ANC National General Conference

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Gallagher Convention Centre goes green … and black and yellow

It is only to be expected that the declining membership of the ANC would have been prominent on the agenda. What is interesting from the point of view of party political maturity is that the ‘gate keeping’ accusation which was put forward as a reason for the decline does not precipitate self-examination by the leaders of the leading party. The ability to look reality squarely in the eye and ask “WHY?” is the prerogative of adults, and this was sadly lacking. Blaming our colonial and apartheid past, while legitimate in many cases, is also a distracting technique – a strategy to prevent the electorate from looking at the faults of the current system. Similarly, by blaming ‘factions’ the ANC is a) admitting that wedges exist between groups and b) a way of not taking responsibility. The inability to explore where the party is going wrong speaks of utter complacency. The fact the ANC still wins elections with a huge majority seems to bear out their confidence.

An odd kind of hope

Solidarity was the watchword of black empowerment. The splintering of this unquestioning party loyalty does, however, mean that perhaps the people are beginning to grow up. Small children do not question the parent. They blindly accept as gospel everything authority claims. Maybe as a nation we are at last reaching adolescence, where we are questioning the veracity of certain claims. In a true democracy declining membership is a sign of hope, creating the possibility of a division of power which keeps any government on its toes.


Everybody knows that power corrupts (although one can still be amazed at how quickly it happens) and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The corruption charges against ANC officials were raised at the conference, and the intention to address it seriously, expressed. However, South Africans can be forgiven for not holding their breaths. The very leaders who blithely say this have never adequately answered for their own behaviour in areas ranging from arms deals to nepotism, and the answers to some difficult questions have long been brushed under the carpet. Free access to information (like crime statistics and actual figures in dodgy contracts), freedom of the press, and a free market system were the tenets much sought after by oppressed people. Just how free these areas are today is difficult to ascertain. Again, the old refrain was trotted out: some version of “apartheid made me do it”. That again sounds childishly like: “I hit my sister because my dad hit my mom, so you can’t punish me… whe-lah-peh-lah … watch me get away with it!” While it may be true on some oblique level, it does not make it justifiable. Neither does the claim that the media spreads lies about the party and therefore should be transformed auger well for freedom of the media. If you sweep your own doorstep you do not have be nasty about the people that notice it is dirty.

An independent judiciary

Another disturbing attitude was the denigrating of opposition parties that use of the courts to sort out issues. Is that not what the courts are for? When the courts are only there to consolidate the position of a one party state, there will be real reasons for concern.

Who will be our next prime minister/ leader of the ANC?

President Jacob Zuma openly said to the media, “Anything under the sun can be debated at this year’s African National Congress (ANC) national general council (NGC) but the succession debate is one the party will not be having.”

What a pity! This topic is foremost in the minds of party and non-party members alike. Mr Zuma’s former wife and chair of the African Union Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was being lobbied by some members of the party as its next leader when his term expires in 2017. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is the other possible candidate to succeed Mr Zuma, but the Marikana debacle has somewhat damaged that line of speculation.

Let us hope that democracy will continue and we shall be allowed the exercise of free choice in our land. In a country slightly north of here that hope has been in vain.