A cohort of opposition in the SA Parliament brought its eighth motion of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma. The Speaker is afforded by the constitution and the subsequent Constitutional Court ruling the power to choose a secret ballot, which is what transpired. The result of the motion confirmed 384 members of parliament in attendance on the day, 198 votes against, 177 votes for the motion, and 9 votes abstaining.
In the aftermath of the defeat of the motion many began to make interesting deductions and analysis informed by the calculus they prefer to use. The fact is the eighth motion failed despite the cited mystical numerology of the eighth motion on the eighth day of the eighth month – for those who read numbers as indicating a specific sign.
The ANC defeated the motion, but not without cause for grave concern. It became clear that at least 26+ ANC MPs decided to vote in favour of the motion, thus adhering to the opposition’s call for a “conscience vote”, though this can also be made out as cheap blackmail if not sheer tactics of intimidation.
It is perhaps important to begin to ask what does this result mean if the critical factor of an ANC Cadre is brought into play? The ANC is confronted with the undeniable reality to ask itself tough questions, one of them we attempt engaging in this musing centres on the type of cadre it may representing it in parliament.
It is then here that we must accept the ANC before 1994 and the ANC entrusted to lead in political office marks decisively distinct organisations regardless to how we from a romantic sense demand the opposite. The ANC before 1994 needed all and everyone to support or join it, because the liberation cause was for the emancipation of those oppressed. The ANC in political power as leader in democracy can afford to be more circumspect, forthright and picky as to whom it wants to accept as its member and afford the claim of its cadre.
The ANC has currently approximately 1-million members yet it is common knowledge the ANC is held in political power by the more than 11-million that gave it a mandate. It then must make natural sense to remonstrate is it possible that the ANC rethinks its criteria to give due consideration to include in deployment some of the 10-million that may not be members but have shown a deep sense of commitment in cadreship to the ANC?
It would then mean we must begin to unpack, how to interpret the behaviour of the 26+ Members of Parliament, so as to ascertain if their behaviour embodies that of a true ANC cadre?
In closing the 53rd ANC Conference held in Mangaung, President Zuma informed all that the Conference dedicated the next decade as the “decade of the cadre”. Clearly the conference saw a need to engage the subject of being a cadre as a cardinal aspect of giving effect to the values and mandate of the ANC as entrusted by the masses to lead SA. This resolution was not necessarily new and should neither be separated from the one issued by the ANC’s longest-serving President OR Tambo in the January 8 statement delivered in 1985.
President Tambo in his call for a year of the ANC cadre went further in warning of a treacherous path, in his own words a “path we traverse”, one “fraught with numerous dangers and hazards”. We may comfortably and consciously assume in both instances of the ANC leaderships of 1985 and 2012, a call for a year of the cadre proved sensitive for the challenges the ANC was confronted with given the shifting context of struggle.
Chris Maxon in his opinion piece in January 2013 asserts, “first and foremost the ANC has always been a movement of cadres. The criterion in this assertion is whether or not a cadre is resolute in carrying out the ANC line, keeps to ANC discipline, has close ties with the masses, has the ability to find his/her bearings independently, and is active, hardworking and unselfish. That is what has been imparted to people who wanted to become cadres of the movement.” I tend to agree with Maxon on this score.
One involuntarily thinks of the collective words Presidents Tambo and Zuma and that of Maxon, when one attempts to make sense of the result and the voting patterns of ANC members in Parliament in this vote of no-confidence. That resoluteness to carry out the ANC line and keeping the ANC discipline is especially challenged when we hear the chairperson of the NDC, Cadre Derek Hanekom attempt to justify not keeping the line and ANC discipline when he invokes the seniority of Members of Parliament. Meaning one’s seniority affords one to break with the party line and still be justified in one’s actions.
It is important to link these two presidential statements at this crucial time and in the aftermath of a very challenging few weeks. President Tambo warned of a ‘path we traverse fraught with dangers and hazards’. President Zuma announced the year of the ANC Cadre, yet in 2008 in addressing the Youth League, he explained ANC discipline as follows: “To us discipline is everything. It means that you must have a grasp and understanding of our theory of revolution and the ability to articulate its strategic objective, that of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Discipline to the ANC means that we must learn to listen and respect the opinions of others whilst maintaining the fundamental principle of collective decision making and a respect for a culture of democratic centralism.”
In the aftermath of the defeated motion the DA buoyed by the support of the 26+ ANC parliamentarians shared its intentions to bring a motion to dissolve parliament. It therefore must be accepted that these ANC deployed ones placed the ANC in definite harm’s way of looing its entrusted right to govern thereby plausibly disrupting the implementation of critical policies and projects. The case can be made that their self-centeredness potentially jeopardised the ANC’s legitimate leadership of the society and the country could have been forced to an early election.
The heart of the ANC is best understood in those who are defined as ANC cadres. Have we this week seen that ‘path fraught with dangers and hazards’ in full manifestation? President Tambo reminds us who that cadre is with this apt summary: “Who are these revolutionary cadres about whom we speak? Where are they? They are not special people. It is we – men and women, young and old, black and white – who are involved in daily struggles, making sacrifices in pursuit of the people’s cause. It is we, the workers in the factories, the mines, the farms, the commercial establishments and offices of various kinds; we, who work in health and educational services as well as those of us occupied within the residential areas.” Have we not this week lived through the defiance of that culture of democratic centralism by ANC cadres?
To join the ANC remains a personal and voluntary decision. By one’s own volition a membership form is completed, a small fee paid and a membership card issued. Yet to become a cadre of the ANC one signs up to a life of loyalty to the organisation, its values, constitution, its philosophy, ethos, democratically elected leadership and culture of governance immanent in centralised democracy. One signs up to have an opinion, which the Movement values and needs, yet one signs up for a contestation of views in designated and duly afforded spaces, to persuade others and to equally be open for persuasion. Signing up to be a cadre is to recognise and respect the party leadership, its structures and to adhere to party lines when directed. One therefore signs up to learn and to teach, where your age whilst respected, does not automatically translate to a rightful claim of authenticity of cadreship, instead one’s conduct.
In light of this summary of what makes a cadre, we are compelled to ask: are the 26+ that decided to reject the party line, and acted out in ill-discipline prior to and during the actual vote acting out this cadreship or were they acting as members?
Let us then attempt to appreciate one of the adopted and sacrosanct blueprints on ANC Leadership immanent in title of the ‘Eye of the Needle’. In its preamble and rationale, as third aspect asks the following challenging questions: “How do we deal with individual ambition, lobbying, promotion of friends and pursuit of selfish interests? How do we ensure that electoral processes do not tear the movement apart? How do we prevent attempts to use the movement as a step ladder towards self-enrichment?”
How do we deal with individual ambition, lobbying, promotion of friends and pursuit of self-interest? We must ask those who decided to risk the ANC in legitimate power with their individual and group conscious break away from and disrespect for leadership direction, did you not with this so called ‘conscience’ vote place your personal ambition, yielded to opposition lobbying (tactics and strategy) as paramount? Were they not in pursuit of self-interest, when they dared to risk exposing the ANC because they can? Were they not parading a self-centeredness in their respective media interviews?
The 34th aspect of the Eye of the Needle, poignantly outlines as broad requirement of leadership the following: “An ANC leader should understand ANC policy and be able to apply it under all conditions in which she finds herself. This includes an appreciation, from the NDR standpoint, of the country and the world we live in, of the balance of forces, and of how continually to change this balance in favour of the motive forces of change.”
Clearly those in parliament constitute beyond doubt ANC leadership to the legislative dimension of our democracy, hence we dare ask of them how was the national democratic revolution served with their choice against the ANC decision immanent in Luthuli House and its Caucus? How did ANC MPs who consciously decided to vote with the opposition read, interpret and understand the balance of forces at play in our political context that seeks to unseat the ANC in using its President as the door.
The 40th aspect of the Eye of the Needle binds ANC cadres to the following: “An individual with qualities of leadership does not seek to gain popularity by undermining those in positions of responsibility. Where such a member has a view on how to improve things or correct mistakes, she should state those views in constitutional structures and seek to win others to her own thinking. She should assist the movement as a whole to improve its work, and not stand aside to claim perfection out of inactivity.”
We are involuntarily compelled to ask from the cadres who chose to go with the opposition in the vote including those who chose to abstain, as to their individual and collective wisdom in consciously undermining those in positions of responsibility (the Secretary General) and their actions not to be interpreted as an attempt to be popular. We must ask of them as to why they have not raised their views in the respective and designated constitutional structures. We equally have to ask from those who had the presence of mind to raise their views but were defeated in the ANC designated structures why they could not accept the defeat and continue to serve? We warrant asking from those the ANC deployed how their individual and lobbied stance have helped the cause of the ANC when they absolve themselves in a sense of claimed perfection?
The ANC throughout its history, including during exile, afforded opportunity for even its soldiers to act in democracy, meaning there was a designated chance, time, and place for cadres to critique and self-critique leadership. The fundamental premise for this is the conviction that all critique must be constructive and it necessarily starts by first owning up to one’s conjoined role. We must ask where the 26+ fits into this self-critique and where they have owned up to their role? We must know how constructive their critique is when they absolve themselves and demonise others?
The 51st and 52nd aspects of the Eye of the Needle, warn against the role of media for ANC leaders: “Media focus on government and the ANC as a ruling party also means that individuals appointed into various positions are able to acquire a public profile in the course of their work. As such, over time, they become the visible members who would get nominated for leadership positions. This is a natural expression of confidence and helps to widen the base from which leaders are elected. However, where such practice becomes the main and only criterion, hard-working individuals who do not enjoy such profile get overlooked. Artificial criteria such as acceptability to the media, eloquence specifically in English, and warped notions of “sophistication” are then imposed on the movement’s approach.”
We are thus compelled to inquire from the ANC deployed cadres to parliament that considered themselves distinct from the ANC and only mandated by the South African public in claim of the exacted oath as to why they allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by a media presence that works for a different agenda? The various captured incidents of media events that ANC cadres share with opposition tendencies as a means to enhance their personal political and public profiles warrants an explanation.
It is therefore imperative for the ANC to know from its deployed members as to why the ANC must trust them to continue to serve at the pleasure of the ANC when they can agree with the opposition and adhere to the proverbial general(s) of another army in a war situation. The fact that the ballot was secret does not naturally absolve those who voted with their crafted oppositional consciences, to answer the ANC and its leadership that deployed them. Equally it does not exempt the ANC to consider engaging its deployed, especially those who were vocal and taunted the ANC that they would vote with the conscience.
The ANC cadre is a cadre that has an ANC conscience, he / she is a cadre that places the ANC first and will not attempt to put the ANC in harm’s way because self interest, imagined or real, as the centre.
We ask again what type of cadre does the ANC have that can go to Parliament on an ANC mandate and decide to vote against the ANC in concert with the opposition under the guise of a ‘vote of conscience’. We must ask again who and what determined this ‘conscience vote’, does it mean the members never voted with their consciences before?
The ANC therefore must help us identify with it as to how it will respond to those who have placed their personal interest and popularity in defying the ANC discipline and line in this regard.
It is abundantly clear the organisational discipline President Zuma so eloquently reminded the Youth League about in 2008, in 2017 is not upheld by those who regard themselves as senior parliamentarians, as confirmed with their individual and group choices of defiance of the “fundamental principle of collective decision making and a respect for a culture of democratic centralism”.
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
On behalf of MK Inkuleleko Foundation