On Friday night in Durban, while addressing the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, former president Kgalema Motlanthe was blunt in his warning to his party that the people have become impatient for the promises of the ANC to be realised.
This was reflected in the large numbers of ANC voters who stayed away from the polls or voted for other parties and in the process cost the party dearly, particularly in the metros, where control of budgets worth billions has now been lost. It reflected a voting public “beginning to embrace a variety of ideas”.
At one point Mothlanthe told the gathering the people were tired of being addressed by “slogans and jargon”, and the party’s current leaders could not think they would just “feast on the fruits of incumbency and designate our current challenges to those who will come after us” forever.
He added that the recent electoral losses showed that the ANC was not an “omnipotent political party that monopolised the truth”.
Turning to a highly contested moment earlier in August, he defended the right of four young women who staged a silent protest against President Jacob Zuma during the announcement of the 2016 electoral results in Pretoria.
“Our system of democracy enables these young women to express their discontent.”
Others in the ANC have been highly critical of the #RememberKhwezi protesters, with ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini calling what they did a severe breach of authority and an abuse of the right to protest.
The ANC stalwart said that people who had given everything for the liberation of the country were now “wondering with their empty hands as bellies as to the reality of their victory”.
Motlanthe was president of South Africa following Thabo Mbeki’s ANC recall in 2008. He was largely considered a placeholder until Jacob Zuma took the reins in 2009. However, he ran on a clear anti-Zuma ticket for the outright presidency of the party in Mangaung in 2012, and lost. Thereafter he was given the role of being the party’s head of its political school, but has been largely sidelined by the ANC along with other big names perceived to be critical of Zuma.
At the time of the election, then youth league president Julius Malema was firmly in Motlanthe’s corner. Malema and others in the league were thereafter expelled, and now lead the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which decisively split the vote in big metros.
The party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, last Sunday said the ANC’s national executive committee had resolved to root out factionalism. However, it took mere days for the ANC Youth League to call for an early elective conference, in their statement making it clear that they were not impressed with Mantashe. They also gunned for ANC leaders in Gauteng while continuing to defend Zuma, whose refusal to step down scuppered any hope of coalition talks with most opposition parties, particularly the EFF.