilege.”

He concludes: “It is therefore impossible to imagine any real form of national liberation which does not, at the same time, involve a fundamental rearrangement of the ownership and distribution of wealth.”

This is perhaps the analysis members of the ANC would have wanted from the president and to then tell us how we are going to achieve this.

But I also must say, the ones that were hoping for such an analysis are a cadre of yesteryear, a cadre that is no more in our glorious organisation. That cadre has long died in the ANC; hence the love affair is over. We have heard over the last 30 years, listening to another all-important report – namely the organisational report – at each and every elective conference since Mandela about how the organisation has been infiltrated by unwanted, ill-disciplined and self-serving individuals that are not in keeping with the proud history and traditions of the ANC. Every year we propose mechanisms of how to effectively deal with this scourge, “through the eye of the needle”, but alas, we do nothing about it year in and year out.

Suffice to say, these types of characters are now the majority in the organisation and in fact, occupy the bulk of the leadership of our beloved ANC at this point in time. The last 10 wasted years in our country were the clearest indication of this reality and we are still paying for the brunt of our failures. They are no longer concerned with the historic mission of liberating our people and ensuring economic emancipation, oh no, it is all about me, me, and me!

They invent struggle credentials of having been arrested in neighbouring Swaziland or Lesotho in the late 1980s and having gone into exile as late as 1990 or 1991. All this so they can superficially fit the narrative of being a comrade with the requisite struggle credentials. You are not fooling us, my friends – we see you for who you are.

These are today the types that call for Pravin Gordhan’s head, these are the ones that want to see the president fail at his job and these are the ones that if allowed, will take us back into the abyss from whence we cometh. They will line their pockets at the expense of our people as they have been doing these last few years and they will have no compunction to plunge the country into a debt spiral that will see generations upon generations having to suffer and repay it.

Is this perhaps some of the content and analysis you would have wanted to hear from the president on 11 January? I know patience is wearing thin and action is being demanded, but a mere two years is nothing to fix us, or Eskom, or the triple challenges facing us constantly.

So, again I say to the president, with all due respect sir, you just keep on leading, let us do the worrying. DM

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