Battered and bruised from constant negative publicity over the conduct of poorly trained leaders and activists, the ANC is making a concerted effort at restoring its tarnished image by finally setting in motion its long-planned renewal project: the establishment of a political school.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to launch the OR Tambo School of Leadership on Thursday at Gallagher Estate in Midrand in Johannesburg.
It will be headed by soft-spoken ANC national executive committee (NEC) member David Masondo, who cut his teeth in the SA Communist Party and is fast establishing himself as a thought leader in ANC circles.
Masondo’s colleagues in the NEC, assumed to have among its ranks the ANC’s most esteemed and knowledgeable group of leaders – given that this is the highest decision-making body between national conferences – will be expected to attend at least three training sessions annually to sharpen their revolutionary understanding of “humility, selflessness, foresight and inclusiveness”.
“Completing the core curriculum, which encompasses courses such as political economy; economic development; Africa in the global economy; and South African and ANC history will become mandatory for all who wish to be public representatives or to be elected as ANC leaders above branch level,” says Masondo.
When it comes to the costs involved, Masondo has crunched the numbers. It will cost the ANC an estimated R65 million a year over the next three years to keep the project running.
Masondo says the costs will go towards curriculum delivery, which includes face-to-face contact learning sessions with students; the training of political education facilitators countrywide; and publishing a book on South African history.
“Our funds should come mainly from members’ contributions, be they monthly debit orders or once-off contributions. We project that a R10 monthly contribution from 500 000 party members will net us R60 million. The other R5 million should come from the ANC as an annual grant. Donors are also welcome.”
Masondo admits that the school is not a panacea for all the problems facing the ANC “because not all causes of organisational decay stem from a lack of political education”.
He adds: “Many of our problems are caused by highly politically educated ANC leaders and members. However, the school will comprise a critical mass of members steeped in the ANC’s values and principles, who will fight negative tendencies that impede the party from being an organ of the people and completing their emancipation.”
He tells City Press that he has big goals for the political school, saying ANC members and leaders rooted in the party’s vision will serve South Africans better.
Masondo says the courses are divided into three units: theory, policy and organisational skills. An army of 1 000 foot soldiers, trained as facilitators, will be dispatched countrywide to conduct sessions in branches.
Approval of the modules has been assigned to party veterans, including former president Kgalema Motlanthe – who recently caused a stir with his comment that the ANC needed to lose elections to find renewal – as well as Pallo Jordan, Sbu Ndebele and George Mashamba.
Masondo says although Motlanthe has been consistent in saying the ANC should fall before it rises again as a renewed party, he disagrees “because there is also a possibility that the party may never rise again”.
The ANC’s old guard and their younger counterparts will be put through their paces using IT platforms such as online education, e-books, virtual conferencing tools and social media, he says.
“The facilitation of political education will be done professionally in the sense that our courses will be based on clear educational outcomes, a student guide and a facilitators’ guide, and will be accredited,” says Masondo.
The ANC has long toyed with the idea of setting up a political school, at one point appointing Motlanthe to head the project, but it continued to falter.
Initially, the focus was on attempts by NEC members Tony Yengeni and later, Nathi Mthethwa, to acquire a building for this purpose, but it never materialised.
The ANC’s Gauteng branches then led the pack by setting up the Walter Sisulu Leadership Academy and producing some graduates.