Many have opined as new the infighting inside the ANC as something President Jacob Zuma has brought upon all due to a desire for personal enrichment. But, of course, the ANC has always had infighting. Since it’s founding, the ANC has had positions, leadership, values and policy internal battles.
The Freedom Charter was not spared from the bitter confrontations that saw Robert Sobukwe forming the PAC. ZK Matthews felt aghast at ANC members who signed the charter without party resolution. Before then, many ANC fights would erupt over participation in the 1937 Native Representative Council, which lasted until Chief Albert Luthuli boycotted his seat.
Reading the April 5, 1969 Morogoro first Consultative Conference memorandum by Professor Ben Turok and the response to it by Dr Joe Matthews provides a window to past internal disputes.
At this conference, ANC president Oliver Tambo made a call to the ANC, saying: “… Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes around creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue.”
At the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa in 1962, in Addis Ababa, a young Nelson Mandela, arguing for the armed struggle, said: “A leadership commits a crime against its own people if it hesitates to sharpen its political weapons where they have become ineffective.”
In this, Mandela was publicly going against the wishes of president Albert Luthuli, who wanted preparation for, but not launching, the armed struggle. Later in exile, there would be a James Stuart Report, the Umkhonto we Sizwe and Mbokodo battles.
There was also infighting when the ANC launched its 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme. Trade union Numsa had to be policy input “bribed” to join the 1994 ANC election campaign.
Minister Jay Naidoo did not end up without a portfolio out of nothing but a lost battle. The programme ended up as a set of deliverables at first and was later removed from government vocabulary. This was a result of deep infighting over economic policy.
When ANC infighting takes place, it is not always straightforward. It morphs into other topical streams like anticorruption, and so forth. Often, it is not what is topical that permeates through to the underbelly.
At this point in the history of the ANC, there is a battle for policy and positions once again. The multiclass unity has fractured against the lowly educated within. The multiclasses within the ANC are, once again, battling for the soul of the ANC, as its 2017 elective conference nears.
Either the current Foreign Policy, New Growth Path and National Development Plan will survive, or the return of the promotion of monopoly capital with macroeconomics that favour banks and financial firms – as we had between 1994 and 2008 – will result.
The ANC today is confronted by the need to reintroduce ideological training to its youth, and certainly to those occupying positions or named stalwarts.