Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 2 March 2021

The battles being fought in the ANC are critical — they go to the heart and soul of our principles

The battles taking place within the ANC are underpinned by principles and values. Values that talk to a particular ethical culture that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the party. Principles that speak of non-racialism, non-sexism and respect for the rule of law. That is why these battles are so important.

As I participate in various dialogues, seminars and debates about the state of our country and the economy, one of the consistent concerns being raised by many is the infighting in the governing party, the ANC.

If only the fighting can stop, some would argue, or if only the ANC NEC can be more focused, others would state, then the country will get some direction. We will see progress and perhaps even growth in the economy because concentrating on the real issues is what will take us out of the morass we find ourselves in at this point. There is obvious truth in these concerns. However, I do get the impression that some people think this infighting is somehow unnecessary.

On the contrary, these battles are underpinned by principles and values. Values that talk to a particular ethical culture that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the ANC. Principles that speak of non-racialism, non-sexism and respect for the rule of law. After all, all of us collectively fought, died, went into exile and spent time in prison for this very constitutional democracy. For a universal suffrage — and to work towards a prosperous South Africa.

Hence, anyone who overtly threatens these principles, values and beliefs must be dealt with in the harshest terms. Talk of unity at the expense of inaction on the part of the executive branch of government is wholly unacceptable.

Now, I am the first to admit (as I have written about before) that much has been accomplished over the last two years and I will not repeat it here, but the slow pace with which we deal with ill-disciplined comrades in the ANC is worrisome. 

Also, the non-adherence to the constitution of the ANC alarms me very much. Many ignore the fact that the ANC constitution stipulates very clearly that any member convicted in a court of law will no longer be eligible to be a member of the organisation, let alone occupy a leadership position in the ANC or any of its constitutional structures.

Does the ANC adhere to this stipulation? NO! 

We have so-called members who have recently been released from prison, and yet they simply fall back into their leadership positions and become very vocal on matters of the ANC. Why are they still in the ANC, I wonder? We cannot apply the constitution selectively because this will come back to bite us all.

I know this is not the first time the ANC top six has wilfully violated the constitution. When Gwede Mantashe was secretary-general — and because it made political sense to do so — he violated the stipulations of the Constitution to accommodate the then Premier League chairpersons.

Basically, the constitution states that once you are elected directly (not as an ex-officio member) into the NEC you must resign from your lower leadership position. In short, the higher structure takes precedence over all lower structures. Makes sense, does it not?

However, because it made political sense to have Ace, Mabuza, Zikalala and Supra remain strong men in their respective provinces as chairpersons, because they all supported a particular grouping in the then ANC, this constitutional violation was allowed to continue and was only rectified at the Mangaung conference once they had cemented their win.

It is unfortunate that the Ace/Zuma grouping has come to be known as the Radical Economic Transformation group because we all know that they are anything but about transformation. 

We now see a repeat of such violations because of political machinations in the ANC. Where is the leadership on this matter? Where is the integrity committee on such matters? And finally, what say you, the constitutional sub-committee of the ANC NEC, about this blatant violation?

I must admit I was glad to see Bongani Bongo’s case being kicked out by our courts, though I’m made to understand from some quarters it was with extreme prejudice on the part of embattled Judge John Hlophe. The jury is still out on this one, it seems. 

But one thing is for sure — the Ace/Zuma faction cannot now continue to spread disinformation about our judges and courts being subjective and manipulated. If anything, this ruling suggests very clearly that if you have your day in court you may very well be found to be innocent, or there might be a lack of evidence against you. So, what are you afraid of, Ace and Zuma? Just do it! Let justice be done.

Now, let me also just warn you that the approach of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his Budget speech recently indicated that there is virtually no money for the public sector wage bill. As many of you know by now, I have been a strong proponent of tackling the unions head-on, especially when it comes to the public sector wage bill: however, a healthy dose of realism is at times required in the realm of realpolitik.

So, if the president fully supports this position of Tito, he risks alienating his union allies and the SACP. Which in turn can mean that they find themselves in an embrace with Ace. And we don’t want that now, do we? Rather, an acceptable compromise will have to be knocked out between these allies.

Perhaps CR and his ministers can agree to a reasonable wage hike over the medium term, with a clear understanding that in order to get ourselves out of the debt hole we find ourselves in, there must be a written commitment and agreement to liberalising the structure of the economy, especially our state-owned enterprises and in particular Eskom and Prasa. How about that for a compromise? 

After all, I take it most of us are concerned with finding lasting solutions to our current impasse — these being unemployment, inequality and poverty, not to mention the stagnant economy.

These are the priorities and this is why the fighting is so imperative for some of us in the ANC.

We want to re-establish and defend our constitutional democracy in our country. Zuma, Ace and their ilk seek to actively undermine and subvert it. 

We want to remodel our economy to be more inclusive and facilitate much-needed structural reforms, including the question of land. We want a more equitable social welfare system and seek to conclude a social compact among the stakeholders at Nedlac.

Talking of white monopoly capital and igniting race-based politics is taking us backwards and not forward. 

It is unfortunate that the Ace/Zuma grouping has come to be known as the Radical Economic Transformation group because we all know that they are anything but about transformation. 

In fact, henceforth, I propose that we no longer refer to these rascals as the RET faction, and just call them the populist faction. After all, they remain ill-disciplined and unethical. We want to protect our non-racial character and principles.

So, you ask, why this ongoing infighting in our governing party? Well, as you can see, we fight for the greater good or we all perish. DM

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All Comments 5

  • Thank you for your article. But right now, it appears that we are firmly on the road to simply “perish”, caused by an inept governing party.

  • “In fact, henceforth, I propose that we no longer refer to these rascals as the RET faction, and just call them the populist faction. After all, they remain ill-disciplined and unethical. We want to protect our non-racial character and principles.”

    If only…..

  • RET are nothing but radical economic thieves, from zuma, magashule, malema, niehaus etc. They want to transform and repurpose this country’s wealth and resources for their own personal piggy bank under the guise of being pro- poor. False “prophets” who will just foist an never ending nightmare.

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