The ANC is to hold its key mid-term meeting, the National General Council (NGC).

It takes place as the party – now more than a century old – is facing a real crisis, with its leadership (from Zuma downwards) bogged down in allegations of corruption.

Some of its leading veterans are deeply critical of the movement.

Zuma ANC

Ben Turock, who helped write the Freedom Charter and spent years in an apartheid jail, has not been invited to the NGC.

“I have not received an invitation and I have not sought one…. I find that the ANC is so beset with problems that I am not sure I would at all be that comfortable at the NGC. I am not the only one. There are many stalwarts who are saying the same thing,” he said, referring to the feeling of disquiet expressed by some ANC leaders.

Turock is not alone.

Frank Chikane, who was a leader of the UDF in the 1980’s and a key member of the Mbeki administration, has taken a similar stand.

He has issued a document entitled: “Saving the Soul of the ANC”

Below is the report of the document which appeared in the City Press.

Martin

Frank Chikane warns of ANC’s demise

Setumo Stone and Hlengiwe Nhlabathi

City Press

 

Veteran ANC leader Reverend Frank Chikane has warned the ANC that it has reached a point of no return, and faces the real possibility of losing elections unless it owns up to its problems.

Chikane said the risk of ANC support falling below 50% in the next national election was real and dangerous.

In last year’s elections, ANC support nationally dropped to 62.16%, from 65.9% in 2009.

“We must do everything possible to turn this situation around,” said Chikane.

He drafted a document after a workshop at his Liliesleaf Farm branch and is believed to have circulated it to the Joburg region, as well as to the province and Luthuli House. He hopes the document, which contains suggestions for the renewal of the party, will be discussed at the national general council (NGC) meeting from Friday at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. His points are blunt and frank, and could rattle members.

Members ‘gripped by fear’

Chikane, former president Thabo Mbeki’s presidency director-general, warned against party members being too “gripped by fear” to voice their concerns.

“For the ANC to remain a winning ANC, it must keep the tradition of being self-critical. Failure to do so will result in its demise and it losing confidence and its position as leader of society.”

He quoted an ANC document in 1929 that said “inner criticism is a weapon for strengthening the party organisation and increasing its fighting power”.

Chikane’s point about self-criticism was echoed by an ANC national executive committee member in an interview with City Press. Chikane said there was “no gainsaying that members of the ANC are going through a nightmare about their organisation”, he wrote in his presentation. “Members know that there is something going wrong, but can’t scream or wave their hands for help.”

In the document, Chikane said he was still waiting for an appointment with the party’s top six officials.

Mantashe lashes Chikane

But ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, speaking to City Press from London, was critical of Chikane, accusing him of leaking his paper to the media.

Mantashe refused to speak in detail about the document, saying that if it had been handed over to him, he had a duty to keep it confidential because it was not meant for public consumption.

“Whether I have the document or not, I have a duty to keep its confidentiality,” he said. “I’m not going to talk about internal documents meant for ANC structures but which later end up being circulated to the media. The behaviour of circulating such a document is equal to ill-discipline. Please don’t invite me into that space.”

Asked if ANC officials would discuss the document at any meetings or at the NGC, Mantashe said: “It’s none of your business.”

Protecting corrupt leaders

Chikane said that despite the ANC’s great achievements in service delivery, election results showed there was a downward trend in support.

He warned against a tendency to deviate from what the ANC was and should be, which he described as best exemplified by Oliver Tambo in his leadership of the party in exile.

He said corrupt practices in party structures led to corrupted leaders who protected themselves at all costs and did not want to relinquish power. However, throughout the document, he did not mention any current ANC leaders’ names. He did say that examples of leaders who corrupted the organisation were those who would push for a third presidential term, or imposed leaders who guaranteed their interests.

Chikane said factors that worked against party interests included a “readiness to sacrifice the movement in defence of leaders or ill-gotten wealth, or to ensure that such leaders do not face justice”.

Nkandla handled badly

Chikane specifically quoted the ANC’s handling of the Nkandla debacle as a “complicating factor”. He said the party’s approach appeared to undermine people’s intelligence, and was laden with unhelpful attacks on the Public Protector and the “mocking gestures of the president in Parliament”.

Chikane proposed that in putting things right, the party should make a public declaration that, although the party had performed well, some things were going radically wrong. Following this, it should make a public announcement to correct the wrongs of the past and refocus on the ANC’s “national democratic revolution”.

He proposed that the party use the NGC to announce the strategy to take the ANC back to what it should be.

Chikane said there should be a special call to genuine cadres and veterans of the movement to return to the branches and defend them against corrupted and corruptible comrades.

Meanwhile, speaking to City Press this week, ANC national executive committee member and minister Lindiwe Zulu said the party would look into why there appeared to be a heightened attack on the ANC and its image.

“Introspection is also very important for the organisation. There are certain things we are not doing right and we must talk about how we can do them right. There are certain things that are weakening the organisation itself – the internal dynamics of the ANC that weaken the organisation.”

Zulu said the ANC had always been introspective, but the conversation was ongoing because internal issues were different now that the party was in government.

“The challenges cannot be the same, because the challenges are created by a current environment … impacted upon by a number of things. It has become about positions.”

Chikane has faced off with ANC leaders before. His book Eight Days in September detailed how clumsily ANC leaders handled the removal of Mbeki as president of the country in 2008.

ANC branch chairperson at Liliesleaf Luther Lebelo said: “We can confirm that such a workshop took place, and indeed we had a critical and frank analysis of the status of the ANC, led by one of our committed and ever-present members of the branch.”