Literally weeks before the upcoming ANC’s 54th Conference we are hearing former ANC individuals predicting the Conference will collapse. One of the first published opinions casting credibility questions on the conference started with Kgalema Motlanthe former SG and deputy president of the ANC, who told South Africa he will not attend the conference. Motlanthe cites what he termed ‘bogus branches and members’, that spells a direct threat to the staging of the conference. Motlanthe claims: “Because the processes are flawed, its really pointless to even hope that the outcomes of such flawed processes would be reflective of the collective views of the membership. It can produce any outcome, so it would be difficult to attache or invest in any hope in the process”
Following Motlanthe a few days later was Trevor Manuel former NEC member also repeating this claim. Manuel in his own words, “The conference will collapse after one or two day”. A few days later we heard from Tokyo Sexwale former NEC member and candidate in the 2012 presidential race re-echoing similar sentiment. According to Sexwale : “Anyone who thinks it will be easy is self-delusional. The levels of hostility within the ranks … we are a thoroughly divided ANC.”
In contrast to the above the recently held ANC Special NEC meeting did not have this item on its agenda clearly the current leadership with its sense of ear on the ground and with 60% of the branches corated, does not share this concern of an anticipated conference collapse due to flawed processes.
Let us first acknowledge that Motlanthe, Manuel and Sexwale in their own rights are former senior leaders of the ANC. In a normal setting advise and counsel from those who make up such a group would prove invaluable and helpful, since the ANC value its veterans within the context of a established league structure. Warnings from former leadership would be welcomed as important in assisting the organisation to navigate for safer waters. The reality is the environment at organisational level is toxic, factional as various interests contests. Unfortunately those who share these views are not exempted from these interest claims. In that context those who share this notion cannot be divorced from their known political positions. Their utterances in this regard do not stand in a vacuum but appears the progression to a final wish.
Mantashe in a Special Assignment interview maintains the ANC is planning for a good conference where robust engaging will be the order of the day, a conference where he sees people finding one another beyond their differences. It would therefore have been obvious to expect the NEC to have engaged this anticipated conference collapse. Mantashe also in a post-Special ANC NEC media briefing, when asked about the violence that erupted in the Easten Cape, indicated that this incident was isolated and the number of violent incidents in this season are less than the previous conference. This must therefore point to a better readiness at branch level than what Motlanthe and Manuel among others claim as substance for a hypothesis of collapse.
When we hear of a conference collapse particularly from former senior ANC leaders it is bound to register a sense of unease at number of spheres both internal and external to SA. We must also engage as to how these claims in their own significant way fuels the mayhem and instability that may play out on a volatile currency. In the final analysis we must engage the intend for this claim.
Those who predict a collapse uses the subject of fake branches and membership lists as that which threatens the staging of the conference. This claim is not new, as far as one can remember this is raised in every elective year to varying degrees. What we know is that there is very little we may critique the ANC in claims of erroneous or flawed processes for BGM’s to corate and conclude the finalisation of conference nominations, by the true holders of 90% of delegates to an ANC elective conference.
Can we accept that these shared opinions on a collapse conference may have their own intentions. In a sense these statements are irresponsible for it lends impetus to the created instability at both organisational and government level. For a combination of a former president and former finance minister all directly linked to the ANC, to share such publicized opinions when there is no evidence in a history of any national conference collapsing must confirms irresponsibility.
When one advances their utterances as irresponsible it is against the backdrop of the organisational quest for unity, the intention to work for that unity. It is also the recognition that an elective conference in the space and time it is scheduled assists that organisational renewal. We must ask if and how these comments, prophecies and wishes assist the healing of the organisation. We know that the aggregate opinions of Motlanthe and Manuel towards the current elected ANC leadership are fraught with pessimism, disdain and disregard. A collapsing conference cannot remotely assist the ANC in its unity aims.
What then do we surmise from these claims of an imminent conference collapse? Motlanthe volunteered to tell us that he will not attend the Conference. This reminded us of when Tutu said he will not vote. Clearly statements of this nature are aimed at influencing others to follow suit, it’s in a sense an attempt of exerting oneself to claim a constituency of people who will somehow be followed. This at another level also speaks to the sense of self-importance one may arrogate to influence the outcome of a conference of the ANC.
Let us not forget, not so long ago, Motlanthe in a BBC Hardtalk interview was grilled by Sackur to quit the ANC and join the DA. Motlanthe ventured to agree that the ANC is done for, and had served its purpose. Motlanthe went further and predicted that the ANC may lose come 2019.
It is clear Motlanthe has no faith in the ANC a almost 106 year old organisation, the same organisation he was honoured to served. How then can Motlanthe simply be trusted in his reflections on the ANC as placing the ANC first?
Manuel is categorical, in his conclusion, that …“the collapse of the conference will be in the interest of those currently holding powerful positions in government and in state institutions.” We may not out rightly claim to know exactly who he is referring to, suffice to say, he includes all who are in positions of power in and state institutions. We may also then assume Manuel’s logic is the collapse will be orchestrated by them he identifies as standing to benefit from this collapse. Manuel therefore tells us the current ANC leadership intends deliberately collapsing the conference, we must assume to stay in power longer or not to have some account who are in state and government positions.
It is challenging to make sense of Manuel’s conclusions because on the one hand he argues the collapse will be due to accreditation challenges, as planned by the current leadership to work for the benefit of those holding currently powerful positions in government. This analysis assumes to a homogenous group making up the ANC leadership in 2017. We also know that this season no different to those before remains a contested reality and we cannot see how opposing factions will agree to work together for the collapse of a scheduled conference for the intend of those in powerful state positions.
What is glaring about the group that advances a collapse of conference is where they locate themselves in a 2017 ANC and an elective contest. Their individual and collective choice blindness of exonerating themselves for a direct and conjoined role in the state the organisation is remains glaring. They speak as if they are above the rest, they pontificate from this glass tower prism with an uncritical-self conviction that the era they presided over participated in were pristine morally sound, without faction when we know different.
This group seldom if ever acknowledges their own known blunders. They never own up to their significant factional roles in the destruction of the ANC. In armchair analysis they conveniently single out the post-Polokwane & Mangaung leaderships as singularly responsible for the current ANC multiplicity of challenges.
One may then ask what undergirds this attitude, in order to appreciate that we must first ask who they respect. The picture becomes clearer when you realise they only respect themselves. Common sense dictates when one disrespect others as less, one naturally assumes you better and this easily translates to self – worship as the barometer of that organisational order.
The challenge with those who foresee a ANC conference collapse is not their right to an opinion but their blatant dishonesty not to admit their own political motives for such. Regardless to the soothsayers wish the ANC conference as always will run for the full days its planned and a democratic leadership as always will be elected.
Clyde N. S Ramalaine