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Now the enemy is within, the ANC must heed the words of Dulcie September

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Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Today, the ANC again faces the enemy within — organised crime syndicates, crime bosses, permanent fraudsters, thieves who steal indiscriminately from the public purse. Their appetite for accumulation and illegal wealth creation is insatiable.

‘The enemy is within.” These were among the famous last words of Dulcie September before she was brutally murdered — in fact, assassinated — outside her ANC office in downtown Paris, France. 

This brutal killing happened in 1988 when a supposed lone assailant approached Dulcie in the corridor in front of her office door and shot her five times at close range in the face and head with a silenced .22 calibre firearm. The lone gunman was never apprehended and little to no progress has since been made in the ongoing investigation. 

Those were the days of the National Intelligence Service, Military Intelligence and the Security Police with all their covert structures, killing and maiming comrades and dealing in illicit activities to prop up the apartheid regime at all costs. They were involved in all manner of illegal activities, from smuggling to dealing in guns, money laundering and so much more. 

It was a time when one was at constant risk of detention without trial. There were mysterious deaths in detention and killings of activists or, as they put it at the TRC, their permanent removal from society. 

These murderers and apartheid apparatchiks also had a healthy dose of help from within the liberation movements. Collaborators, impimpis, askaris and informers who infiltrated the ANC, PAC and UDF to spy on others, on progressive activists, on Dulcie September. 

These cowardly acts often resulted in detention, imprisonment, killing and death. It is for this reason that many comrades had no compunction with necklacing a known collaborator or impimpi. Strike that match, twice! 

That is our sad history, and many have paid the ultimate price in our liberation Struggle, like Dulcie September and countless others. 

Today, the ANC experiences the same threat, the enemy is within — organised crime syndicates, in bed with known crime bosses, permanent fraudsters, thieves who steal indiscriminately from the public purse even in times of strife and suffering, as in the current pandemic. 

Their appetite for accumulation and illegal wealth creation is insatiable and they will do whatever it takes to ensure their chosen new lives are comfortable. 

Cyril Ramaphosa, Shamila Batohi and Ronald Lamola et al will not stop them. For the longest time, the ANC’s response to this eventuality of rotten elements creeping into the organisation has been academic and theoretical. 

Let’s revert to our basic document and principle, “Through the Eye of a Needle?”, a paper developed some years ago to express what kind of cadre is required to participate in the National Democratic Revolution or simply contribute to the transformation project in our country. 

The document outlines the current challenges in our society and asks the question: what kind of ANC is required to adequately address these challenges and in doing so, also asks the most pertinent question of all — what are the broad requirements of leadership needed to spearhead such a complex task?

It goes further and states that “the parameters within which every member of the ANC should exercise their right to shape the leadership collectives of the movement” — FAIL. 

“We should strive all the time to ensure that our leaders are indeed made of sterner revolutionary stuff” — FAIL. 

And finally, “The leaders should be accepted by all members as leaders of the movement as a whole” — FAIL. 

The enemy is indeed within.

So, as Lenin asked in 1901, what is to be done? 

Shall we give up on the ANC? Throw in the towel of wanting to attain a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa? Is this the end of days for the ANC? This is a question that will have to preoccupy the next National Executive Committee of the ANC. Do you want to continue the once-proud history of this glorious movement or will you hand it over on a silver platter to these hooligans and hoodlums? 

The authority of the elective conference in 2017, as well as the collective authority of the NEC, is being directly challenged by certain regional and provincial conferences. I don’t need to remind you that in 1969 at the Morogoro Conference, when faced with dissent among the members of the ANC, the then NEC resigned their commissions and went to the said conference as ordinary members to participate as equals. 

The statement made by Oliver Tambo and company was simple — if you do not support my leadership and our authority, then vote us out, but don’t think you can run the organisation by remote control by undermining me as the president and your NEC.

Admittedly, the NEC comprised only nine members at that time and not the 86 we have to contend with these days. This could be an option, Mr President, though I don’t think it would be a wise one. 

Another lesson to learn from the recent past is the expulsion of the “Group of Eight” from the ANC in 1975. Here you had a situation where the authority and chosen policy and ideological direction of the ANC was being openly challenged by eight members, one of whom was an NEC member. They became a menace to the organisation and eventually were expelled. Bantu Holomisa and Julius Malema, in the more recent past, were expelled for their strident behaviour and for not agreeing with the leadership of the ANC.

Now is not the time to cower — there exist numerous reasons why this is the oldest liberation movement on the continent. It’s about self-preservation and protecting tried and tested policies and principles uncompromisingly. It’s about what every and any first-term administration wants, a second term, without which the most needed interventions to fix our economy and address our triple challenges will suffer the consequences.

Let’s take a leaf from Thucydides when describing the Peloponnesian war: “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.”

Or better yet, the Athenians offer the Melians an ultimatum: surrender and pay tribute to Athens, or be destroyed. The Athenians do not wish to waste time arguing over the morality of the situation, because in practice might makes right — or, in their own words, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

So, it may not exactly be through the eye of the needle, but we should strive all the time to ensure our leaders are indeed made of sterner revolutionary stuff. It cannot only be up to civil society — you and your NEC must step up to the plate, good sir. DM

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