Former finance minister Trevor Manuel said the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) from the last decade had “ridden roughshod” of the ruling party’s Constitution, and called on South Africans to take stock of the country’s state of affairs.
Manuel, a senior member of the ANC, was speaking on leadership, ethics and change at the Eric Molobi Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Thursday evening, and said that believing in an objective is what shapes the honesty and integrity of what people do in their every day lives.
He spoke of former ANC presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki and their belief in fundamental nationwide transformation of the country.
Manuel said he was marking the distinctions in leadership between the method of leadership that does not need to occupy position and one that occupies positions “only for self-grandisima” (acting out of self-interest).
He said at the 50th elective conference in 1997, the ruling party spoke of transformation not in the ANC branch but across all of society.
“This approach is markedly different from that adopted by the leadership elected in Polokwane a decade later. The dominant style of this elected leadership is that they alone constitute the leadership and that activists outside of themselves, especially those with a history in the organisation, are easily labeled free agents,” he said.
“The leadership of the last decade has ridden roughshod of the ANC Constitution.”
He invited those in the audience to read the Constitution to look at the aims; objectives; and the character of the ANC to “appreciate how large the divergence is from the stated intentions”.
Manuel described Molobi as a conscious activist who measured his involvement and acted out of choice.
He said that Molobi’s belief in the involvement of the people in their own liberation and future formed part of his values and he remained unshakably committed to his values.
Molobi was driven to create opportunities to service the people and said that he had the ability to put BEE initiatives to use other than individual appropriations of proceeds, he said.
“Eric by his actions demonstrated that its actually ends and means that are needed to make a difference. He was able to operate in a manner and style marked by conscious decisions,” Manuel said.
Speaking of leadership he said he was raising the sharp difference between those, such as Molobi, who displayed the long-vision of looking at the past, towards the future and people who can only see what is right in front of their eyes.
“The key measure is how leadership treats institutions … one is compelled to think of the building of the ANC as the instrument of hope and the glue that bound together the oppressed for 95 years through the most adverse of circumstances,” he said adding it was important to consider the quality of the leadership of former ANC president Oliver Tambo.
“And then the decline to the point of rupture where all that remains are the symbols and history without the ability to convene people on the basis of a vision for the future.
“The same movement – that was able to in the circumstances of being banned mobilise people regardless of race and class or gender, geographic position and bind them together in a single force for liberation – is now no longer capable of doing that.
“So of this great history, very little remains because it appears to be the interest of those who have been elected to leadership now and those embedded in key roles in public office to serve only their masters and not the people.”
He said the ANC had been an institution and vehicle to carry the hopes and aspirations of leaders; and embraced leaders in their youth; and carried them along.
The South African businessman and political activist died on June 4, 2006, aged 58 after a battle with cancer. Born on June 5 1947, Molobi was imprisoned on Robben Island during the apartheid era. While in prison he obtained a bachelor’s degree.
He was awarded the prestigious Ordre National de la Legion D’Honneur by the French government in 1994.