In his presidential address (or political report) to the ANC’s 4 500 delegates who gathered at the University of the Free State in Mangaung, Zuma spoke at length about so-called “alien” practices that had inflicted the ANC before and after its 52th national congress in Polokwane in 2007.
Zuma referred to the divisions that had bedevilled the ANC, such as factions, smear campaigns directed at dissidents within the party, political killings, and the ever-increasing trend of ANC members lodging court cases against the party because they have lost faith in its internal processes to resolve disputes.
Very little has changed since the Mangaung conference. Zuma’s second term as ANC leader has seen the party lose its credibility and place as the leader of society. However, it’s also very important to be mindful of the fact that the destruction of the ANC was not the doing of one man only, and that the collective leadership is also at fault.
In fact, things have only gotten worse for the 105-year-old organisation as the reality of the 2019 general elections looms closer.
In 2012, Zuma said: “The road to Polokwane was full of divisions and turbulence. It was necessary therefore that we begin healing the organisation and working for unity immediately after the conference.”
Following the Polokwane conference, which saw Zuma topple Thabo Mbeki in his quest for a third term as ANC president, Zuma had to report back to congress on the progress the party had made since then. He said the party’s newly elected leadership under his stewardship had crisscrossed the country and spoke to its structures about the challenges the organisation faced.
The bruising leadership battle between Mbeki and Zuma saw the ANC split in half, with supporters of the former starting the now stagnant Congress of the People (Cope), led by Mosiuoa Lekota. Rebuilding unity within the organisation was fundamental after the Polokwane conference, but the more things change, the more they stay the same in the ANC.
Zuma said of the ANC’s branches in Mangaung: “The renewal includes rebuilding ANC branches, the basic units of our movement. We need to ensure that branches are genuine and have genuine members.
“This means that our audit and verification of membership procedures should be improved so that only branches in good standing determine the policy and leadership direction of the organisation. In some instances, some branches contain members who belong to other members.”
Well, Mr President, I would argue that ANC branches are no longer the “basic units” you spoke about back then. The gatekeeping of members continues unabated, and by the look of things, this is becoming the norm among the ANC’s thousands of branches throughout the country.
Legal battles are now being mounted against your organisation, Mr President, over the validity of “genuine members” of branches, with disgruntled ANC members in the Free State being the latest to head to court over the re-election of your long-time backer, Ace Magashule, as provincial chairperson.
“Other alien tendencies to be eliminated from the movement as part of renewal is the negative lobbying for positions, which includes smear campaigns in the media as well as gossip and rumour-mongering about one another.
“Also common are the disrespectful public spats as well as hurling insults at other comrades or members of the public, thereby bringing the ANC into disrepute,” Zuma said.
Mr President, your message to ANC delegates then rings hollow today. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – a leading contender in the race to replace you as ANC leader – had his private emails hacked in August and doctored. The emails purported to show details of Ramaphosa’s alleged extramarital relationships with eight women all in a bid to scupper his presidential ambitions.
And remember the threats received by former MP Makhosi Khoza and her family? She was persecuted and embarrassed until she decided to leave “the new alien and corrupt ANC” to start her new political party.
“More seriously, we have experienced the shocking occurrences where armed comrades disrupt ANC meetings. This then raises the question what exactly could be so much at stake, that people would go so far to get their own way in the organisation,” Zuma said of criminal elements that have become associated with the ANC.
It’s been five years since you raised these concerns, Mr President, but what have you and your leadership collective done? Today Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza is being accused of having a “private army” to intimidate party members ahead of this weekend’s conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg.
Has the ANC stooped so low that some of its members can be seen in videos that have gone viral firing a series of gunshots in the air while children are around?
“Comrades, we must also frown upon other alien practices such as the use of money to buy the support of ANC members. We should not allow a situation where those who have money turn members of the ANC into commodities.
“Comrades, the ANC should also revisit this matter of people who take the ANC to court when they are unhappy with a particular decision. Some comrades do this even before exhausting internal processes. It is totally unacceptable.
“All these tendencies have been creeping into the movement gradually, and need to be dealt with,” Zuma said.
Unfortunately, when Zuma passes the baton to the next ANC leader, they will be inheriting a fractured organisation in turmoil. This is not the ANC in exile that desperately needs another Morogoro conference to turn the tide of its entrenched “alien” practices.
The ANC has disintegrated since Zuma came to power, and the party is fraught with factions. It still looks the same as it did in 2012, except that things have only gotten worse since then.
Internal ANC processes are no longer effective, political killings continue unabated, corruption is on overdrive, and it is all because of you, Mr President, and your party’s collective leadership, including Ramaphosa.