JOHANNESBURG, December 16 – No rational person would argue that there is judicial overreach when elected representatives find themselves in prison because they have been caught stealing, and the African National Congress must honestly re-evaluate its own internal democracy, the ANC stalwarts and veterans said on Saturday.
“The ANC can rightfully be proud of our constitutional democracy. We have a constitution that is internationally recognised as progressive and a model that many would wish to emulate,” the stalwarts, who are signatories to the document “For the Sake of our Future”, said in a statement.
A president when taking office stated “I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, observe, uphold, and maintain the Constitution and all other law of the republic”.
In any constitutional democracy there were occasions when the decisions of the elected representatives would be tested in the courts. This ensured the laws of a country were constitutionally sound. Some elected representatives would also have to have their time in court, because they had broken a law and failed to uphold the trust the electorate placed in them. No rational person would argue that there was judicial overreach when elected representatives found themselves in prison because they had been caught stealing, the stalwarts said.
Saturday’s ANC’s elective conference had started against a backdrop of court action by members who felt the constitution of the movement, and the national Constitution, had been violated in the election of delegates to conference and the provincial decision-making processes. This was a clear articulation of but one of the many problems the ANC faced.
“We cannot have a political party unnecessarily divided because its own leadership fails to ensure its internal democratic systems are fair, corruption free, and pass the constitutional requirements, that ironically, the ANC created,” the stalwarts said.
“What is needed, as we as stalwarts of the movement have consistently argued, is a comprehensive, honest evaluation of how we can break from undemocratic practices within our movement and ensure that we have a political party where its membership, and especially its leadership, are always beyond reproach.
“Regretfully, we have seen pathetic attempts to blame the judiciary for our own failings. Rhetoric against the judiciary adds no value and is an unnecessary diversion from the very real need for the ANC to confront its failure to transform into a modern political party, from its role as an underground national liberation movement fighting against the oppressive forces of apartheid.
“To truly liberate our people as a modern political party requires that its policies and practices are seen by our people to be the flag bearers of our constitutional democracy and at all times operate in the interests of our people, especially the historically marginalised, so poverty and the unacceptable levels of inequality are eradicated,” the stalwarts said.
What no one in the ANC, or the other parties involved in the development of the Constitution could have envisaged, was that in 2017 there would be a group of senior elected representatives who, in conjunction with others in the public and private sectors of the economy, would be systematically abusing their positions to divert resources into the pockets of the few.
That this level of abuse, while not yet tested in the courts, included charges against the president would always have a negative impact on citizen’s perceptions on, not only elected representatives, but government, the legislatures, institutions of the public and private sector of the economy, and political parties, that were seen to be complicit, the statement said.
There was little doubt that at the 2019 elections, the majority of citizens, who were too young to remember life under apartheid would not easily forgive the unacceptable and pathetic attempts to justify the theft from the people. But there was an opportunity to change this justified perception, if that opportunity was taken.
“Delegates, when making decisions at this elective conference should be guided by the policy of the ANC on corruption from the Mangaung conference, a full five years ago. This conference called for urgent action against leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct. In addition, conference clearly stated the abuse of power and office for private gain or factional interests must be prevented.
“Delegates at the elective conference now have a simple choice in the way they conduct themselves and the way they vote at this conference. Delegates can either condone or condemn corruption and looting
“We all know there has been no ‘urgency’ to tackle the abuse of power. As part of ‘state capture’, law enforcement agencies and the national prosecuting authority have been contaminated, paralysed, and unable to perform their duties without fear or favour,” the stalwarts said.
The elective conference would be seen to have ignored the clarion call of the people if any person elected to positions of power were tainted with relationships that were corrupt.
To begin to take the long and difficult road to restore the respect and support the ANC previously held in the country was not going to be easy. However, a significant starting point would be if this elective conference could show there was a willingness to ensure a break with corruption.
The acid test would also be if the elective conference agreed to a far-reaching evaluation of the present state of the party, its constitution, and its own compliance to constitutional democracy.
“There is also a need to recommit to our constitutional democracy and the law of the land – real achievements of the ANC; the ANC that the overwhelming majority of our country once supported. To fail to send a clear message from this elective conference will simply mean the ANC will continue in a downward spiral and its historical legacy will surely be lost for ever in the mists of time,” the stalwarts said.
– African News Agency (ANA),