KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala says deep-rooted divisions within the ANC have stifled internal debate. Due to this, support for Jacob Zuma is interpreted as opposition to President Cyril Ramaphosa while working with Ramaphosa is seen as deserting Zuma.
Zikalala told party members in his opening speech at the Moses Mabhida conference that it was “unfortunate” that these divisions have changed the character of the party and are destroying debate, frankness and the ability for members to freely express themselves within structures of the ANC.
He was explaining that the provincial executive’s decision to lobby the national leadership to join Zuma’s appeal as “friends of the court” was not a sign that they were anti-Ramaphosa.
“There is this tendency of extremism, comrades have become extremists — now this is wrong, it pits the ANC against itself. Members of the ANC will say if you support former president Zuma you are undermining the sitting president or if you are working with the current president it means you have deserted former president Zuma.
“But members should analyse things as they are, in totality and understand their interconnectedness. Members of the ANC must not allow narrow analysis, they must avoid acting like the media which will easily pit us against each other,” said Zikalala.
He emphasised that ANC members should be free to disagree on issues without the burden of being linked to a pro Zuma or pro Ramaphosa faction.
“You must understand that we are also talking about unity, pigeonholing each other does not work, we may agree on one thing but disagree on another, but it does not mean we cannot coexist,” he explained.
The provincial chairperson said this behaviour was narrow looking adding that it encourages “laziness because we must not think on our own, be creative or test new ideas — it means we must be told.”
He decried the culture of “ja baas” which he said was not only foreign to the organisation but anti ANC, saying that space to echo views and have healthy debate was “the oxygen” of any political party.
Zikalala also took on the so-called RET faction of the ANC which is a euphemism for the pro Zuma and anti Ramaphosa faction. RET, which stands for radical economic transformation, is an ANC policy. One of the biggest criticisms of Ramaphosa from the Zuma faction has been his “failure” to implement radical policies.
While Zikalala acknowledged the weaknesses of the leadership on implementation of these policies, he said the grouping that has appropriated the term was also clogging debate channels.
“RET is a programme of the ANC and the ANC government. The meaningful engagement on this is unfortunately overclouded by mediocrity exposed by the so-called RET faction. This faction represents the antithesis of the values and the objective agenda of the NDR. This conduct is counterproductive,” he explained said.
He called on members of the ANC who call themselves part of the “RET faction” to remember that the policy belongs to the ANC and all its members.