Addressing the South African Community Party (SACP) imbizo taking place at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg on Friday morning, Gwede Mantashe, the current secretary-general of the ANC, announced that he would not be contesting the secretary-general position in the future. He went on to offer the ruling party a road map to recovery.
He said that politics was too stressful and he did not see chance for another five years of “sitting in Luthuli House”.
“Baba Msimango uyabona I am sitting in Luthuli House for 10 years … this in my tenth year. I will not be secretary-general in January, okay. I can assure you of that. If I try that luck I [might] as well buy a coffin.
“Ana stress, asinicapazeli stress is a feature of my life I am just moving on. I am living stress. You can take it for 10 years but you can’t take it for 15 years. Sakubulali stress.
“Ngoku ungenaso awusiva because it’s in your blood. Now I would wish to see a situation that anybody who becomes a secretary-general there must not run short of stalwarts and veterans that just go there to visit and talk. There are no problems. One person who does that, I want to give you feedback, is Baba [Andrew] Mlangeni. He comes there and tells you this and leave. In future, if we get more of that the better the movement will be.”
Mantashe told SACP delegates gathered to interrogate the state of the ruling party that there were low-hanging fruit the ANC could take advantage of in order to renew the movement in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
“We need to accept that mistakes have happened. We must explain that a number of issues could have been handled differently and better. We must publicly commit ourselves to working to correcting that … invite all ideas that can help us. We must follow what we say with concrete action; we must be seen to be dealing with corruption without being emotional and excited,” Mantashe said.
Mantashe also warned the delegates about what he called the “vulgarisation of the revolution”.
“There is an attempt to vulgarise monopoly capital debate; today vocabulary talks about white monopoly capital. It is vulgarisation of the revolution. We then use that vulgarised terminology to deal with each other. If you partner with a white partner, every time you correct us we will say you partner with white monopoly wena. Thula [shut up],” he told delegates.
He also told delegates that the ANC has a propensity for “making silly mistakes”. He pointed out that one of those mistakes was to shut the door on the ANC stalwarts’ request that the policy conference discuss the status of the movement.
“Others say you can ride on the back of a crocodile to cross the river.
“We must deal with them. Let’s pay attention on the content [of the stalwarts’ concerns]. If we don’t go for two days [to a conference], the ANC sinks back and we will look back and say there was an opportunity to save the ANC. I am saying this because there was a fight about the policy conference. I don’t think that is just a luxury, whether it is two days or two hours, it is their duty to do so,” he urged delegates.
Mantashe also told the gathering the ANC ought to deal with “the trust deficit between society and itself”. He said this was necessary as the ANC always proclaims itself the leader of society.
“You work for it [regaining trust] on ongoing basis,” he explained.
He said the secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Bishop Mpumlwana, gave him food for thought when he said during the week “we cannot unsee what we have seen”.
Mantashe offered a solution for dealing with corruption.
“There is no formula of dealing with corruption other than arrest, prosecute and convict,” he told delegates. He lamented the prevailing perception in the country that the ANC had abandoned its mantra of “aluta continua”, which has since been replaced with “looting continues”.
Mantashe berated alliance partners, particularly the SACP and Cosatu, for undermining the tripartite alliance tradition of consulting and debating issues behind closed doors before going public with grievances.
“I am saying comrades must talk to each other at the policy conference. Others think we can solve it by supporting a vote of no confidence by the DA, and I want to say I disagree. That will be the highest level of betrayal.
“Now therefore I am putting this issue here so it does not come here accidentally. We must elect leadership that sends a signal that we are real about changing the ANC,” he reiterated.
He further urged delegates to elect leadership that sends a clear signal that it is serious about rooting out corruption.
Note: This story was originally published on Friday afternoon with the headline: “Mantashe officially announces his exit from ANC top leadership”, but this headline was subsequently changed on the same afternoon to take into account the fact that Mantashe predominantly spoke only about his future intentions not to be re-elected as the ANC’s secretary-general.