Good Afternoon Gentle 2018, the year of Nelson Mandela. Members of the National Executive Committee of the glorious movement, the African National Congress, have been meeting in Pretoria in what is truly, a critical meeting.
Over the past few days, media houses and commentators have been speculating about items for discussion during the meeting. This morning, the Secretary-General Ace Magashule released a detailed statement focusing on organisational matters.
Such a statement should be welcomed because last night and this morning the social media was flooded with online media reports sampling internal discussions. There has been a heavy reliance on unnamed internal ANC sources who themselves clearly have narrow personal interests.
Critically, scanning through various newspapers including listening to podcasts one is quick to notice that certain political commentators and columnists have been deliberately trying to influence the agenda and discussions in the NEC with their analysis and reporting.
Consequently, the national conversation has been by and large around these matters emanating from internal sources, which are often repeated in various platforms by journalists, columnists and political commentators. ANC members and unsuspecting members of the public have unfortunately been sucked in the clamour generating malignant rumours to weaken the ANC.
One is tempted to conclude that such internal sources are part of a well-calculated plan aimed at ensuring that the nation as a whole is “captured” by few selected political commentators and columnists who enjoy unlimited access to the mainstream media.
It could also be argued that internal ANC sources who continue to leak information to journalists have assisted political commentators and columnists and other the agents of the mainstream media to have a monopoly over what should be discussed by society and general membership of the ANC.
There is no shadow of a doubt that some commentators and opinion makers attached to the mainstream media are now on the driving seat with millions of South Africans becoming passengers in a vehicle that has a potential to go to a point of no return.
Ahead of the 54th National Conference, I expressed my concerns about the level of attachments of some journalists to the ANC leaders, internal processes and party dynamics.
I pointed out that this attachment has gone too deep for an institution that needs to exercise professional and unbiased evaluation of facts and fiction around a political organisation or its leaders.
These leaks have increased the confidence of certain commentators and columnists including certain journalists who are now involved in cyberbullying on various social media platforms. They are the Alpha and Omega over ANC matters with ANC members often described as naïve.
At all times, when scanning face-book pages you get amazed to see them rooting for certain leaders and angling their stories for specific outcomes of ANC meetings.
The questions that need to be asked: what should be done by the newly appointed National Working Committee do deal with these leaks?
What is really expected from a senior member of the ANC serving in the NEC?
The NWC needs to be decisive and ensure that “investing in discipline” becomes a sustained project that is elevated on top of the agenda of ANC.
Leaders and members of the ANC across all structures need to understand that it is not the culture and tradition of the ANC to air internal party matters in public, through leaking records of confidential deliberations, often distorted to favour the personal point of view of “internal sources.”
Leaking of internal confidential discussions have in the past resulted in conflicting messages and at times public spats involving leaders who appear to be very aggrieved simply because they did not achieve their ends during meetings thus bringing the ANC to public ridicule with their conducts.
Those involved in public spats are often seasoned leaders that are expected to be exemplary especially to the younger generation of leaders who are currently serving in lower structures of the movement.
The ANC has to invest resources to increase discipline amongst its leaders across all structures and general membership. Discipline is about the preparedness of individuals to subject themselves to the ideal of the greater good for all as opposed to personal immediate gratification.
In the ANC, having thousands of members and millions of supporters and voters, it is natural to anticipate that there will be many different views on any matter. These views represent the richness of the movement and as such the movement has emphasized on the necessity of frank internal debate.
Each member is important precisely for the unique contribution they bring to the movement and the debate that injects life into the organization. Matters are discussed thoroughly to allow for the best point of view and the most logical position to emerge as espoused by the majority of participants in that platform or structure.
This position is then adopted as the resolution that has to be accepted by all as the resolution behind which all members have to rally. This then means that the other different minority views are subordinated to this decision since it has been arrived at democratically. This we refer to as democratic centralism.
Membership of the ANC embodies in it the willingness to subject themselves to this concept of democratic centralism – always utilizing existing structures to raise issues wherein all points of view are tolerated during debate.
It is an act of indiscipline to use public platforms to pronounce on matters which reflects a variance to accepted policy and agreed positions especially when these have not been processed internally.
This is how the unity of the ANC is maintained. All members who swear allegiance to the ANC have to accept that they serve the ANC and subordinate their interest to its strategic objectives and that it is not their personal interests that have to be served by the ANC.
Public pronouncements of leaders and members must reflect the policy position of the ANC. For instance, after Nasrec, there should be no endless arguments against the Radical Economic Transformation and Land expropriation without compensation as these matters were resolved.
Any attempt to use the media to have previous decisions of the policy or national conference changed should not be tolerated as it creates uncertainty and confusion in society.
Leaders and members should get accustomed to speaking with one voice on policies of the ANC. This means respecting the ANC and the ANC‘s constitution and be subjected to its policies and decisions and subject oneself to the ANC being larger than individual interest. The ANC must emphasise the enduring values of our movement such as humility, integrity, honour, diligence, respect, sacrifice, selflessness, readiness to learn and correct mistakes.
Importantly, members must learn more about the heroes of our struggle and former leaders of our movement in order to develop a sense of purpose and contextualise their involvement in the ANC.
This will help reduce ill-discipline and other foreign tendencies as ANC leaders and members, in general, will begin to understand patriotism, love for the people and the idea of a greater calling to become a humble servant of the people
Discipline means the ability to control oneself; to be confined only to the approved and expected conduct in the absence of external force or constraint. Discipline is the ability to be guided by honour and integrity to show respect on something which one is not entitled to; not to take advantage of weaknesses or poor controls and not to unfairly benefit from a situation entrusted to one’s care.
People who are assigned to public office or position of leadership must respect the resources and interest of the public. Discipline means respecting all members and giving others space to perform their duties as assigned by the movement.
Discipline means taking instructions from a legitimate structure and to perform as expected and resisting the temptation of raising endless objections. Discipline means to be humble enough to accept criticism and corrections irrespective of the position occupied by the person who is offering the advice.
It means maturity to apologise and accept if you do wrong. Only a disciplined ANC can lead a revolution to transform society. The ANC cannot be arrogant, undermining others because of its size. This applies to individuals as well as the collective posture of ANC structures, leaders or components. Discipline is what differentiates between militancy and anarchy.
Therefore, the ANC must focus on strengthening political development and invest in deepening discipline within the ranks. The resolutions calling on the ANC to be the first one to speak out and act firmly against corruption needs to be emphasised.
Discipline must be the basis on which cadres are evaluated so that ill-discipline and other deviant conduct is seen as an offence against the ANC and society and strong action is taken.
As this is the year of Nelson Mandela, the ANC must focus on the creation of a new cadre.
There is a need to rebuild the cadre who is in the ANC to serve the people not their own personal interest.
Cadres who will openly and fearlessly express their views in the correct internal forums to influence the direction of the ANC.
Such a cadre will know that once the ANC has reached a decision through democratic processes, every member should abide by it with honour.
The new cadre to be developed must work towards stamping out divisions. Many instances where divisions appear, they are not due to differences of opinions on how to implement the Freedom Charter but on how to subvert governance by individuals who attempt to utilize their official status for personal benefit.
The lessons from Centenary celebrations held a few years ago indicate that it was the discipline, integrity and exemplary conduct of our leaders and the membership which ensured that the ANC survives for many years. That is the proven formula.
In the memory of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela and other leaders, this must be stopped. This undermines the years and years of sacrifice made by the forebears of this political freedom.