The decade of the cadre: What does it mean?

Chris Maxon on the significance of the Mangaung conference's declaration

Closing the 53rdANC Conference in Mangaung, President Zuma announced that Conference has dedicated the next decade as the ‘decade of the cadre'. However; many would rather remember the President leading Conference in what has now become a theme song;"Yinde indlela esiyihambayo...". I still ponder on whether we all understood the message and the dedication of the next decade as a decade of the cadre.

Interestingly; twenty seven years earlier, in 1985, the late President of the ANC Oliver Tambo, delivering the January 8 statement of the NEC, had declared 1985 as the year of the cadre and had also spoke of the "path we traversed" as "fraught with numerous dangers and hazards". The message from the OR Tambo statement is worth revisiting for the better understanding of the tasks and message from the 53rdConference.

The point of departure is the realisation that the declaration of the next decade as the decade of the cadre is, as Oliver R Tambo put it, "a call to battle summoning us to ever greater involvement and persistence in the struggle for democratic change."

It may be important that we, at the onset, clarify the meaning of cadre so that we all move at the same pace. First and foremost; the ANC has always been a movement of cadres! The criterion in this assertion is whether or not a cadre is resolute in carrying out the ANC line, keeps to ANC discipline, has close ties with the masses, has the ability to find his/her bearings independently, and is active, hardworking and unselfish. That is what has been imparted to people who wanted to become cadres of the movement.

I am also very agreeable to Georgi Dimitrov's assertion when he said; "to pay the subscription and have a membership card is only an expression of the will to become".

Too often, than not, member and cadre are used interchangeably. I want to argue that there is a need to know how to judge cadres. But under conditions of parliamentary democracy there is a need to widen our scope. We need to be able to judge and work with cadres outside of the ANC (or even Mass Democratic Movement) organisation.

We must also not confine our judgement to a short period or a single incident in a cadre's life, but should consider a person's life and work as a whole. This, I believe, is the principal method of judging cadres. Hence the need to interrogate the declaration of the ‘decade of a cadre' and its implications for those in the ANC and those outside.

In the January 8 1985's address by Oliver Tambo, he also touched on this fundamental issue which I have just raised. President Tambo said; "Who are these revolutionary cadres about whom we speak? Where are they? They are not special people. It is we - men and women, young and old, black and white - who are involved in daily struggles, making sacrifices in pursuit of the people`s cause. It is we, the workers in the factories, the mines, the farms, the commercial establishments and offices of various kinds; we, who work in health and educational services as well as those of us occupied within the residential areas."

From this vantage point, we can ask ourselves what a cadre type is. And the declaration of the decade of a cadre is a clarion call to every citizen -young and old, black and white, men and women. It is a message that challenges each one of us to stop asking: what is the country gonna do for me? But rather, what am I gonna do for my country?

To elaborate on why it is a message to all of us, allow me to quote Tambo as he succinctly put it; "the confidence with which we make this bold assertion is based on our unflinching commitment to fight with all our might, making all the necessary sacrifices, until victory is ours."

We should say that a cadre is an individual who has achieved sufficient conscious development, especially political development, to be able to interpret the extensive directives emanating from objective and subjective conditions that the majority of our people find themselves in, make them his problems, and transfer these as orientation for social transformation towards a democratic society. A person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations.

This is an individual of moral and administrative discipline, and who knows how to evaluate the existing contradictions and to utilise fully the many democratic facets; who knows how to practice the principle of collective discussion and to make decisions on his/her own and take responsibility.

A person whose loyalty is tested, and whose physical and moral courage has developed along with his social development in such a way that he/she is always willing to confront any conflict and to give his/her life for common good.

Also, and importantly, he/she is an individual capable of self-analysis, which enables him to make the necessary decisions and to exercise creative initiative in such a manner that it won't conflict with discipline.

This exemplary human being, apparently veiled in difficult-to-achieve features, is nonetheless present among the people of our country and in every community and we find him daily.

The essential thing is to grasp all the opportunities that there are for developing him to the maximum, for educating him, for drawing from each personality the greatest usefulness and converting it into the greatest advantage for the nation.

The development of a cadre individual is achieved in performing everyday tasks; but the tasks must be undertaken in a systematic manner, in schools where competent educators - examples in their turn to the student body - will encourage the most rapid advancement.

Therefore, the task of developing cadres is now a task which cannot be postponed. The development of the cadres must be undertaken with great eagerness by every structure in society based on agreed principles.

The cadreship development programme must be incorporated into the National Development Plan and must be in workplaces for workers, offering various opportunities for technological development; in technical schools; with the development of the secondary schools and the universities, opening new careers.

Lastly; intimately tied to the concept of cadre is the capacity for sacrifice, for demonstrating through personal example the truths and fundamental beliefs of the people. The cadres should gain the respect of the people by their actions. It is absolutely imperative that they count on the respect and affection of the people, whom they should guide along the long and painful path ahead.

For the good of the country; we all must be successful in this effort. In the words of Oliver Tambo; "It is a duty because history has entrusted us with the destiny of our country, and we therefore must together render to one another, ....to history itself, .... We must together analyse and learn from our experience on the battlefront to victory, to carve out the path to our historically determined destination.

A future to build!

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