Centenarian blues: Murky waters for ANC in the year of ORT

THEMBILE NDABENI

It’s a shame that the ANC is 105 years in the state it is. The African National Congress is the oldest liberation movement in Africa. At its inception it was known for its discipline and its founders were educated Africans, some studied abroad and chiefs as well. The very same evil thing that was used as a premise for its formation tribalism, “the demon of racialism”, as one of its main founders Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, put it, is still haunting the ANC. In fact tribalism was reborn from the Polokwane Conference and served the ANC both negatively and positively. Negatively, it was a bridge, a devil’s back for Jacob Zuma to cross over against Thabo Mbeki. Almost all the Zulus in the ANC voted for another Zulu because to them it was time to have a Zulu president. Positively, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was buried because even its members crossed over to join the ANC in large numbers.

It was a blessing in disguise that its first president was the clergy Rev John Langalibalele “Mafukuzela” Dube, a Zulu.

Even the ANC’s youth wing had educated, decent, disciplined and selfless leadership. This is why it produced respected leaders of the ANC. That is the likes of Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and the ANC Youth League’s first President, the fiery Anton Lembede. Where is this selfish, greedy, and corrupt without social conscience attitude come from? In exile the long serving ANC president Tambo who would be 100 this year, demonstrated selflessness.

Zulus cannot be perceived as bad political beings because of the reckless current ANC leaders. Chief Albert Luthuli, a Zulu, was an outstanding leader of note. Nelson Mandela and Tambo looked up to him in terms of leadership, maturity and decency. He was the first prominent ANC president and first South African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

When Mandela and Tambo opened a law firm they did that not to make profit, but to assist poor black people. On top of that Tambo sacrificed many things, including his family. He became the head of the ANC and as part of the ANC collective promoted Nelson Mandela as the face of the face of the struggle in South Africa. After the unbanning of the ANC instead of going for personal glory he relinquished power as the president of the ANC to Mandela.

How can such a corrupt, selfish ANC leadership under Zuma honour Oliver OR Tambo? How do they feel, especially Zuma, the way they celebrated 105 years of an organization with such a glorious history?

Zuma and his cohorts are now standing and promoting something that was never changed in any ANC conference. They say it is not the policy of the ANC for the deputy to become the president. The question is, since when? The crisis caused by Zuma and his cohorts made the ANC veterans to want a change in the electoral system.

Mandela became brand number one in human beings, number two after Coca-Cola when you put everything. After Mandela was Mbeki, Tambo’s protégé. Mbeki is the leader who managed and succeeded to rise above and out of Mandela’s shadow. That’s the man under whose leadership we never heard about the state capture, disrespect of the state, and any form of corruption.

Mbeki demonstrated sound leadership, domestically, continentally and internationally. He never took down the ANC that was respected during Mandela’s tenure and before. Just Mandela’s leadership was never characterized by state capture as is happening currently. Both with Mandela, their leadership never even sniffed tribalism.

The ANC that turned 105 on 8 January 2017 is faced with many challenges, corruption, factionalism, laziness, cadre deployment (qualifying or not) paranoia, disillusion/discontent/decline in support. On top of that is the state capture, Nkandla, and the disastrous President Jacob Zuma.

The worst is inside – killings for positions/power even the leadership doesn’t deny. Currently there is leadership succession battle based on factionalism and tribalism, veiled with woman president. Now the ANC has changed into something whose challenges especially of leadership succession are settled in courts. This has become a trend with provincial leadership.

Not long ago it was the challenge of the KwaZulu/Natal provincial leadership with the court ruling in favor of those who said/say the conference that elected the leadership was not legitimate. The Pietermaritzburg court nullified the ANC KwaZulu/Natal provincial elective conference of 2015 that elected the current leadership.

The very same unbecoming ANC act took place in the Eastern Cape ANC provincial elective conference. One faction didn’t want to accept the results and started violence. That resulted in some delegates being injured and emergency services having to arrive. Same applyies in Free State and Northern Cape (threats of court action).

The ANC’s 105 and OR’s 100th posthumous birthday anniversary this year on 27 October of the longing serving ANC ever, Oliver Reginald “OR”, “Mdala” (Mntomdala- elder) Tambo were/are celebrated very funny, with the movement transformed into the political party in the situation it is in. But what I can tell you those responsible will highlight that and not only highlight it but pretend to regret and condemning it. Hypocrisy and acting will not help and they know that because they not insane but sane.

There’s no way that insane people can run such a big party, a ruling party for that matter. If you speak about the party with sufficient human material to lead and govern, it is the ANC. It is the only party in the history of the liberation struggle in Africa and maybe in the world that was given ruling party statust whilst still a liberation movement in exile.

That emanates from the way it shaped itself as time progressed. It is the only movement through its president “OR” (“make apartheid unworkable, “make the country ungovernable”,”) with the choreographer Thabo Mbeki that called the masses of the people of South Africa into action and they (masses) responded.

The ANC went through major tests especially after its implementation of the 1949 Programme of Action, state repression, on one hand. On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges was its adoption of the Freedom Charter that was opposed by the Africanists within.

They were discontent with the Freedom Charter drafted by an individual communist, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein or communists (Congress Of Democrats).

They subsequently broke away and formed the PAC. Wounded as it was the movement (ANC) survived. In exile they experienced the same problem of discontent by Africanists with Tennyson Xola “TX” Makiwane and his group also questioning the role (nature) of Whites and Communists in the movement/struggle. But the ANC rose above those challenges including espionage, abduction, and killings until it’s unbanning in 1990 and instead grew stronger. Still after the unbanning there were challenges after the “honeymoon” (unbanning) was over. Breakaways resurfaced with the formation of UDM (27 September 1997), COPE (16 December 2008), and EFF (26 July 2013).

It’s surprising that the ANC is having such silly challenges after overcoming all serious ones!

  •  Thembile Ndabeni is a freelance writer, researcher and commentator. He holds Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.