In reaction to Mr Lekota’s recent utterances, some have related it to what has happened in the past with other ANC protestants. On the other hand, some have argued that the context in the case of Mr Lekota et al differs fundamentally from the other protestants. It is important to look at what membership of the ANC has meant over the years versus how the protestants have defected from the ANC. From there we can deduce whether the context entirely differs or it’s a mere deja vu.
In Part One of the series, which I published before Mr Lekota made the (non-)announcement, I cited what the constitutions of the ANC says about its membership relating to the resignation and the then rumoured break-away political party. It could be a foregone conclusion that the NEC (the National Disciplinary Committee) should institute disciplinary action against those who may have violated the constitution of the ANC.
Obviously I was not part of the Kabwe Conference in 1985. Records of the ANC show that when Cde Oliver Tambo delivered his Political Report, among other things, said;
In this offensive, the apartheid regime and its allies sought, among other things, to utilise a faction which had emerged within our ranks and which posed as the true defender of the policy of our movement. This is the group which ultimately emerged in public under the name “ANC (African Nationalist)”.
This faction resorted to the well-tried counter-revolutionary positions of anti-communism and racist chauvinism, in an effort to change the strategic orientation of our movement, undermine the unity of the democratic forces of our country and win recognition for itself by the most backward forces in world politics. By a policy of vilification and outright lies, it tried to discredit the leadership of our movement and to foment a rebellion from within the ANC in the hope that it would regain the positions it had lost at the Morogoro Conference. For its activities this faction won the public recognition of the Pretoria regime which showered praises on it as the genuine leadership of the ANC and of our people.
True to the traditions of the ANC and in the interest of the maximum unity of our movement and people, our leadership worked hard to show these people the error of their ways and to reintegrate them within the structures of our movement. Many of them had made important contributions to the advance of our struggle and were leading cadres of our organisation.
As part of this process, we held a Conference of the ANC in 1971 where the differences that had emerged within the ANC were discussed. That Conference reaffirmed the decisions taken by the Morogoro Conference as well as the general strategy and tactics of our movement. It was also agreed that members of this faction should still be given specific tasks within the movement, taking into account their seniority. In the end, our efforts came to nothing as this group continued its factional activities.[own emphasis]
Nevertheless, such was the level of consciousness and the commitment of the membership to the basic positions of the ANC, that this faction could not and did not succeed in its purposes. This important victory had important implications in the decisive struggle for the unity of our people and the broad movement for national liberation.” (Oliver Tambo, 1985)
I may have not been part of the ANC at the time, but I empathise with the challenge Cde Tambo faced at the time. Apparently, after the Presidency published a statement on the resignation of certain Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the ANC NEC had to call everyone individually to ask if they are prepared to serve in Cde Mothlanthe’s administration. Those who were willing to continue serving the Revolution were subsequently reappointed. Those who defied their revolutionary duty were not suspended nor expelled from the ANC.
Even after the recent utterances, the ANC NEC, through its Deputy President and Treasurer General, have made attempts to reach out to Mr Lekota. It seems they are have not succeeded, just as Cde Tambo’s NEC could not succeed with the faction of the time.
The PAC broke away from the ANC on the basis of difference of opinion, mainly on the preamble of the Freedom Charter. They could not bring themselves to agreeing that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. The Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955 and the PAC broke away in 1959. They may have exhausted all internal mechanisms to try and convince fellow members of the ANC. As history has demonstrated the ANC was correct and the PAC was wrong.
Knowing that the PAC believes in socialism, I am convinced that they agreed with more than 50% of what the Freedom Charter says. They even agreed to armed struggle as they later formed APLA (formerly known as Poqo). However, they felt that the points on which they differed with ANC were sufficient basis to form a political party.
Knowing the ANC, I am convinced that there are many members who differed with the Defiance Campaign proposed by the ANCYL but who remained in the ANC. There are many members who differed with the armed struggle but who remained in the ANC. There are many members who differed with certain clauses of the Freedom Charter but who remained in the ANC. There are many members who differed with Bantustans but who remain members of the ANC. There are many members of the ANC who differed with the ANC association with the SACP (formerly CPSA) but who remained in the ANC.
There are many members who differed with the suspension of the armed struggle but who remained in the ANC. There are many members of the ANC who differed with the negotiations but who remained in the ANC. There are many members who differed with GEAR but who remained in the ANC. There are many members who differed with the abandonment of nationalisation (pursuit of privatisation) but who remained members of the ANC. There are many members who differed with the election of Mr Lekota as ANC National Chairperson at the Mafikeng Conference but who remained in the ANC and respected him as their own leader. There are many members who were victims of apartheid brutalities who differed with the TRC process but who remained members of the ANC.
There are many members who differed with the release of Cde Jacob Zuma from being Deputy President of the country but who reamin members of the ANC. There are many members of the ANC who differed with election of Cde Jacob Zuma as ANC President at the Polokwane Conference but who remain loyal and disciplined members of the ANC, they accept the entire NEC collective as their own leadership. There are many members of the who differed with the recall of Western and Eastern Cape Premiers but who remain members of the ANC (including Cde Rasool). There are many members who differed with the recall of President Mbeki but who remain members of the ANC. There are many members who differed with the deployment of Cde Mothlanthe as President of the country but who remain members of the ANC. There are many members who differ with abortion legislation but who remain members of the ANC.
There are many members (who are victims of crime) who differ with the absence of the death penalty but who remain members of the ANC. There could be some members who differ with the Civil Union Act but who remain members of the ANC. There could be members who differ with the lack of consultation of Alliance partners in appointing President Mothlante’s cabinet but who remain ANC members. There are many members who differed with the circulation of insulting emails (commonly known as hoax emails) who remain members of the ANC.
There are many members who differed with the pursuit and compilation of the Browse Mole Report but who remain members of the ANC. There are many members of the ANC who differ with the Strategic Arms Procurement (commonly known as the Arms Deal) but who remain members of the ANC. There are many members who differed with the pursuit of the Gautrain Project but who remain members of the ANC.
There are many members who differ with the conspiracy against the President of the ANC as outlined by Justice Chris Nicholson but who remain members of the ANC. There could be members of the ANC who differ with the support given to President of the ANC but who remain members of the ANC. There are many ANC members who are defeated in elections in branches, zones, regions, provinces and NEC but who remain loyal members of the ANC and accept elected leaders as their own.
Clearly the ANC is not a religion. Members of the ANC understand that the ANC is not a homogeneous organisation. Almost all the time members will hold different views about what must be done. In some instances the difference of those views will be so deep that they oppose each other. As demonstrated above, some have opted to jump ship but most have remained loyal and disciplined members of the ANC. Those who have jumped ship have subsequently failed while the overwhelming majority which has remained loyal have succeeded to keep the ANC strong.
Though there have been very difficult time, even at those times even the Alliance partners remained committed to the Alliance and the pursuit of the National Democratic Revolution. This was not a result of lack of courage to breakaway from the Alliance, it was more about the level of consciousness and understanding that our revolution is not an adventure. It was about being able to differentiate between strategy and tactics. The Alliance partners have resisted the temptation to pursue short-term populist interests but rather opted to strengthen the Alliance for the success of long-term objectives of the Revolution.
The fact that Mr Bantu Holomisa was expelled from the ANC is secondary, what is primary is that he differed with the ANC’s approach to the TRC process.
I am certain that Chief Buthelezi was convinced that he was assisting the NDR through his Bantustan and formation of IFP. He differed with the UDF and eventually faded from the NDR.
There could be many other examples of people who thought they are better than the ANC.
The genuine members of the ANC have remained unshaken in the 96 years of its existence. ANC members have held differing opinions at various points in history. ANC members will continue to hold different views. But all this will not lead them to desert the ANC.
It is worth noting that these differences are not held in permanent groups within the ANC. It is short-sighted to imagine that if a particular group agree on something today they will still agree on it tomorrow. I wonder which PAC is Mr Pheko representing in Parliament. Let alone the formation of Godi’s APC or De Lille’s ID. Remember how the UDM suspended more than half of its executive towards one of the floor-crossing windows. The IFP with its NADECO and SADECO pieces. I wonder how long will it take for the new party to break into pieces.
What is explained here is nothing new. It is basic policy that explains what it means to be a member of the ANC or its Alliance partners. Even Mr Lekota can attest to it. The former National Chairperson of the ANC had this to say to the COSATU Special Congress in August 1999;
“We must move along this route because consensus on any policy position does not imply a hundred percent unanimity. Nor does it mean that such policy positions will totally succeed at implementation. Indeed the gap between the ideal and reality always produces shortfalls. Hence the need to revise policy from time to time. But then that process too has to be carried out primarily within the structures and discipline of our organisations. Above all it must be in the spirit of building for the future.
Discipline is a Crucial Factor in our Revolution
The recent trend, on the part of some highly-placed comrades, of ascending platforms or by other ways criticising or agitating against policies and actions of the movement, inside and outside Government, smacks of a lack of revolutionary discipline. This is particularly so because these critical voices have not been heard in the committees and councils of our structures, where they can be systemically analysed, tested and then adopted if they pass the test of debate.
This undisciplined approach has a number of negative consequences:It confuses the mass based support of our movement; it lends itself to exploitation by our opponents and opposition parties; it creates a climate in which agents provocateur can thrive and advance their counter-revolutionary agendas.” (Lekota, 1999)
Furthermore, in July 2001 the NWC, which Lekota was part of, released a document titled “Through the eye of the needle”. This document among other things say;
“23 Democracy as majority rule: Individual members and leaders will have differing opinions on how particular issues should be addressed. The strength of revolutionary organisation lies among others in the ability to synthesise these views and emerge with the wisest possible approach. Once a decision has been taken on the basis of the majority’s views, it binds everyone, including those who held a contrary view.
40 An individual with qualities of leadership does not seek to gain popularity by undermining those in positions of responsibility. Where such a member has a view on how to improve things or correct mistakes, she should state those views in constitutional structures and seek to win others to her own thinking. She should assist the movement as a whole to improve its work, and not stand aside to claim perfection out of inactivity.
56 On the other hand, others seek to court popularity by demonstrating “independence” from constitutional structures and senior leaders of the ANC, for its own sake. Often, this is encouraged by some media and other forces opposed to the ANC, precisely because it means independence from the mission and discipline of the movement.
74 Individuals who operate in the dead of the night, convening secret meetings and speaking poorly of other members should be exposed and isolated. When approached to be part of such groups, members should relay such information to relevant structures or individuals in whom they have confidence. But it is also critical that proper investigations are conducted, and those accused are informed. Witch-hunts should be avoided as a matter of principle.
79 It is a matter of principle, revolutionary democratic practice, and a constitutional requirement that, once duly elected, the leaders should be accepted by all members as leaders of the movement as a whole at the relevant level. They should be assisted by all of us in their work. The leaders themselves are obliged to serve, and to listen to, all members, including those who may not have voted for them.” (ANC NWC, 2001)
As you may have noted, this analysis tries to strike a balance. It is not to judge the merits or demerits of Mr Lekota’s arguments. It is merely to express what does the ANC membership mean.
Loyal and disciplined members of the ANC will continue to advance the Freedom Charter as they have done over the past many years, with or without Mr Lekota et al. Genuine members of the ANC are conscious of the warning made by the former President, Cde OR Tambo, at the close of the Morogoro Conference in 1969 when he said;
“Be vigilant, comrades. The enemy is vigilant. Beware of the wedge driver! Men who creep from ear to ear, driving wedges among us; who go around creating splits and divisions. Beware the wedge driver! Watch his poisonous tongue!” (Tambo, 1969)
Genuine members of the ANC will stand together in unity against any attempts to destroy the ANC. They are going to defend the ANC of JL Dube, SM Makgatho, ZR Mahabane, JT Gumede, Pixley Seme, AB Xuma, JS Moroka, AJ Luthuli, OR Tambo, NR Mandela, TM Mbeki and JG Zuma. They will match together in unison towards the centenary of ANC. As the former ANC President said in his last letter published in ANC Today;
“We, genuine patriots and members of the ANC, have the unique responsibility and duty to ensure that the ANC is the kind of revolutionary movement that has the capacity to lead the sustained offensive for the realisation of this goal. We congratulate our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma, and the rest of our leadership elected by our 52nd National Conference, which will lead our movement and country as we advance to the celebration of the historic Centenary Anniversary of the people’s movement, the ANC.” (Mbeki, 2007)
NB: This was originally published on Wednesday, 15 October 2008. Due to problems with WordPress and my internet connection I have had to republish it.