By Carl Niehaus
As we are standing at the doorstep of September with most of Women’s Month behind us, it is good that stock is taken about where we find ourselves in the race for the election of the future President of the ANC at the National Elective Conference in December. Although the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC declared that nominations will only officially open in September, the ‘unofficial’ run-up to that nomination process has now been in full swing for some time, with presidential hopefuls having declared their availability and campaigning openly.
It is not necessarily a bad thing that the run-up to this election of the President of the ANC is more open than previous ones. The tradition in the ANC up to now was for presidential candidates to be extremely cautious about declaring their ambitions, and to use the almost obligatory ANC language stating that they will wait for the ANC branches to decide whether they are worthy to lead. Too much open ambition and self-promotion were frowned on, and could indeed be detrimental for any candidate’s ambitions. This ANC tradition has not entirely disappeared and therefore open campaigning had a slow start, but with campaigning finally having taken off one can argue that the tradition is changing – it is more of an evolutionary change than a radical change, but it is most definitely changing.
This reality was acknowledged by the ANC NEC when it stated that, “to continue to assert that the organisation was not in the grip of leadership election fever was foolhardy”. In having acknowledged this the NEC agreed that while it was important to continue discussing the principles that should guide the election of the leadership in the ANC, structures should be allowed to discuss the names and that such discussions should be based on the principles contained in Through the Eye of the Needle.
At a time when the ANC is experiencing unparalleled turbulence and divisions within its ranks – and when some undisciplined members are openly campaigning against official ANC policy positions in public, this call from the NEC has to be taken very seriously. There can be no doubt that there are enemies within the ANC who are making common cause with the traditional White Monopoly Capital opponents of the ANC in order to prevent Radical Socio-economic Transformation from being implemented. These enemies within have materially done so well out of their co-operation with White Monopoly Capital that they have a deeply vested interest to maintain the status quo, and to prevent a radical change in the economic power relations. Let’s be straight about it: They do not want the majority of black people (especially Africans) to become economically empowered because that threatens their positions of privilege.
Thus an important campaign criteria for any presidential candidate must be a track record and ability to pass Through the Eye of the Needle in terms of discipline and commitment to the liberation struggle values of the ANC, which in accordance with the foundational values of the Freedom Charter continue to be the full liberation of the people of South Africa. It is not only about having a democratic vote, but will also to fully share in and own the land and the wealth of the country.
Any candidate who does not have a proven history as a disciplined cadre who subjected him or her self-interests to the discipline and interest of the organisation, should not be worthy of the highest leadership position of the ANC. Similarly any candidate that is ambivalent or vacillates about the full implementation of the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution – and therefore intends to steer the ANC away from our Freedom Charter covenant to the people of South Africa – is not worthy of becoming the President of the ANC.
Thus the decision for the ANC branches about who to nominate and eventually elect as President of the ANC should be premised on two critical questions:
- Does the comrade have a disciplined track record of putting the ANC first?
- Is the comrade committed to the advancement of Radical Socio-economic Transformation in order to implement the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution?
A negative answer to one or both of these questions should disqualify a candidate from even being nominated by the branches. The upcoming nomination month of September, and the four months that follow up to the National Elective Conference, will prove to be a watershed period. In this period the members of the ANC branches throughout South Africa will determine the future policy trajectory of our organisation, and thus also the future of South Africa.
MKMVA, of which I am a National Executive Committee (NEC) member, is on record to have declared that the election of our future ANC President must be policy driven. This means that the ANC branches must first and foremost adopt policy positions, and then on the basis of those policies decide who will be the best presidential candidate to implement them. We are also on record to have committed ourselves to policies that will ensure Radical Socio-economic Transformation including land restitution without compensation, the fundamental transformation of white controlled monopoly banks and financial institutions so that they will for the first time in the history of South Africa serve and empower black South Africans, and changing for the mandate of the Reserve Bank to change to implement the economic empowerment policies of the ANC majority government.
These policy positions MKMVA will, together with other progressive forces within the ANC, vigorously promote in our ANC branches through the length and breadth of our country. Following from this process, and integral to it, is our endorsement of comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as our candidate for the ANC presidency.
Comrade Dlamini-Zuma passes the two questions that I have formulated above with flying colours. Her long and unblemished record of service is known from her days as a student activist and one of the leaders of the 1976 youth uprisings. Her membership of the ANC from those turbulent years, and many years of underground work for the ANC as well as her outstanding academic achievements, are well known.
We all know that comrade Dlamini Zuma served in every cabinet since our first democratic elections until she became the Chairperson of the African Union (AU). Similarly she served without any interruption in the NEC of the ANC, after she was elected at the 48th National Conference in Durban in 1991.
Of great importance is the discipline that comrade Dlamini Zuma showed when ten years ago she was Deputy Presidential candidate of the loosing group under former President Thabo Mbeki at the 52nd National Elective Conference in Polokwane. Some members of that group when they lost became very bitter, and some even broke away and formed COPE; but remarkably comrade Dlamini Zuma did not behave in that manner. After President Zuma was elected she threw her full weight in with his new government, and when she was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs she became one of the most successful ministers in the cabinet and changed the Department for the better. To our minds this is the behaviour of a disciplined comrade who understands that as an individual she is never bigger than the organisation. This is a real life example of passing through The Eye of the Needle. Clearly comrade Dlamini Zuma’s first commitment is always towards the ANC. In MKMVA we believe that we need such a mature and committed comrade to lead us at this critical juncture in our history.
Without being derogatory to any other candidate, we none the less cannot help but to notice the stark contrast of comrade Dlamini Zuma’s disciplined behaviour with the petulant manner in which comrade Cyril Ramaphosa resigned from his position as Secretary General of the ANC and refused to serve in former President Mandela’s cabinet, when he did not become Deputy President. This despite the many pleas by Madiba for him to stay. In contrast to comrade Dlamini Zuma’s subjugation of herself to the democratic processes of the ANC, comrade Ramaphosa placed his own self-interest and personal advancement above the democratic processes and organisational interests of the ANC.
In MKMVA we do not think that a comrade, who had failed such a critical test should be elevated to the highest leadership position in the ANC. We are furthermore concerned that even at this early stage in the campaign a similar trend of his earlier behaviour is being displayed by the SACP and COSATU who are apparently in favour of comrade Ramaphosa’s candidature.
At their 14th Party Congress the SACP resorted to nothing less than blackmail tactics, threatening to leave the Tri-partite Alliance if comrade Ramaphosa is not elected as ANC President. We expected comrade Ramaphosa to admonish the SACP for such an irresponsible statement, but not a word of criticism passed his lips. Inevitably we have to ask ourselves whether he is likely to repeat the same behaviour of abandoning the ANC in December if he is not elected as President? Will comrade Ramaphosa again leave for the ‘greener pastures’ of big business? Under the circumstances how can we be sure about his loyalty to the ANC and our historical task to fully liberate our people also from economic exploitation? Was that e-mail that he wrote calling for action to be taken to protect the interests of Lonmin at Marikana, rather than the interests of the striking workers, perhaps not an ‘error of judgement’, but indeed where his heart really is?
Inevitably the question arises for the members of the branches whether this comrade is really with us? Once this question arises, and unfortunately there are more than enough reasons for it to arise, the risk at this critical time in our history is just too big to consider such a comrade to be a suitable candidate.
The same concerns simply do not arise with regards to comrade Dlamini Zuma. Nothing in her long and committed life in the ANC raises the slightest doubt that she is all the way with us. She is unequivocal in her support for the implementation of Radical Socio-economic Transformation, and her campaign slogan is: Radical Economic Transformation – Now or Never!
There are also other comrades who have made themselves available as candidates for the Presidency. While it is their right to do so, I do not believe that they are actually serious contenders, and in most instances they are in reality not contending for the position of president, but are tactically positioning themselves for more senior positions than the ones they currently hold in the NEC.
However, the proliferation of candidates – especially from women – raises a concern that the ANC branches have to deal with decisively. This can only serve to damage the chances of comrade Dlamini-Zuma, who is by far the strongest women candidate, to succeed. The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) has pronounced in favour of comrade Dlamini-Zuma, and in that context the decisions of other women candidates to stand is undisciplined. In the context of our culture of democratic centralism they should respect and support the decision of the ANCWL. For other women candidates to stand is ill-advised, because it firmly falls in the category of divide and rule tactics that deliberately undermine the strongest and most progressive presidential candidate – who also happens to be a woman.
It is exactly because comrade Dlamini-Zuma is such a solid and competent ANC cadre, and so clear about her commitment to Radical Socio-economic Transformation, that attempts to discredit her are intensifying. These – especially the sexist attacks – should be condemned with the contempt they deserve.
There are patriarchal attempts to reduce comrade Dlamini-Zuma to being the ‘ex-wife’ of President Zuma. She should be commended for the strong and progressive defence that she had up against these attacks, stating that it is mischievous of people to use their patriarchy to try and smear her name. I can only agree with her that it is even worse when it comes from women and fellow comrades, who if they are honest and do not have hidden agendas know that she has an exemplary track record. Comrade Dlamini-Zuma is correct to say that this is a sexist agenda that wants to promote the narrative that women can’t lead, and that there always has to be a man behind them.
I started by referring to being in the last days of Women’s Month, and it is appropriate that I conclude by saying that especially now it is important to re-affirm that the best ANC presidential candidate is a woman, and her name is Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Sekunjalo! The time has now arrived for the ANC branches to make that historical choice.
Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and an NEC member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA)
All Carl’s articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www.carlniehaus.co.za