ANC stalwarts and veterans have once again called for President Jacob Zuma to step down with immediate effect.
This call forms one of many resolutions adopted at their national consultative conference which was held over the past three days in Braamfontein.
Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe attended the event, along with several National Executive Committee members, in their personal capacity, including ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bheki Cele and Deputy National Assembly Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli.
The veterans, who were also joined by several civil society groups, the SACP, labour federation Cosatu and Sanco said they had come together “out of love and concern” for South Africa and the ANC.
They discussed issues ranging from the state of the economy, leadership in the ANC, electoral reform, and challenges the country was experiencing in its attempt to build a non-racial society.
However, the recurring concern for delegates in the room remained Zuma’s protracted stay as head of the ANC and the country.
ANC supporters mostly focused their attention on the issue of leadership; even as the different commissions gave report backs and asked for input.
“There is no leadership crisis, we just elected the wrong leaders,” Deputy Minister of Energy Thembi Majola said from the floor, during the conference.
Another man in the audience dismissed concerns over ANC policies, claiming they were not the problem.
“Remove the pigs before you implement these beautiful policies,” he said.
The ANC’s Billy Ramokgopa, who read out the declarations, said the elders of the liberation movement were deeply hurt by what they regarded as a “betrayal” of the people’s long-standing support and trust in the 105-year-old political party.
“We observe that the current elected leadership of the ANC is paralysed and unable to deal with ill-discipline, incompetence and corruption that point directly to the highest offices in the land,” read Ramokgopa.
The stalwarts gathering, which was also well attended by young members, was not endorsed by the ANC’s NEC, which refused to grant its former leaders a conference that was not linked to the policy conference.
The NEC insisted that two days at the ANC’s June policy conference was enough to discuss the moral degeneration within the party and decline in support.
Ramokgopa decried the state of education in the country, the levels of crime, the mismanagement of the economy and a leadership that “lacked honesty, integrity and a vision for the future”.
Focusing on those in charge of the ANC, he said they had seen the crisis in the party cause “immense” damage to South Africa, which Ramokgopa said was the result of systematic looting, the unparalleled capture of state institutions, assassinations, failure to implement transformative social and economic programmes as well as the diminishing stature and reputation of the country and the ANC in the eyes of South Africans, the continent and world.
“The ANC has relinquished its leadership of society and plunged itself into an untenable political crisis,” said Ramokgopa.
The stalwarts, in an attempt to solve the crisis, proposed a range of suggestions which could be explored.
These included – working with its numerous partners who have a shared historic vision with the party, constant introspection, that a committee be established at the ANC’s national elective conference taking place in a few weeks’ time to design and develop a renewal document “for the sake of our future” and a plan of action, which must be monitored and thorough renewal of ANC structures including its branches.
Stalwarts also want the party’s integrity commission to be an independent constitutional structure within the party with the capacity to act independently “from and without” the influence of the ANC NEC.
The veterans also advocated for “one member, one vote” to be the approach adopted by the party when it comes to the election of members of the ANC’s executive, and for the president of the party to be voted for directly by the people during elections instead of the party, and that his powers be moderated.
The ANC belongs to the people
Former General of the ANC’s liberation army Umkhonto weSizwe and South African National Defence Force chief Siphiwe Nyanda decried those who told stalwarts that their conference was illegitimate.
“[They are] saying we had no right to use the [ANC] banners but this is our organisation. The ANC is ours,” he said to applause.
He said as elders they had been watching the ANC steer “this ship towards a huge iceberg” and that they were trying to prevent a crash from happening, but the ANC’s NEC wanted to distance itself away from them.
“We want to rescue this organisation,” he said in the conference’s closing remarks.
He also praised Mbeki who earlier said: “The ANC was captured by a dominant faction which was in fact not ANC”.
“He [Mbeki] was right,” Nyanda said.
“The ANC has been captured by a clique that is very un-ANC.”