In less than eighty days the ANC will have its elective conference. There is a call for unity from many in the ANC across many platforms. Unity calls must at all times be applauded, yet we have to engage what unity means. We have heard supporters of one or other candidate make the argument, their candidate will unite the ANC. Contenders and pretenders to high office at this stage are caught up in a contest to lead the ANC, yet beyond December 2017; there is an organisation to build, values to reignite, and programmes to implement. If there is a call for unity it is worth noting, unity is never cheap; it always demands the courage of honesty.
It is for this reason that the subject of unity, which we hear daily, proves imperative. Particularly when we have heard senior ANC leaders like Kgalema Motlanthe eulogising the ANC, with advanced reasoning, that maybe the ANC has served its purpose. This analysis of ANC death, regardless to how prophetic in attempt, is not innocent of its own narrow political interest. Motlanthe like all ANC leaders cannot be allowed to pontificate as if he stands innocent. He is entitled to his opinion, yet he too will need to become honest.
The ANC finds itself in a cocktail of competing interests and challenges. These include its success in some areas, the incessant quest for power by some, the reality of a questioned 1994 Consensus, the challenge of grave economic entrenched disparities that still remains defined in appropriated racial frames, the undeniable bedevilling presence of capital in its manifested forms as a factor that dictates the convictions of leaders and their interests and the new anomalies that democracy produced.
This call for unity is also informed by the fractured reality of the organisation, which the organisation often concedes to in definition of factionalism. One would therefore assume if there were such public calls why than is unity not given agency, why do we not see it actualised?
It then becomes essential to ask is there a common understanding of the ANC as an organisation in unity? What does unity mean? The ANC is not easily explained as an organisation, it defines itself as a broad church, the home of ideological opposites, a movement of the people, that has survived more than a century, making its Africa’s oldest liberation movement. To therefore understand the ANC in unity one will have to engage its original mission, values, and constitution and developed sacred texts.
The business dictionary defines an organisation: A social unit of people that is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals. The ANC in this sense therefore is pursuing a set of goals and these goals ought to remain the guiding light of the organisation.
Is the call for unity authentic, or is it in this season for pure political reasons? Is unity to be understood in a candidate? Since the ANC after 23 years of leading South Africa, is confronted with an increasing call for unity we must ask can this unity stand in honesty and what are the things the ANC may engage in honesty? Perhaps the following constitute some of those aspects:
§ The ANC must admit a comparison of the ANC in exile and the ANC in governance is a futile exercise. It in blackmail assumes there is a pristine ANC that should have stayed static notwithstanding the imperfect nature of ANC members, which joined it from day one. To keep telling others this is not the ANC one joined, is not helping any unity efforts for it assumes a moral high ground.
§ The ANC must admit that the Consensus of 1994 despite its romanticism and noble intent really does not work for the black masses. ANC leaders must become less emotional and dispassionate about protecting a legacy with the face of Mandela, that so many use as the fig leaf in defending their own personal legacies. It must awake to the reality that the youth tell us 1994 was nothing but a project. ANC leaders must stop labelling the youth as uninformed, and ignorant, for this is their honest analysis of where they find themselves in democracy. If the ANC seeks to unite it will have to become honest on the 1994 deal, it will have to admit the anomalies of that deal and own up to it. Not to want to strip 1994 from its veneer does not help unity in the ANC.
§ If the ANC really wants to unite it will need to accept and admit the role of capital in its multi-faceted manifested forms as the DNA of the ANC. ANC leaders and members will have to admit capital has captured the organisation, not since 2007 as its advanced by some who are equally captured. To assume the Mandela, Mbeki era government leaders are exempted from the undeniable influence of capital and its manifold tentacles in benefit lends a sense of dishonesty to the subject of a call for unity.
§ The ANC will have to admit it wrongly became the ANC of Mbeki and Zuma personalities that for their own reasons have come to define the division of the ANC. It will have to admit those who condemn Zuma really do so out of their worship of Mbeki, and those who hero- worship Zuma does so out of their disdain for Mbeki. This subculture of ANC members becoming loyalists to leaders instead of the organisation is at the root of disunity. These two personalities have come to define the dividing line, and neither of their constituencies are willing to respect the other. Not respecting one another, does not work for unity.
§ The ANC will have to admit making it on to a ANC list is a meal-ticket and brings you in direct opportunity and space to advance one’s personal economic well-being. It will have to admit ANC people kill and get killed to be on that list because it holds the keys to a ‘treasure’. To call some careerist when you had served, serve and hope to serve does not foster any unity. To continue denying the reality of what lists mean is not to work for unity.
§ The ANC will have to admit corruption has grown from the infant in 1994 and walks among us in adulthood in 2017. Its best efforts to stymie it has failed and pointing fingers at leadership when you exonerate yourself while you were a part of that leadership is simply dishonest. This denial and disowning of corruption in its manifested expressions since 1994 and convenient fixing it to an era since 2007 in cheapness of blame of others does not serve the call for unity.
§ ANC leaders will have to admit the demonising of other leaders because you lost against them in political contest is a reality in the ANC. This demonising of others often your peers attempts of a self-righteous morality. Therefore easy claims of moral high ground, in a toxic capital infested space hardly leaves anyone entitled to call others out when you are empowered and have sat, still sit and hope to sit at that same trough. Unity can never be obtained when some are demonised and others claim they are angels.
§ ANC must admit that there is a concerted attempt to sanitize the sojourn of twenty-three years of democracy. We are presented with conflicting accounts in which some claim their truth as the real truth. When you listen to for example Mbeki’s recent commentary on his era, there is no attempt at self-criticism; there is only deflection, it is someone’s fault. The ship of the ANC was steered right. The intransigence not to concede error on your part when you want to point at others does not assist a unity. This does not help the efforts at unity because there is another narrative living also in the same ANC.
§ The ANC veterans however defined will have to accept they are engaging their equal veterans in the current post Polokwane ANC leadership. Therefore the attempts to direct demand, from and rebuke the current leadership from paradigm of being a stalwart or veteran when you fail to recognise the equal status of others as veterans does not help unity.
§ The ANC will have to admit the flagrant disrespecting of legitimate leagues and structures and the recognition of para – structures i.e. premier leagues and a MK Council does not build any unity.
§ The violating of ANC constitution, policies, and systems by individuals and or groups, regardless of what standing does not work for unity.
§ The ANC Youth League will have to admit that it has failed to lead the undeniable and much needed youth agenda since it spent all its time focussing on national leadership contests. Equally presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa cannot be afforded to call the youth league stupid, these comments don’t build unity but enforces divisions.
§ The ANC will need to engage its alliance partners in honesty and equally demand that same equal honesty. This one sided affair where the ANC’s alliance partners consider it their inalienable right to attack, accuse and berate the ANC leadership at whim, in the guise of ‘its our movement’ must be condemned because it does not work for unity. An Alliance not willing to shoulder blame but wants to share fame is not assisting unity at organisational level.
§ ANC leaders will need to appreciate the attribute and fundamental aspect of democratic centralism and let that stand in its own space. Therefore when subjects or proposals have served in a recognised platform as engaged they cannot after being defeated leave that space and go outside on the sentiment of a claimed South Africa constituency to share their defeated proposals as if they were not entertained and defeated. Disrespecting the organisation in democratic centralism cannot work for unity of the organisation.
§ Unity will not need a beating of one’s own drum and chest but a pensive reflection in humility to place ones hand in one’s own bosom to admit role in this disunity, often those who shout loudest for unity deny their own role in disunity.
Therefore to give unity an honest chance, honesty cannot be made optional, pointing fingers cannot be made the practice and claiming moral high grounds in cheapness of a contest simply will not produce any unity. The ANC’s unity is to be understood in its overarching mission, fundamental values, and its guiding light constitution.
To therefore assume a leader, an individual, a president, or a premier will in magic wand sense produce unity is to be self-deceiving. Unity is only possible where people recognise their shortcomings, die to self, stop pointing fingers in false claims of moral high grounds and to let the organisation in nakedness of its constitution, ethos programmes and agenda stand.
Unity is possible where there is respect, unity is only plausible where honesty was made to stand, and false paraded claims shown for what they are.
I therefore hope the ANC can give unity its much-needed agency, yet it cannot happen in a vacuum. It will need ANC leaders and members to rise above their self-interest and put the organisation first.
Clyde N.S Ramalaine