Requiem for the liberation ANC

Justice Malala in The Sunday Times:

The rot in the party goes all the way to the top — Mbeki The liberation movement known as the ANC finally died on Sunday. In its place has risen a tawdry political party populated by leaders and members who have their eye on lining their pockets, and are prepared to embarrass themselves and each other in public to achieve their selfish goals. By 4.20pm on the first day of the party’s 52nd national conference, the usually dignified conference had degenerated into a farce akin to a very messy political rally. Mendi Msimang, the veteran treasurer- general of the party and part of the glue that held the ANC together through its years in exile, was booed. His mistake? Asking delegates to behave with dignity and stop howling at and heckling conference chairman Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, who had been taunted all day long as he tried to get the proceedings going. It was not a conference anymore — it was a political rally reminiscent of those terrible IFP affairs with hundreds of bodies, voting fodder, sitting uncomprehendingly while Mangosuthu Buthelezi held forth. This time, this fodder had been told that this or that leader was the enemy and was to be heckled and howled down. For this heckling and howling there would be ample reward: government tenders, positions in a state department — maybe even political office in the next election. It was in President Thabo Mbeki and ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe’s reports that one finally saw into what state the ANC had degenerated. Mbeki, in a plea for help, said: “By the time we close this national conference we must have discussed this matter and taken decisions that will be implemented, literally to save the ANC and our revolution.” That plaintiveness of Mbeki’s words evokes a sentiment expressed by a Nigerian friend yesterday: “ You guys are doomed to make the same mistakes we made.” The mistakes he refers to are greed and corruption, which have made Africa a basket case, a place to run away from rather than move to. In his report, Mbeki said there had been vote-buying in the ANC, and instances of “unqualified people who get appointed to such positions as municipal managers” simply to advance the commercial interests of their patrons. There had been instances of “people who abuse their positions in government consciously, purposefully and systematically to engage in corrupt practices ”. Crucially, Mbeki said, this is not something that applies merely to the bottom rung of the party. It goes all the way to the top. “The fact of the matter, whether this is correct or false, is that members of the ANC and others among our citizens have informed me that even the unprecedented fight for positions in the leadership … is informed by exactly the same imperatives. “The allegation that has been made is that at least some of the contending groups … have acted as they have with an eye to who would serve in positions of authority … after the 2009 general elections,” Mbeki said. In simple terms, the ANC is rotten to the core. In his report to the conference, Motlanthe asked: “Where is the ANC?” The truth is that the ANC of popular conception is dead. The monster described so eloquently by Mbeki has replaced it. We all know why the ANC has changed so drastically. It is because, as Mbeki quoted Motlanthe as saying in his report five years ago, “the issues … revolved around access to resources, positioning themselves or others to [gain] access to resources, dispensing patronage and using organisational structures to further these goals”. The challenge for the delegates in Polokwane this week is what to do about all this. But their dilemma is that they are caught up in the cycle themselves. Almost every single one of them is doing it. The members of the outgoing national executive committee of the ANC, from Motlanthe to Msimang, and others, are either involved in business or their spouses are. So it is difficult for these leaders to caution about greed while their own snouts are in the trough. Mbeki’s and Motlanthe’s warnings are blighted by the fact that they are as tarred as all the rest. Which brings us to the real threat to our future: if everyone is of the character described above, what are the chances of a new and committed cadre of the ANC emerging? I venture that the chances are very small, if not non- existent. The ANC of our dreams is dead. In its place is just another tawdry, corrupt political party.