The ANC and the ANCYL
The ANCYL leadership must not allow itself to be distracted by side shows of miserable clowns in the political wilderness, and must instead be steadfast on principle. As an important and critical voice within the ANC, the ANCYL has a historic duty to safeguard the long standing values and principles of the ANC.
We must approach every political question with a sound theoretical base that will implore us to defend our future in the ANC. We must never be lackeys of any individual leader, neither must we arrogate to ourselves the status of being arrogant deviants.
The period we are currently going through is a very difficult one. The ANCYL has lost almost all respect amongst many important sectors and sections of our movement and society. A certain tendency of personality cult and self-serving political culture contributed immensely to our current state of affairs.
Now that we are trying to clean up the mess, the ghosts from our past are coming back with their loud mouths calling us traitors and sellouts, trying to drag us ten steps backwards. They seek to obliterate whatever little integrity the ANCYL has left. We must never allow that under our watch!
Fact is, as we go to Mangaung, there is absolutely nothing wrong with our leadership preferences, from whichever side of the debate. Provided those preferences are not treated as Chinese Walls that block any political intercourse amongst members of the ANC. Accordingly, the ANCYL should seek to influence other ANC members on its positions and leadership preferences, and equally let those members to influence it as well. Otherwise the mutually exclusive slates we have seen consolidating will become permanent, thus leading to the demise of the ANC as we know it.
Further, the ANCYL must never forget that, what is important for the ANC Mangaung Conferences is something bigger than the leadership question. For instance, we need to come up with practical suggestions on how we can transform the ANC into a 21st Century political party of liberation.
The liberation values and principles that have carried the ANC throughout its hundred year history must now serve as a guide towards a transformed ANC ready to confront today’s challenges. We need to start asking uncomfortable questions around systems and procedures in relation to questions of leadership elections and lobbying, cadre deployment, corrupt comrades, the ideological texture of, and its relevance to, our governance objectives.
Just by way of illustration, it needs no rocket scientist to see that our ANC leadership election system is both archaic and defective. The leadership product that gets produced after every conference or AGM is getting far and far away from being a democratic, free expression of the ANC general membership. It is gradually, if steadfastly, becoming a manipulated outcome due to the abuse of the principles of democratic centralism and organisational democracy.
Let’s take an example of a BGM that is organised for the purposes of leadership nomination and election of delegates to ANC Conferences. Those officiating these BGMs, in many instances, already have preconceived positions and leadership preferences that will influence the outcomes of these nomination meetings. The pointing of people to make nominations and to elect conference delegates is done in a carefully orchestrated fashion that prefers those supporting the positions and preferences of officiators.
In a situation where ANC members have been reduced to a voting fodder through state patronage, the so called outcomes of organisational democracy become nothing more than a fuss under the circumstances. In actual fact, leadership election is reduced to the dominant nefarious interests of a dominant faction.
We need to start advocating for a change in this system that is open to abuse and manipulation. We have to call for investment in a modern system that allows for all ANC members to directly elect their leaders in all leadership structures. This direct election can take place at a branch level under the supervision of the IEC. Each member will use his or her membership card or ID to freely choose his or her leaders. Not to delegate this right to a conference delegate that may have his or her factional interests at heart.
We should not make it easy for every passerby to become a leader in the ANC. It is beyond political destitution for the ANC to have for instance a leader in the provincial ANC leadership who knows no ANC politics in terms of what it stands for, but the same leader is very good in number crunching of ANC members and branches. Why this desperate preoccupation with numbers of ANC branches and members above everything else is obvious. Numbers have become an important determinant for those who are turning the ANC into their cash cow. This has got to change.
The ANCYL should also come up with new and creative ways of managing and modernising lobbying for leadership, whilst devising a modern system that will help the ANC screen and choose the best leaders to lead it. We should also source the best and gifted brains among our ranks and society to effectively run the government at all spheres.
I hope that going to the Mangaung Conference, the stiff leadership contest that has bitterly pitted old comrades against each other, will not be the soul and main focus amongst comrades. Because if that happens, it will further tear the ANC into dreaded pieces. No genuine ANC member- for however long you may have been in the ANC- can carelessly wish for such an eventuality.
Mzukisi Makatse is a member of the ANCYL and ANC writing in his own capacity