The party suffers from an infection of corruption and greed. We hope it will accept the diagnosis and start treatment
As the nation’s gaze remains focused on the ANC’s fifth policy conference under way at Nasrec in Johannesburg, glimmers of hope are emerging that it might save itself and South Africa in the process. If it doesn’t, it can rest assured South Africans will save themselves from the ANC in 2019.
The first ray of hope came from what seems to have been a candid organisational-diagnostics report by the ANC’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. His report, a departure from the often nebulous one of the past that sought to paper over cracks and speak in general and collective terms, went into specific challenges: The reputational damage to the ANC caused by the Guptas, the inexplicable cabinet reshuffle, the leaked e-mails and the Nkandla matter. Good start, Mr Secretary-General.
Doctors tell us it is important to know what we have before it can be treated. What’s scary is that thousands die daily due to errors in diagnoses. Some, somewhat fortunate, wake up in an ambulance en route to hospital to be exposed to unnecessary tests with unnecessary side effects because of an initial misdiagnosis.
The ANC is not dead but Mantashe’s diagnosis might just have saved it a trip in an ambulance – that is, if it accepts the diagnosis and starts treatment immediately.
The party suffers from a serious infection; something has ruptured and is leaking infected fluid throughout its anatomy. It is an infection of corruption and greed, worsened by a predatory elite (the Guptas are not alone in their misdemeanours) acting in concert with some leaders of the ruling party who have a vulgar conception of morality and accountability. Either the ANC deals with this infection or it degenerates further and ultimately dies.
The second sparkle of hope that things might improve comes from a sentiment reportedly expressed by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on the sidelines of the conference. Speaking to a Sunday newspaper, she called on the ANC to expel any of its members implicated in, and proved guilty of, involvement in the dirt coming out of the Gupta-leaked e-mails. Now, there is someone who understands accountability and consequence management. And it helps coming from someone who has been in public office for more than 20 years, first as a deputy minister and then as a minister, without a blemish on her record.
I do hope the ANC takes her view on accountability and consequence management to heart. Unless the ANC holds its own accountable for the values and standards it sets, no one is going to take it seriously. The reality is that without consequence management, you are not leading but are creating chaos. And that is what we see in the ruling party. That is why you can have an ANC minister pronouncing on a policy that the ruling party later distances itself from – such as happened with the mining transformation charter. Such chaos exists in an environment in which expectations have either not been communicated or people are ignoring them, knowing there will be no consequences.
The ANC must rein in its own and apply appropriate consequences when its members or deployed cadres have not lived up to its expectations or values.
In the process of dealing with the ills within the ANC, let us not lose sight that this is a policy conference.
As South Africans, we are looking for policies that will take our country from the quagmire into a prosperous future that we can all share. Inequality remains an ugly feature of our democratic era. We are in a technical recession and junk status. Can the ANC delegates rise to the party’s claimed status as a leader of society and come up with policies that will lift us out of the situation?
For the ordinary resident of Alexandra or Gugulethu, can they look up to the policy conference to come up with policy that will improve service delivery in their township? In a country where women and children in particular, and citizens in general, are either not safe or don’t feel safe, can they rely on the 3500 delegates at Nasrec to come up with policies that will improve their safety?
Recent reports have shown that the unemployment rate increased to 27.7% in the first quarter of this year from 26.5% in the previous period. It is the highest joblessness rate since the first quarter of 2004 as unemployment rose faster than employment and more people joined the labour force. This is affecting largely our youth who face a double whammy as some cannot access higher or further education opportunities. Can the ANC’s policy conference offer hope to our youth?
I wish the ANC well in its deliberations and prayerfully hope that these will be characterised by what is in the best interests of the country.