Senior ANC leader Joel Netshitendzhe is worried about branch members electing a bubble of professional politicians who will do nothing but create echoes in the party’s national executive committee.
He has warned delegates for the ANC’s 54th national conference, scheduled three months from now, to choose wisely.
Netshitendzhe, also an NEC member, said whomever was given a seat in the party’s highest decisionmaking structure in between conferences must be reflective of what the ANC stands for.
“In the leadership we can create a bubble of professional politicians. You can create an echo chamber ... where [you have] 95% of ministers, deputies, MPs or full-time deployees in the ANC ... where you do not have people come from working class, religious sector and intellectual community. You end up with this bubble, this echo chamber, where you agree on everything,” he told branch members in Evaton this weekend, during a political lecture on the party’s strategy and tactics.
It was here that the ANC’s Saul Tsotetsi branch in Sebokeng endorsed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to be the next president, boosting his campaign in the Gauteng province.
Ramaphosa was set to visit the branch on Saturday and would formally be informed of the intention to nominate him.
Its chairperson, Chippa Masiteng, said members must not be confused by those who were questioning the principle of the ANC deputy replacing the president.
“We want Cyril Ramaphosa to lead and we won’t move from that position.”
Meanwhile, Netshitendzhe bemoaned what he described as narrowed entry points into leadership, where those who deserved to be elected to the national structures of the ANC and ANC Youth League were sidelined.
Netshitendzhe lauded the leadership qualities of some of the students who were part of the #FeesMustFall campaign, describing them as “our next Lilian Ngoyi”.
He said the election processes were such that these young leaders couldn’t rise – “you end up with an ANC Youth League that is this weak”.
“So how [do we] ensure that the cream of young people rise within the structures of ANCYL and ANC?:
Netshitendzhe held the view that at least one of these young people should be elected to the incoming NEC, so they could challenge the old guard there and bring in fresh ideas.
Netshitendzhe said the ANC had lost its role as a strategic centre of power and a disciplined force of the left.
So dire was the situation that it could not even give direction to its deployees in government. Instead, it behaved like an non-governmental organisation and was caught off-guard even when deployments happen, he said.
Moaning like an NGO
“It should be able to give direction to deployees of the ANC whenever they are located. That is a strategic centre of power. So there should be something that terribly went wrong when the ANC starts to moan like an NGO,” he said.
“A strange Cabinet reshuffle happens and officials say they don’t know where this list comes from.
“Someone strangely gets into a branch in the ANC and gets into Parliament, having voluntarily resigned from somewhere. Then he goes back to where he voluntarily resigned. The ANC then [in shock] issues a statement.”
He was referring to the debacle surrounding then Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe, who resigned, was suddenly nominated to a North West branch of the ANC, and then elevated to a member of Parliament, only to resign to go back to Eskom a few months later. Molefe was eventually removed from Eskom by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
Netshitendzhe said that showed the ANC had lost control over its deployees in government and needed to re-assert its authority – whether on the president or trickling down to lower structures.
The beginning of the end
“So among the things that need to happen at the conference is to ensure the leadership listens to the collective and won’t defy that strategic centre. If we allow that to happen it is the beginning of the end.”
Netshitendzhe also linked this to how the ANC was unable to act even when allegations emerged that state institutions were being used to smear those contesting for the ANC’s top position.
Asked if he didn’t find it strange that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe suggested the ANC was powerless and could not act intervene in state institutions, he said: “That’s the point I was making, that the ANC needs to act as the strategic centre of power and exercise discipline.”
Ramaphosa claimed that state intelligence was behind the leaking of his private emails that indicated he had extramarital affairs with eight women.
He has confirmed only one affair, which happened seven years ago.
Netshitendzhe said the use of state institutions was a tragedy.
“It’s a tragedy and it will lead to the destruction of the ANC,” he told City Press on the sidelines.
Moral high ground
In a lecture on strategy and tactics, which lasted more than an hour, Netshitendzhe spoke authoritatively about an ANC that was once known for its ethical rectitude and its ability to occupy the moral high ground.
But today, he said, the ANC had to be corrected by the courts.
“Something is wrong with us and we need to correct that from within. We are being condemned by the SA Council of Churches and veterans,” he said.
As the elective conference drew near, the ANC had to ensure that it stopped the habit of using the gatherings as confessionals – where members pledged to do the right things but ended up not walking the talk and scoring own goals.
“Nothing is more than career limiting than losing elections. As it happened in local elections when those ANC members lost their positions and had to sell their cars and houses because they could not pay, it will happen again if the right leaders are elected and the ANC redeems itself.”
He said the impact would trickle down to even those in state-owned entities.
“It’s in our self interest to ensure we self-correct, both in terms of content and leadership, in December. If we fail to do so, we will be known as the generation in whose hands the ANC died.”
However, Netshitendzhe said he was confident that this would not happen, based on various interactions he had had on the ground across the country,
“As we move to the conference we often tend to naval-gaze – we look for the people or faction we might like. The biggest question we must ask in relation to leadership is what will be the implications for 2019.
“Who we elect may send the message there will be state capture, corruption and strange things … If the outcome of December sends that message to our people, we will be digging our grave.
“If we send the message that we electing people who are defying decisions of the NEC, people who are captured and belong to family dynasties we are going to suffer in 2019.”