Programme Director, Cde David Makhura
Deputy Secretary General, Cde Jessie Duarte PEC Members here present NEC Deployees here present Veterans of our struggle here present REC Members here present Leadership of the Alliance here present Leadership of the Leagues – Veterans’ League, Women’s League and Youth League here present Comrades and Compatriots Prior to expressing some thoughts on the challenges facing the ANC and the liberation movement currently, allow me to seize this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the families of our fallen compatriots, Cdes Nonhlanhla Stompie Mthembu, Makhenkhesi Stofile and Susan Thupane, who passed on recently.
Our hearts also go out to other comrades who passed on, some of them during the period leading up to the recent local government elections, in areas like Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. We are devastated by the loss that we suffered as a result of the sudden passing of our beloved comrades but we take solace in the knowledge that they served their people with honour and distinction and they will be remembered for their selflessness and dedication to the cause for liberation and freedom. May their souls rest in peace! Lalani ngoxolo Maxabane!
Comrades, we are gathered here today on the heels of the local government elections were we fared badly in most of our municipalities, especially our Metros across the province. The said electoral outcome communicates a loud and clear message: all is not well within and with the ANC!
Our people generally and our members specifically have spoken. Unfortunately, their voting with their feet has led to the ANC losing control of the Metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane; Mogale City Local Municipality and a general decline of our electoral performance in most if not all municipalities across the province, something that none of us could predict.
As we grapple with what hit us, we should resist the temptation to fall into the trap of believing the narrative that the ANC has won elections as this will plunge us further into denialism. We need to look one another in the face and tell ourselves the whole truth no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Even though our traditional voters and members of the ANC seem to have voted with their feet, the excruciating pain we are experiencing is largely self-inflicted. We have as the ANC scored too many own goals and because we got away with it a few times, we became complacent to a point where we believed our own propaganda that we will rule for eternity. We falsely believed that South Africans owed us their votes and they have no other choice but to vote for the ANC – a fallacious belief indeed!
What a reality check we got! In one swoop the electorate have delivered a profound message. Now that we are gathered here as the leadership, it is opportune to ask a few hard questions regarding what does the electoral performance mean for the ANC. In attempting to interpret the voters’ message, it would be helpful if we snap from the denialism of the recent past in order that we appreciate the gravity of the situation that we have gradually but surely plunged ourselves into.
Comrades, we are at the crossroads, politically-speaking. Where we are is a moment of making difficult decisions and making hard choices if we are to extricate the ANC from the morass it find itself in. I believe it is no exaggeration that we are as the ANC generally and the province particularly, facing a second “Morogoro moment”.
At the Morogoro Consultative Conference back in the 60s, courageous cadres of our movement met to make an honest assessment of where the ANC in particular and the liberation movement in general was and engaged in robust and frank conversation about how they got there and what needed to be done to inject new energy and provide better impetus to our liberation struggle.
Emerging from the Morogoro Conference, a clear line of march that saw all our forces, both internal and in exile, marshalled through a common vision, was developed. It is common course that Morogoro was a watershed moment for our struggle mainly due to the honesty, the frankness, the boldness and the temerity of those who were in attendance. It was also their undying love for their movement and their country that contributed to not only the success of the Conference but the survival of the ANC.
No matter how we look at the situation presently, we are at a tipping point. Our movement generally and the ANC in particular are in tatters. The ANC is riddled with all the wrong and alien tendencies of institutionalized factionalism, crippling divisions, spiraling ill-discipline, despicable arrogance and inexplicable denialism. We have steered off-course and are not just heading but the ANC ship is in stormy waters! Simply put: we are in deep trouble! We are in disarray and unless we change course, we are headed for a calamity of unprecedented proportions.
The ANC is in a crisis of our own making and if it was to survive we need to think out of the box about ways that will propel us forward. Due to the seriousness of our situation, a sense of urgency has to prevail.
But why do I emphasise that we are in a crisis? I am doing so for various reasons and this has been recently articulated more eloquently by the electorate. The message reverberating across the length and breadth of our country that the ANC has to hear is the following:
– Our people believe, rightly or wrongly, that we have grown big-headed i.e. we are arrogant;
– The believe that we are extremely tolerant to various malfeasances, chief among them being corruption;
– They also believe that we have become what they do not know – something they cannot relate to;
– There is also a belief that we are distant from them and the social distance between the people and the ANC has led to it becoming aloof and insensitive to their aspirations, needs and concerns;
– The belief is also that we have grown to be dismissive, pompous and condescending;
– We are not attending and resolving the issues raised in our own research;
– Our candidates’ selection process in some areas was a disaster and alienated communities;
– The loudest message from voters is pointing to subjective factors: killing for councilor post, having been turned into an employment agency, preoccupation with self-preservation and self-centredness and taking the electorate for granted.
In my view, this constitute a basket of issues that led to the electoral outcome that represent feedback from electorate. In broad terms, these issues are leadership, unmanaged expectations, trust deficit and the economic reality for the majority of our people.
Comrades, we can theorise as much as we like about the correctness or otherwise of this message but the reality is that our people are not happy with us or what we have become as an organization. We therefore need to look at ourselves and conduct an honest introspection exercise that will point to what we have become. Anyway, the general rule is that perception is reality.
We will therefore do ourselves a disservice if we are to continue in the current trajectory of trying to convince our people and ourselves that there is nothing wrong with us. Truth be told, the ANC is suffering from an identity crisis. We seem to not know who we are as alien tendencies have taken root within our ranks and this has even changed not only our character but also our ethos and morality. We have become a strange being that has alienated our people. Hence, the disastrous electoral outcome.
Comrades, our people are demoralized and feel humiliated being voters of the ANC. Even though the situation remains fluid at the moment, we need to begin to ask the question: where are we and how did we get here? And we should also ask the question how did we end up here in order to map a way out of this morass?
It is a truism that we are in big trouble! We therefore need to leave no stone unturned and have no holy cows in our assessment of the situation. We can ill-afford to pussy-footy around the issues when our movement is going astray and our country is facing a precipice.
Comrades, let us muster the courage to say: this far and no further! The starting point should be honesty within the limits of what Gauteng can do. As President Tambo once said: we should develop questioning loyalty! Ours should be a voice that is a conscience to all ANC members not only in Gauteng but across our country.
Comrades, the ANC has historically occupied the moral high-ground. Hence the trust and confidence our people had in us. Currently, we seem to have ceded that moral supremacy to our opponents and this has led to the unprecedented anger against the ANC. The anger of our people has not been sudden and we refused to listen. We should therefore not be surprised of what happened during the recent local government elections.
There has been a trend or pattern of accumulated anger over time hence we need to trace it for us to find a way out. The lessons we should learn from this harrowing experience should be:
– Stop being in constant running battle with society. We assert that we are a leader of society. What are we leading then if we are constantly having ugly spats with the very society we purport to lead?
– We should manage perception irrespective of whether we believe we are correct or not as perceptions do not necessarily have to be true.
Given that there is no correlation between service delivery and the electoral outcome(s) in the municipalities in Gauteng, we should therefore look at ourselves closely with the view to appreciate how our people view us. Whilst doing this and without being denialists ourselves in Gauteng in as far as those subjective factors pertaining to us as a province, we should factor in the general and specific situation in other provinces that has contributed to the decline of the ANC electoral support.
Gauteng being the engine of our country’s economy means whatever happens in our province affects in no small measure what happens nationally and vice versa. Hence we need to learn lessons from countries like China on how they treat their strategic provinces like Shanghai.
We should also examine how ordinary people experience us in leadership positions whether in the organization or government as we are at times perceived to be abusing our power and ill-treat people when we are supposed to be of service to them. Our conduct and posture is contributing to a perception that is unfortunately gaining traction that life might be better under the opposition.
There are certain things like the so-called “ANC way” that acts to shield us from the reality that we should unlearn if we are to survive as a movement. We should also stop being victims of our own propaganda whilst there is also the urgent need to adapt to the times including injecting new blood across the layers of our leadership structures.
Whilst undergoing our Damascus, we should also not lose sight of what is happening with our opponents. Behind the façade of them being united, cracks are beginning to show as they do not necessarily agree except on their unfathomable hate for the ANC. Their differences have to be exploited going forward particularly given our status as the opposition in some of municipalities across our province.
Sitting on the opposition benches, our councilors must appreciate their role – that of being activists and for them to be effective, they must read political and other literature whilst our political education efforts must be escalated. We must also boost our research capacity to assist them to set the agenda. Furthermore, the provincial and national government should play their role in our efforts to recover lost ground.
Comrades, a call for an early national elective conference is being made from our ranks. As the leadership, we cannot but express our view on this proposal. Is this call made in order to advance the cause of reclaiming the soul of the ANC or is it made to perpetuate the status quo albeit with different faces?
Given the crisis that we find ourselves in, the call seems to make sense in principle but we need to scratch beneath the surface if we are to ensure that an early conference achieves the progressive objectives of re-engineering the ANC. Shouldn’t we be saying that the early or special conference should not be the end in itself but should constitute an integral part of the true ANC renewal?
What we need in my view is a broad consultative conference convened by the ANC. As the PEC, we should start a process of consulting and engaging various formations like churches, veterans, progressive businesspeople and others that we will identify prior to that conference. The steps that need to be taken in preparation for such a conference are crucial if we are to restore the glory of the ANC. These steps should enable the ANC to emerge more stronger and better focused as an agent of change.
For it to be a success, the content or focus of the special conference should be, amongst others, having an honest discussion on where we are as the movement and like Morogoro, ensure that we emerge from it with an implementable programme to rebuild the ANC and make it appealing to the electorate. The issues of leadership elections should be informed by the conclusion we arrive at, at the end of an honest introspection exercise. We should also place our (ANC) constitution under the microscope so as to determine if some of its provisions do not act as a hindrance to the renewal project. In simple terms, the said conference must deal with fundamental issues that has led to where we are today.
Comrades, as I conclude, let me once again recall the wise words of former President, Oliver Reginald Tambo, when he opened the Kabwe Consultative Conference in 1985. He said the following:
“The scribes of the enemy of our people are today poised over countless notebooks. They have already written that our Conference was a failure and of no consequence to the future of our country. Their counterparts in the special forces are implementing plans whose results they intend to be used exactly as proof of how miserable this Conference aborted.
“Vigilance must be our watchword. Commitment to and focus on the task of freedom must be the factors that inspire us in our work, in keeping with the same degree of intensity with which our people and the world anti-apartheid movement pursue the goal of the liberation of our country and the permanent transformation of our region into a zone of peace”.
As I sit down, I declare without any fear of contradiction that this Extended PEC meeting will lead to a watershed moment in our country. It will not be aborted but its outcomes will reverberate throughout our province and our country.
In conclusion, allow me also to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for the efforts you made and the gallant work you did leading up to and during the recent local government elections. You did well. May I also thank our volunteers for their sterling work and they made us proud. Thank you! Re a leboga!
Comrades, change is coming and all of us gathered here today will be part of it.
I thank you!