POLITICAL OVERVIEW TO THE ANC SPECIAL GENERAL COUNCIL DELIVERED BY THE PROVINCIAL CHAIRPERSON COMRADE SIHLE ZIKALALA, DURBAN OLIVE CENTER, 4TH DECEMBER 2017
- It remains a privilege and honor to stand before the ANC Special Provincial General Council and present a political overview on behalf of the Provincial Executive Committee. We are coming to an end of an important year in the calendar of our movement and all progressive forces within and beyond the boarders of our country, the year which the National Executive Committee declared as the Year of OR Tambo – Let us Deepen Unity. President OR Tambo was a rare human being with exceptional leadership qualities and his life personified the unity of purpose for the advancement of the struggle to build a National Democratic Society.
- We convey our greatest and sincere revolutionary appreciations to all our structures and organs of civil society who responded to the call of our movement, to celebrate 100 years since the birth of that giant of our struggle. As revolutionaries we have an obligation continuously to study and learn from history, including from our former leaders, so that we can confront challenges of the moment better prepared for victory. The core issue is that if the South African revolution is to triumph it must therefore as a matter of principle, continually reproduce the character of leadership exemplified by the Great Oliver Reginald Tambo.
- This Special Provincial General Council has been convened to consolidate the position of our province on policies and leadership perspectives towards the 54th national conference. Therefore, the contingent of cadres and activists gathered here today has an obligation to live up to the expectations of our people, to ensure that our ideological, political and organizational tasks are accomplished. We must take time today and during the course this Provincial General Council to reflect and learn from our past experiences in order to enrich our revolutionary theory and practice.
- As we forge ahead, we must give full rein to the vital role of the masses in building a National Democratic Society. We are keenly aware that all of us fully appreciate the honor and the responsibility that comes with being chosen as a delegate to represent the masses of our people. Delegates to the ANC national conferences do not only represent the ANC membership, but the rank and file, ordinary men and women, young and old who support and believe in the African National Congress as the parliament of the people.
- It is in this context that you must discharge our responsibilities in ways that do not betray the trust and confidence of our people who elected us into this responsibility. These masses know and understand that in each of our step forward, we will encounter new challenges and at times unfamiliar problems, seeking to divert or detract us away from our revolutionary journey. As their representatives, they expect us to be always ready and prepared for adversity and at times dangers facing the National Democratic Revolution.
The Road to the 54th National Conference
- Today, we also have to assess and evaluate the journey we have traversed as part of our preparations for the 54th National Conference. Contributing equally, if not more substantially, to the pattern of fleetingness of highly individualized campaigns of the so called presidential hopefuls, has been the inflammatory commercial and social media through its creation of both an atmosphere and stage for perpetual mudslinging. Inasmuch as these platforms appears to be disparate is shape and form due to their mediums and modus operandi – the one being to watch and listen whilst the other is to write and share – they have been at the centre of the production of obsessive reports on exaggerated conflicts, peddled divisions and predictions of split(s) after the upcoming 54th National Conference.
- The collective hysteria of these platforms and individualized campaigns in which comrades have been self-justifying and popularizing themselves at the expense of the ANC and what it stands for; has a huge potential to cause colossal problems to the movement beyond the 54th National Conference and particularly as we prepare for the 2019 General Elections. Learning from all these developments, the most conspicuous form of campaigning and practice, we have seen, has been an unmeasured deviation from the well-known tradition and practice of our movement, where leaders are identified and elected on the basis of their track record rather than self-promotion.
- The path that we seem to obstinately pursue at a time of global economic malaise profoundly influences the contradictions and practical controversies of the road to the 54th National Conference by its latent presence. Under the foregoing circumstances, slate politics with its inherent factions; present itself under new conditions, whereby individualized campaigns become the prominent object of the exertions of the ANC, and superseded, to a considerable extent, the previous efforts to mitigate its spread and impact on the ANC character.
- Of significance, factions impose their ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who differ; and if successful, render capable seasoned comrades to political oblivion. And as such, the highly individualized campaigns largely advanced personal interests and will, of which it is supposed to be the interests, preferences and will of the ANC branches. The essence of political consciousness, respect for the ANC constitution and its enforcement over individual leaders loses its significance when those in positions of trust and responsibility are regularly encroaching and/or interpreting it for self- convenience.
- This conduct or lust for power, position itself equally to the organizational structures and to the inclination of individuals and/ or political functionaries with intentions to access state resources; and to whose supposed interests ANC character is adverse, has had no difficulty in establishing itself as good as fish into the sea. The reality, however, is that this manner of proceeding in radically wrong places our movement at a grave risk of losing its revolutionary character. These practices are intended to cause a fundamental destruction of the African National Congress and must be combated by all of us as revolutionaries.
- This Provincial General Council must also discuss and respond to the peculiar challenges facing the province of KwaZulu-Natal, such as killings of political activists and violence in general. The killings have created instability within the ANC and further hurt families. We commend the efforts of the Premier for establishing the Moerane Commission, but as the ANC we need to ensure that engage on thorough discussion and approach to put a stop on these killings.
- Over the period of its existence, the ANC has faced countless difficulties but emerged victorious primarily because of unity of purpose from its leaders and membership alike. Put it differently, history has taught us that without unity, any cause is bound to fail no matter how noble it is. With disunity amongst its leaders and membership, the organization and the revolution face the following immediate possibilities:
- Loss of public standing and confidence: one hard reality is that the liberation movement has survived for more than a century because it enjoyed confidence from the majority of people in South Africa, Africa and the world. The oppressed majority identified themselves not only with the vision and policies of the ANC, but with the quality and public standing of its leadership and membership.
To say both the leaders and membership of this liberation movement over the years were indeed great people is to tell the truth – hence the majority of people could identify with them. But what is to be a great person? Jim Collins in his book Good to Great remarked that “a man’s greatness can be measured by what he leaves to grow and whether he started others to think along fresh lines with a vigour that persisted after him”. This is the measure of greatness that has been the hallmark in the liberation movement and earned it un-paralleled public standing and confidence.
With the divisions obtaining in the movement, the public standing and confidence we have enjoyed over many years is fast waning.
- Decline of Organisational Support: the ANC exists for the people and its continued survival depends on the continued support by the majority of people – not only its membership. The support has not been ordained but has been earned through heroic struggles waged by the movement in search for a total liberation of the people, both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Since the beginning of uncontrollable challenges leading to the Polokwane Conference, the electoral support of the ANC has been on a downward spiral, with the severe impact felt in the 2016 Local Government Elections. Whilst many factors can be argued to account for such decline, at the centre of it all has been inability of the movement to unite and inspire confidence to the people that the organisation is still led by people whose sole attention is the pursue the noble cause of the struggle. Because of divisions at all levels, we have projected picture of an organisation that is self-serving, at war with itself and unable to command leadership to society.
- Emergence of a stronger opposition: there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people still believe and identify with the vision and policies of the liberation movement. The decline of support can therefore be attributed to a doubt about the quality and capacity of the leaders and members of the ANC to successfully implement these policies. Over the recent period, a narrative is finding resonance in society that because we have become a self-serving organisation, only the politically connect stands to benefit.
Given this state of affairs, the opposition get to have space and time to manipulate the genuine grievances of the majority and project itself as a best vehicle to implement the same ANC policies. Over years, we have seen an opposition that has tried so hard to appropriate the heritage and past leaders of the ANC. Owing to our division, the opposition continues to consolidate itself and penetrate to the traditional strongholds of the ANC.
- Emergence of splinter organisation: there seem to be a phenomenon that is getting entrenched where every conference of the ANC is followed by the formation of splinter organisations that are eating on the support of the ANC. After the 2007 National Conference, the COPE was formed by leaders who had standing and track record in the ANC. The impact of the formation of COPE was evident in the 2009 General Elections.
Post the 2012 National Conference, the Economic Freedom Fighters was formed by a group of young people who left the ANC Youth League and its impact was felt in the 2014 General Elections and 2016 Local Government Elections. There exists a real possibility that if a bruising contest is not averted in December and certain leaders are left out, the SACP will leave the alliance and indeed will also eat on the support of the ANC. This possibility has been re-affirmed by the last Congress of the SACP and continuous public speeches of its leaders.
- Disillusionment within the motive forces: the ANC has always asserted that the motive forces of the revolution are Black people in general and Africans in particular. In class terms, these forces have been made up of black workers and the rural poor. Motive forces have been defined as the drivers of the revolution who stand to benefit.
- The divisions in the movement continue to lead to the disillusionment of the motive forces as experienced in the decline of electoral support. Amongst them decide to be passive instead of lending support to the opposition; whilst others opt to look for alternatives amongst the opposition parties. The cumulative effect of all the possibilities accounted for above is the real loss of state power. For the ANC, the state power is a critical instrument to realize the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution which seeks to resolve the fundamental antagonistic contradictions of national oppression, class super-exploitation and patriarchal relations of power. Consequently, losing state power will amount to derailing the revolution and will mark the end of the relevance the ANC.
The essence of 54th National Conference
- The 54th National Conference being the first being after 20 years of liberation is profoundly significant for the movement and people of our country. Correctly and because of the strategic nature of our country, many people and particularly progressive forces across the globe expect that the African National Congress must remain a resolute and a formidable force to lead the National Democratic Revolution. Given the important challenges we continue to face, it is natural that all of us should be driven by a sense of urgency in everything we do to create a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and a prosperous society.
- From its inception, the ANC has always acted and conveyed messages that inspire hope for the masses of our people, especially the most marginalized and downtrodden. The 54th National Conference is taking place at a time when doubts are persistently sown in the minds of the people on the character of the ANC, its inability to respond to socio-economic issues given its consumption with internal battles. As a consequence, it is incumbent upon all us who are privilege to be delegated to that national conference to act in ways that reinforces the confidence of the masses of our people.
- A conference gives us as delegates an opportunity to conduct an assessment of the political situation and balance of forces domestically and across the globe. It further provides the ANC with an opportunity to conduct an objective assessment of itself as an organization, its policies and their impact on the programme of realizing the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution. This becomes the principal task of a national conference. This conference is about the future of the National Democratic Revolution and the African National Congress as the main leaders of change in our country. It will be a platform where various schools of thought will contend about the priorities and content of the policy trajectory necessary to overcome the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
- The ongoing contestation about the content of policy trajectory between those who believe and advance a liberal perspective defined as the NEW DEAL and the fundamental program of RADICAL ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION must be, once and for all, settled by the 54th National Conference. It must be clear that there is no ambiguity in the ANC. There is no policy of the New Deal ever discussed by any structures of the ANC. As delegates to the 54th National Conference we are guided by the resolutions of the National Policy Conference we held in July 20017. The invention of New Deal does not belong to policy propositions from the Policy Conference, and is a reflective of dangerous tendencies where individuals elevate themselves above the adopted policies of the movement. This tendency only serves to advance the interests of a particular faction.
- This PGC must engage on this kind of behavior where individuals opportunistically invent some new neoliberal policies which are in contrary to the adopted policies of the movement. Clearly, we need to agree that our movement is on crossroad and have to choose between leaning towards a Western imperialist or continue on the developmental economic path trajectory which gives us a possibility to advance the ideals of the National Democratic Revolution for the real benefits of the motive forces of the revolution. As a movement we have consistently and unequivocally condemned the behavior of Western forces who are driven by a determination to advance neoliberal policies which undermine the developmental interests of our continent, and its people.
- The 54th National Conference has an obligation to respond to the demands of the key motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution. In this regards, it must be clear and unambiguous that the leadership we choose must be prepared and equal to the task of implementing the program of action already adopted by movement. Correctly, the National Policy Conference emphasized that the central strategic task of our movement during this current phase of the National Democratic Revolution is the eradication of the deeply entrenched legacy of Colonialism of Special Type which manifesto itself through poverty, unemployment an inequality. This requires the movement to choose a courageous, fearless and uncompromised leader to lead us in this current phase of the struggle.
- It must issue instruction and directives to the elected leadership and members in general on what needs to be done in order to respond to the challenges facing our society at each given time. All of us are aware that the masses of our people have great expectations from their organization to devise means of improving the efficiency of the state machinery in order to serve them effectively. The fight against corruption remains the central task of the conference and a necessary struggle to ensure that the resources of the state do not become a vehicle for personal enrichment.
- President Oliver Tambo called the ANC, THE PARLIAMENT OF THE PEOPLE, primarily because it is a vehicle through which different ideological trends converge for purposes of advancing the ideals of the National Democratic Revolution. Therefore, to the Prophets of Doom, we must say without any fear of contradiction that the ANC lives, the ANC Leads. The ANC will live and the ANC will lead even long after the 54th National Conference. We say so because the ANC is the only movement with the capacity and polices to lead our people out of conditions of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
- In contextualizing this, the Strategy and Tactics says “Despite these major achievements, the structural legacy of colonialism remains deeply entrenched as reflected in the colonial, sexist and super exploitative structure of our economy; the spatial patterns of development and underdevelopment; and the social, human resources and infrastructure backlogs.”
Balance of forces
- As a revolutionary movement engaged in a struggle, we must always reflect on the balance of forces so that we can have a concrete understanding of both opportunities and constraint. Since our last Provincial General in June 2017, there are no major global trends or reconfiguration that has an impact of the pace and success of the National Democratic Revolution. Of course what continue to confront us are challenges of poverty and inequality given the fact that our economy has a heavy reliance on the market and rampant global capitalism.
- In its Political Perspective adopted by our PGC in June 2017, the ANC Provincial Executive Committee said, “there is a growing body of evidence that external forces who are behind the destabilization of BRICS countries rely on objective and subjective domestic factors to give momentum to their imperial agenda of regime change. A prominent feature of their strategy is to encourage and fund formations established primarily to de-legitimatize the authority of the target governments”.
- Given the fact that the National Democratic Revolution is a process of struggle that seeks the transfer of political, ideological and economic power to the people as whole, it is therefore inevitable and self-evident that it has its both domestic and international opponents. The objectives of the NDR of transforming South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous society entails a struggle faces dangers. The global environment is characterized by a rapid technological advances and that changes the economic balances in favour of the developed nations.
- We it was pointe out in our draft Strategy and Tactics, the world is increasingly characterized by social discord at the heart of which are fundamental tensions in distribution of asserts and income. This impacts upon the legitimacy of the political and business elites due to their failure to address fundamental questions of poverty, unemployment and inequality which defined global capitalism. This has created a space for rightwing opportunists to emerge advancing adventurous perspectives which can set us backward from the struggle to build a better life for all.
- The crisis of capitalism also finds expression in collapsing ethics and ethical standard necessary for human emancipation away from poverty and hunger. While these issues assume a global character, but there is more acute impact on the working class and the poor across the globe, particularly the Black masses. To carry out the National Democratic Revolution in the current phase of our struggle requires a united National Liberation Movement with the capacity to organize and mobilize all motive forces behind a common vision. This needs principle and consistent leadership that cannot be easily intimidated or dictated up by the market forces who have no interests in the complete liberation of our people.
- The primary task of the ANC remains the mobilization of all progressive forces within and outside our country for the success of the National Democratic Revolution. The recent developments in both Kenya and Zimbabwe must be properly studied by all of us in order to avoid a possibility for our revolutions to be compromised. The Kenyan question where courts are used to challenge democratic and legitimately elected leadership reflect
Strategic tasks of the 54th National Conference
- The 54th National Conference has both short and long tasks which must be accomplished for the sake of our people and the National Democratic Revolution. These tasks can be successfully achieved only if delegates will draw lesson from Lenin when he said “A revolutionary sounding statement does not necessarily translate to a revolutionary policy.” In this regard the forthcoming national conference will have to be seized more with various strategic questions rather than placing all attention to leadership contestations. Lenin speaking of the revolution he said “For a revolution to succeed, it requires a revolutionary situation; a revolutionary party with disciplined revolutionaries”.
- The continued decline of ANC support since the first democratic dispensation is indicative of both the maturing democracy in the country as well as the gradual change in the revolutionary character of the ANC which has a huge impact on the ANC standing in the society. The recent Local Government Election results in 2016 and the performance of the ANC in some by-elections held since August 2016, show that some of our people and not contend with the pace change and the ability of their organization to demonstrate both collective intention and capacity to effect faster change to build a better life for all. As much as this protest may be based on the ANC performance on service delivery but it is more attributed on how the ANC conducts itself in relation to it being a revolutionary mass based liberation movement.
- The ANC should in this forthcoming conference emerge with strategies of renewing itself as an organization of the people with revolutionary policies to rapidly change the socio economic conditions of the poor, having advanced cadreship and leadership with superior understanding and capacity to humbly address the challenges of the country without losing sight of the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution. Organizational renewal should be prioritized as a tool to restore and reclaim the lost support from various sectors of the society in particular the intelligentsia and the rural poor masses.
- Besides this, the ANC will continue to decline and will suffer the same fate as other liberation parties or movements in our continent and elsewhere in the world. In this regard the PEC Perspective Towards the 54th National Conference made reference the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and the demise of Nicaraguan revolution. The same document urges the ANC to take lessons from the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party which was in power for more than seven decades (1929 -2000) which lost power due to internal challenges and breakaways. This is the time to renew and the Conference needs to seize the moment before it is lost.
- Organizational renewal is not an option for a condition for the continued survival of the African National Congress. This resonates well with the call made by President OR Tambo at the 48th ANC National Conference in 1991, when he said “We did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and unity of our people in general. Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people’s cause shall triumph”.
- The masses of our country are eagerly waiting for the National Conference to decisively deal, resolve and correct the current state of the organization where not only the membership but even the leadership publicly display divisions even through undermining and or distortion of organizational principles; policies and decisions. South Africans need the people’s movement that leads them to be steadfast in its principles, unambiguous in articulation of its policies, clarity on what needs to be done in implementing conference decisions and resolutions.
- The 53rd National Conference defined and characterized the current phase as the second phase of transition which must be underpinned by radical economic transformation. Responding to that directive of the national conference, the National Executive Committee defined radical economic transformation as to mean change in the structure of the economy; change in control and management, change in systems and change in ownership patterns in favor of the previously marginalized, Black people in general and Africans in particular.
- Radical economic transformation requires resilience; boldness and decisiveness of the ANC and its government. This should derive from the appreciation that various sectors of our economy are closed and monopolized by those who have been the beneficiaries during apartheid. The practice of economic monopolization continues to keep the economy at the hands of the few especially White males. We are compelled by time, space and conditions to drive a radical program of change in order to build a National Democratic Society.
- The conference must firm up the decision of the 5th National Policy Conference for a radical approach in dealing with the land question is our country. we must remain steadfast on our call to for the expropriation of land without compensation in order to ensure that the state exercise authority over productive land in our country and do so on behalf of the people as whole. The conference should further discuss extensively the issue of land use management to ensure that land continues to be productive and maintains it economic value even it has been returned to the rightful owners.
- Comrades, it is important that we reaffirm our position of the provision of free higher education for the working class and the poor in order to ensure development of human capital necessary for building a developmental state. Investing more on education ensures innovation and creative energy which is crucial for building a prosperous society.
- This PGC, therefore, has to define what strategic tasks face the 54th National Conference. We have defined the strategic tasks of the 54th National Conference as:
- Uprooting factionalism and rebuild unity: in the last decade, the ANC has been characterized by high level of disunity which has affects all levels of the organization. Often these divisions lead to disillusion and formation of splinter organizations. Disunity also affects the functioning of the organization and constrains its ability to provide leadership to the society.
- Restoration of the confidence of the people to the ANC: the decline of the electoral support together with the felling of the people about the ANC’s internal squabbles reflect the declining confidence people invest to the ANC. Coupled with this are subjective weakness arising from mismanagement of the state. The National Conference should effective respond to this challenge.
- Radical Economic Transformation: The 53rd National Conference resolved that we are now entering the second phase of transition which must be characterized by radical economic transformation. The ANC 2016 NEC Lekgotla defined the Radical Economic Transformation as the “……… The Radical Economic Transformation is, therefore, an overarching policy framework guiding the approach of the movement and all its deployees on socio-economic transformation. Having defined this in the 53rd National Conference and in the ANC 2016th NEC Lekgotla the 54th National Conference is expected to dissert all economic sectors are spell out radical policies that should be effected in each and every sector of the economy.
- Building the capacity of the developmental state: The fourth strategic task of the 54th National Conference is to respond on what must be done to build the capacity of our developmental state to discharge its mandate and get rid of weaknesses that affect the state. This includes confronting and addressing allegations, whether as perception or real, of corruption, state capture, patronage and nepotism.
Quality of leadership needed in this phase of the struggle
- I believe that this Provincial General Council remains firmly committed to the PEC perspective towards the 54th National Conference presented and adopted by all our structures eelier this year. Among other things we asserted the importance of quality of leadership with a vision and commitment to lead the program of social transformation underpinned by a radical change. The ANC document on Though the Eye of the Needle explains in detail the character and quality of leadership necessary for each phase of the national democratic revolution. However, as we approach the 54th National Conference further elaboration on this question of leadership remains paramount in response to the current demands of the NDR.
- In this context and given the current order of things in the movement and society in general, the movement must commit to the following:
- Election of a united leadership which places a high premium on the movement’s agenda to advance the NDR,
- A leadership that respects and defend the centrality of the movement as the leader of society and government in our country,
- A commitment to radical economic transformation and firm opposition to the western imperialists and their agenda. This leadership must lead the movement and the people of South Africa further away from western forces whose primary objectives is ne-colonialism,
- A leadership that is determined to consolidate our relations with African and BRICS countries and protect our national interests,
- The leadership with the ability to undergone self-criticism and self-correction both individually and collectively.
- A leadership with the ability and political will to own up on subjective weaknesses facing the movement and further adopted and implement have firm, honest and practical action to address such weakness, this including uprooting factionalism, corruption and mismanagement either in the state or the movement. This should be built on resilience to restore unity as the founding principle of ANC, and
- Tried and tested leadership with acknowledged experience and deeper understanding of the state and the tasks of governance.
- The ANC 54th national conference bears a huge responsibility to produce the programme and leadership collective required by the demands of the second phase of our transition to a National Democratic Society. At the conclusion of the national conference on the 20th December 2017, we must be able to say with one voice – that we have choose the best available cadres to lead our people for the next five years.