Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

Bayanda Mzoneli is a public servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

NB: This is a response to Sifiso Mtsweni‘s unpublished draft paper. That you have not seen it is not my problem. He emailed it to me after I asked for it on Facebook. He will probably send it to you too if you ask for it.

Dear Sifiso Johnny-Tso Mtsweni,

You don’t have a DC, you won’t do anything to me for responding here. I am done reading your piece. It comes close to what I’ve thought about writing but you missed the point by a few points.

1) Your article is too embedded on its case study. I would have preferred that the arguments be more generic than too specific. You will see below how being too specific weakens a more necessary discussion.

2) Before proceeding, let’s get this out of the way, it is not true that this issue has “now raised another element that the ANC as a party had not envisaged” The ANC has long expressed this as a problem from as early as the 2000 NGC and all subsequent national gatherings of the ANC. See mostly the organisational reports. What the ANC has not been able is to come up with practical solutions to this.

3) The basic root of the ANC’s cancer (on this) can be traced to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Among the items at it’s bottom is food. Some comrades often casually and mockingly refer to this as “stomach politics.” The reality that no one can escape is that comrades and their families have to have food to eat.

4) In order to remain focused, I will deliberately not take the somewhat trivial route that leads to an endless debate of “living within means” and “avoiding greed” and/or “opulence”. The reason I am avoiding this easy road will be apparent once I choose the other route below.

5) The South African electoral system in government and the ANC national level provides insecure 5 year contract jobs for comrades. The short-term contracts apply to Presidents, Ministers, MPs, Premiers, MECs, MPLs, Mayors, MMCs, Councillors, DGs, HODs and Municipal or City Managers.

6) The short-term contracts are insecure because, often some comrades do not finish their terms for varying reasons. But even if they do, 5 years is a very short-term from the perspective of income security. It takes longer to take kids through school, to pay for vehicle finance or a home loan.

7) The ANC in particular and society in general have no provision for alternative income for comrades that get out of the system. This is common knowledge but is rarely identified as the root of the problem. As I pointed out in (4) above, even the most modest comrades need income for their personal welfare in order to provide for their families. While greed might be a secondary problem, taking the discussion in that direction trivializes the primary problem.

8) Indeed choosing political activism is not necessarily a career but a commitment to serve the people. While this route of the debate is noble, when advanced narrowly it trivialises the discussion as it ignores that a political activist must still eat and have shelter. So we will avoid it as well, as an effort not to shy away from the real problem.

9) Any person faced with the prospect of end of income is likely to attempt to generate additional income by other means in order to be able to survive when their formal income ends. Others could go as far as channeling money in the direction of certain business people or family members in order to secure their future welfare. You pointed this out at a superficial level in your article.

10) Understanding the root of the cancer this way, will help us better address it. Interpreting it only in terms of its symptom as it might manifest in a certain province or elsewhere, might lead us to believing that replacing “greedy” individuals with modest comrades with better revolutionary morality will solve the problem. The comrades with better revolutionary morality will still have to eat and would still have no guarantee that they won’t be recalled tomorrow nor will they be guaranteed an infinite number of terms.

11) The ANC, in its wisdom, is aware of this problem but have not moved to come up with a workable solution. It has established an Integrity Committee, which will probably handle the symptoms. It has also resolved that there should be a policy to limit “javelin throwing” where people leave government to pursue work in areas that they had prepared while they were in government. However, the ANC has not come up with a practical income generating post-term occupation for comrades whose term of office ends ceremoniously or unceremoniously.

12) This debate can also be trivialised by arguing for comrades to get education and have professional qualifications in certain fields. This may partially solve the problem but to a very limited extent. I doubt there is any construction company that might want to employ a Civil Engineering graduate as a civil engineer after he spent almost 10 years being a Finance Minister as is the case with Cde Trevor Manuel. The reality is that serving in a political position gives you irrelevant experience for your field of study except maybe for Public Management graduates.

13) Comrades will continue to kill each for the opportunity to serve another term as Councillor or will continue to loot as Premiers or Ministers in order to be able to have something in case they are recalled or they do not get another term. Just like ants collect in summer in order to feed in winter.

14) Opponents of people will continue to emphasise a case in point in the national government, in a province or in a municipality. Supporters of people will continue to defend their chosen leaders with both rational and irrational arguments. Comrades will continue to fight among each other in the quest to cling on to positions or to oust others in order to have their turn. We will take each other to courts, AG, Public Protector and all known institutions as an effort to survive. To me, it appears that there is no immediate solution to the cancer that is slowly eating the ANC away.

15) When I first got exposed to the ANC, among others, I learned to that even in instances where I suspect I am smarter, there is a type of respect I should apportion to my political seniors, which does not amount to cowardice. That culture has slowly eroded. Things are likely to get worst as we get to the List Process in preparation of the provincial and national elections.

16) There are MPs and MPLs who have served since 1994 or others for 10 years. The Ministerial or MEC positions are limited, not all of them can be deployed to that level. The world countries are limited, not all of them can be Ambassadors. Not all of them can become lecturers or book authors. What will become of those who will be left out of the list as the young activist who are unemployed fight hard to have their turn and replace them?

17) Over 40 Ministers and Deputy Ministers have less than a year left in office, with little or no guarantee of return. Some do not even have own cars, houses or even a cellphone as the state is taking care of them. Where will those who won’t be returned go?

18) You can arrest Selebi, fire Bheki Cele, blame/despise JZ, disband Mathale, expel Julius and recall a Mayor, the reality is that your problem won’t go away.

19) In short, I am saying, until we have a post-activism income generating occupation for our comrades, the problem of looting, either through relations with business people, nepotism, cronyism or otherwise, our problem will get worse.

20) Thank for raising the discussion and I hope this contribution helps. Though, sadly, neither ANC, SACP nor ANCYL branches would be barely interested in such a discussion. Lately, branches are focused on more important matters than this. I hope Braam Hanekom won’t take me to the ANCYL NTT DC for expressing a view here.

21) I openly admit to being a much derided Facebook activist, who is not rooted in structures of the movement and thus not in touch with the people on the ground and therefore clueless on what I am talking about. I hope this is not a punishable misconduct, yet.


Footnote: For those who believe this might be discussing matters of the ANC outside the organisation, note that nothing is said here that is not already in the public domain, particularly the internet. See ANC NGC 2010 Discussion Document on the ANC Website.

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