The long road to Mangaung - Zweli Mkhize
LONG ROAD TO MANGAUNG
As expected during this season when the ANC as ruling party will be approaching its 53rd conference, the general atmosphere will be polluted by cynism, speculation conjecture and all manner of fabrications that are strong on sensation and thin on facts. Freedom of expression is our defence. But it is an environment that will confuse many innocent readers who will wade through so many thousands of words in print, electronic and other media including Facebook, you tube and twitter.
INTEREST AND SUSPICIONS
Similarly we have seen a lot of interest in the size and views of various provincial structures of the ANC, including our province of KwaZulu-Natal. It seems our sin of being the home province of the incumbent President; we are attracting the most adverse of commentaries.
Somehow there are some who believe anything done by ANC in this province is not part of the ANC as a national organisation and begun attaching tribal connotations and discrediting our efforts and contribution. Others have attempted to underplay significant strides and achievements to spread prejudice and unnecessary suspicions.
It is helpful to provide basic information that may help understand KwaZulu-Natal approach to the conference.
The tensions associated with the aggressive approach and ill-discipline associated with the influence of the expelled and suspended leadership of the ANC Youth League was limited. The mere act of suspension of the provincial youth leadership was an indication that the approach by national ANCYL approach was rejected by KwaZulu-Natal youth.
It is interesting that without that aggressive call of "generational change" the majority of regional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal elected of late comprises the youth leaders of the ANCYL who served since the mid-nineties and some who currently qualify or still serve in ANCYL structures. Several of them in their own right have been appointed to leading positions in local council on merit. Clearly they have benefitted from the programme of political development that the ANCYL is meant to provide to the younger generations of leaders and did not need a defiant approach to be recognized as suitable for election. This confirms that generational mix occurs naturally in the ranks without needing mass mobilization.
ANC GROWTH IN KZN
The growth in the size of the ANC has been a steady process that reflects the stability in the province. When the ANC conference in 1942 took a decision to achieve a target of one million members during its Centenary year, all its members took it seriously. During the centenary celebrations President Zuma announced that this target had been reached. Coming from a province that hosts 21% of the population of the country, clearly a higher contribution was expected. Currently the ANC has 1,2 million members of which 331 000 are from KwaZulu-Natal.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal has come a long way and currently enjoys significant internal stability, huge strength and unity. The integration of different sections of the ANC from exile, prison and mass democratic structures in the early nineties did not pose any challenges in the province. What did create tensions was the issue of how to approach political violence in the early nineties. This was the era of ANC led Self Defence Units and IFP- aligned Special Defence Units. While these units were in place and violence orchestrated by the apartheid Third Force elements.
President Zuma as the leader in the Province had initiated peace talks and signed accords with the leaders of the IFP. President Zuma was severely criticised by some who believed he was selling the party to the opponents. However it did not take long for the leadership to embrace the approach and spread peace talks throughout the province. Once the matter was resolved and programme of reconciliation with largely the Inkatha Freedom Party, everything stabilized.
The growth of the ANC can be attributed largely to prevailing peaceful conditions that eliminated violence and intimidation and supported the freedom to choose.
People became free to join the ANC.
PAST TENSION ELIMINATED
Another matter that took time to settle was the adjustment of leadership to the creation of one provincial structure of the African National Congress and the dissolution of all three powerful regions of Northern Natal, Southern Natal and Natal Midlands. Each of the three regions had a significant history and unique contribution in the ANC. The integration brought in the challenge of different strong personalities with significant roles to play into a single structure. The most notable was the contest between the former deputy chair and transport MEC Sbu Ndebele and former treasurer and Health MEC Zweli Mkhize. This contest always ended with a difference of a few votes apart. This happened twice resulting in Ndebele as Chairperson and Mkhize as deputy in 1998 and 2002.
By 2005 provincial conference it had become imperative that there should be no contest and a stronger focus had to go into ensuring support to building the ANC as a party to govern KwaZulu-Natal. Clearly a united leadership offered more confidence and allayed the voter fears for the unknown. That allowed people to give the ANC a chance.
VOTER SUPPORT INCREASE
The experience has given a lot of lessons to KwaZulu-Natal. Inspite of the above tensions, the competition between the ANC and IFP had meant that internal differences could not be allowed to preoccupy the attention of ANC leadership to the complete neglect of issues of societal interest.
During the same period the ANC increased its provincial voter support from 32% in 1994 to 48% in 2004 before jumping to 62% in 2009. On the other hand the IFP which was ruling party controlling 50% of Legislature seats in 1994 to the current 24% in 2009.
The ANC has emphasised on good governance, financial prudence, focused very strongly on service delivery and intensified communication with voting public and responded to concerns in the community. An image of exemplary governance and efficient administration has been promoted. The strategy of hosting community of izimbizo, criticized by opposition as extravagant, has been an important factor in linking service delivery with community information. Partly this has resulted in avoiding massive public service delivery protests. KwaZulu-Natal has over the years accounted for 6% of all incidents of public protests according to surveys recently published. Regular evaluations are made to force all MEC's and departments to lower the cost and keep a trend of balanced expenditure.
The ANC ensured the clarity of its programme and strong support was given to government to accelerate service delivery resulting in voter preference. Voters were able to discern the efficiency and effectiveness of ANC leadership when they compared the leadership of government by the first few MEC's in the name of President Zuma as MEC for Economic Affairs then and Mkhize and Ndebele.
However the profile of departments was greatly accelerated when the fired MECs Mabuyakhulu and Makhaye in Public Works and Agriculture took over the two departments, respectively. This provided a huge impetus and created huge wave of support for the ANC. This enabled the community to see that ANC leaders performed much better than those of the IFP- a fact serenely admitted by some of the IFP leaders.
ROLE AND IMPACT OF PRESIDENT ZUMA
President Zuma has continued to play a leadership role as a father figure who related equally with all provincial leaders including the opposition. The support that was generated by popularity of the President at national level has had a more or less similar impact across all provinces due to his widespread appeal across different communities.
The assertion that the last surge in voter support was as a result of President Zuma hailing from KwaZulu-Natal is not entirely accurate. Voters are sophisticated enough to distinguish between the leaders at provincial and national levels as they cast their votes. If the provincial leadership can upset the voters, the national component of votes will be much higher and will show a disproportion in which the provincial aggregate will be shrunk, despite the popularity of the President.
Without underplaying the role played by the President, it must be realized that the electoral scenery is more complex.
TENSIONS IMPACT ON MEMBERSHIP GROWTH
Some critics who were referred to as sources who remain undisclosed asked a question why KwaZulu-Natal has grown so much. The correct question need only be asked if there were no growth in membership. With the experience it is easy to explain lapses in administrative machinery and difficulties in recruitment in situations where leadership effort is directed to resolving internal conflict. One of our KZN regions that recorded less growth was plagued by the ill-discipline in the ranks of the ANCYL leadership who were determined to take over and change leadership at all cost. Several of them were charged suspended or expelled for disruptive conduct not in keeping with the provisions of the ANC constitution and the culture of robust but respectful political engagement.
The ANC encourages members to speak out, frankly and express themselves especially if their views are different. Such differences strengthen the ANC as all decisions are explored frankly and all points of view are listened to before a decision is arrived at. There is of course a binding obligation to defend the decisions adopted at the conclusion of the matter as they reflect the majority decision and a binding position in the structure. The recent conduct of members who will not raise an objection in a meeting but secretly leak often distorted details of confidential debates or air their opposing views as sources acting on anonymity, is not only despicable but is a betrayal of trust of members who elected the structure in question.
UNITY IS FUNDAMENTAL
For the foreseeable the unity of the ANC will remain critical for the stability of KwaZulu-Natal and the country as a whole. It is impossible for a party that is divided to achieve unity of supporters and members of society n general if it is not itself united at its core. In the same vein, the exemplary conduct of ANC leaders is critical in ensuring social cohesion. This is the lesson that the provincial leadership has learnt. The advantage has been that the provincial leadership has been stabilized by the long association and common experience in which ' phuma singene ' malady has not taken root. That risk remains a possibility if younger leadership grow up without institutional memory of the forbidden path of the debilitating impact of factional fights and the fundamental importance of unity.
NEGATIVE TENDENCIES EMERGE
Experience has taught us that differences based on divergent political views and leadership preferences can be easily mediated through dialogue unlike conflict based on competition for control of resources fuelled by unbridled greed and personal interests. The ANC must embark on a ruthless campaign to uproot the infectious bug of rampant consumerism, crass materialism, the mad rush to swell the ANC structures by those who understand that the popular voter support to the party is a guarantee for high office and offers an opportunity to abuse power for personal benefit.
Often the cases of fraud and corruption identified in various levels of government arise from such manipulation of systems and institutions which must all be eradicated. Left on their own many individuals both in public and private sectors may easily be tempted into corruption, the deterrent is effective monitoring and tough punitive action when culpability is proven. Such tendencies are the basis of the conflict that have been identified and dealt with on regular basis and stamped out in the province.
The provincial leadership has been criticized for expressing confidence in colleagues who were charged in the case involving Intaka company. This was based on the understanding of the basic facts around the matter while deferring to the justice system to ensure that the law takes its course without any interference. The withdrawal of the case has been a clear vindication of the stand of the provincial leadership which maintained that there was no need for both MEC and Speaker to be suspended from duty.
The efforts to create confusion in which political leadership were reported in the media to be using the charges to eliminate internal competition ahead of the provincial conference was exposed for the lie it was. It may trite to reiterate that the ANC provincial leadership was never involved in any aspect of the same case. Many more efforts by information peddlers that sought to divide not only the ANC but the Tripartite Alliance were successfully averted.
PREVENTION OF TENSIONS
The destructive contest for local councils in 2011 resulted in close to fifty ANC members contesting as independent councilors. To deal with the ill- discipline and breach of ANC constitution more than fifty ANC members were expelled from the ranks thereafter. An earlier intervention was focussed on resolving justifiable tension care had to be exercised to avoid community being alienated by leaders who are popular in the party while rejected by the community. This was now the first time that community of voters were brought into selection of party candidates ahead of the election.
The provincial leadership as a whole has for several years conducted fortnightly inspection visits to regional structures of the ANC. The focus of the visits is to monitor the life and performance of lower structures, the relationship between members and elected representatives, progress in service delivery and the relationship with civil society as well as the growth in membership and challenges they face. The conclusion reached by the provincial leadership is that the ANC in the province has recovered from the tensions created by the contests for positions of municipal councilors. The relationship amongst members and most elected representatives and society in general remains reasonably good.
RECENT POLITICAL KILLINGS
We have been shocked and embarrassed by the sudden spate of deaths of ANC leaders in the hands of proven ANC members. This remains unacceptable and the ANC has taken a step to suspend or terminate membership of those implicated in the situation. Because the provincial leadership is fully aware of dynamics in most areas, it has been confidently concluded that the killings are the work of misguided criminal elements in our ranks who are driven by greed and self-interest and their motives are limited and localized within a few plotters and has not permeated into the community of activists in each area. Most killings so far reported did not follow the trend of known open conflict amongst the ANC members. The ANC can ill afford the development of the culture of the underworld, criminality and violent elimination of opponents. Neither can the ANC afford the association of political appointment to self-enrichment where ascendancy to office is not linked with capacity, competence and dedicated service to our people.
The ANC has intensified the awareness of all members and activists as well as communities in general to root out such hooligans and ensure that effective screening to boot out the rot before it such devious conduct is tolerated or accepted. Society needs to revolt against any such unacceptable misconduct for the impact no longer represent a matter of interest for any single party and there comes a point when the internal conduct of party members is offensive to public interest.
These deaths are condemned by the ANC in no uncertain terms. During the funeral of Chiliza and Malunga from Oshabeni branch, the ANC quite rightly apologized for the misconduct of individuals who are publicly identified as ANC members as much as such behavior is offensive to the African National Congress. The episodes do not represent a crisis but need to be rapidly stamped out. They also represent a tendency to disregard law and order and extreme greed.
MANGAUNG NOT POLOKWANE
The lessons for KwaZulu-Natal gleaned from the days of Polokwane have been the fact it is more effective to achieve unity in provinces if there is strong unity at national leadership level. Similarly KwaZulu-Natal learnt that the trauma of unmanaged contest involving the topmost leadership may result in trauma within all levels in the party with significant repercussions in the support base and society in general. This means that there is no one in KwaZulu-Natal who has the appetite of another Polokwane type battle in Mangaung. This is no time for brinkmanship. There must be no blood on the floor and the integrity of the ANC must be preserved.
However the situation of the 52nd conference is markedly different from the situation today. For one President Zuma has served one term and therefore is within an acceptable timeframes in office. The balance both negative and positive attributes will be assessed by the ANC structures and nominate him if here sufficient support. No leadership collective can preside over a term of office that will not attract both successes and failures or praise and criticism with equal measure.
It must count for something that the ANC has registered growth to reach the one million member mark as a sign of sucessfule leadership. The uniting nature of the Centenary celebrations hat invigorated the deep spirit of ANC and touched thousands of hearts that identify with the ANC. The whole program has been a reviving and inspiring experience. The fact that there remains a better relationship between the ANC and its Alliance despite huge challenges is credit to the leadership elected in 2007.
THE TASK AHEAD
To his credit, President Zuma's government has been able to create a National Development Plan and associated multi departmental Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. This unique initiative has produced a national plan around which the whole nation and country should rally to turn around the economy of the country. The plan carries with it a set of responsibilities amongst which are the focus in building our nation, building economy that create jobs and improves service delivery. The country has never had such a plan. This is a plan that must take us to the climax of our post-apartheid achievement as a nation. It requires support from all South Africans.
It can be a blue print to turn around the fortunes of our country, achieving the exquisite economic growth rates, creating jobs and delivering a better life for all and usher in a national democratic society. This plan allows for integration and long term planning and is one of the most important developments in our budding democracy. The plans need a strong push and a focused implementation programme. Thereafter South Africa will change for good.
THE ROLE OF KZN IN MANGAUNG
The need for humility of the ANC leadership and delegation has been preached continuously to ensure that the province plays a constructive role in building unity and a stronger African National Congress. The KwaZulu-Natal delegation will engage robustly in debates in the conference in search of resolutions that will propel our country to a positive future. KwaZulu-Natal will constitute a constructive force for reason to seek consensus in both policy debates and in the election of leadership. While he nominations are in motion, KwaZulu-Natal is openly engaging in formal dialogues with several other provinces with like-minded or differing views.
KwaZulu-Natal will work tirelessly for unity of the ANC and work tirelessly to build a strong African National Congress. The ANC will emerge stronger from Mangaung.
Many media reports and the columnists have castigated the ANC in all manner of ways even to suggest that there is no governance till after the national conference. This is grossly inaccurate. We intend to confound the prophets of doom when the ANC rises from the 53rd conference.
Zweli Mkhize is ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson.
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