Your factionalism is killing the ANC. This was the stark warning ANC heavyweight Kgalema Motlanthe gave the party’s national executive committee (NEC) this week.
Motlanthe, who was delivering a report on the ANC’s chaotic local government election candidate selection process that saw the party fail to register hundreds of candidates, called on leaders – especially President Cyril Ramaphosa – to condemn the use of their names for factional reasons.
A respected former deputy president of the ANC and president of SA, Motlanthe was speaking in his capacity as chair of the ANC committee.
He has over the years avoided taking sides in the party’s factional battles.
His warning suggests there is concern in the party, even about the actions of the Ramaphosa faction, who reportedly seek to isolate those who do not agree with them.
At the same meeting, Ramaphosa admitted that factions persist in the ANC even though he and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma have asked their followers to stop using their names for factional ends.
Motlanthe told the meeting that decisions in party structures were taken along CR17 and radical economic transformation (RET) factional lines by old party strongmen. The RET group supported Dlamini-Zuma in the last ANC national conference.
He is said to have told the meeting that the RET and CR17 factions are killing the party. He said the NEC has to take decisive and exemplary measures against factionalism and ill-discipline by members who identify as CR17 or RET and label one another as such.
“The ANC leadership, especially the president and all national officials, must intensify their efforts to quell factionalism by visibly and strongly condemning anybody who uses their names to push factional and personal agendas,” reads Motlanthe’s report.
His committee said senior male leaders are often the ringleaders and “it will be virtually impossible for the ANC to achieve the compliance with youth and gender representation if communities continue to be mobilised along factional lines dominated by male and older comrades”, reads the report.
Motlanthe’s disdain for factional politics can be traced back to the period leading up to the 2012 Mangaung conference, when he chastised ANC members who printed T-shirts bearing his name in their bid to have him challenge then-president Jacob Zuma.
Lobbying for positions at next year’s conference has already started, with ANC factions divided among those who want Ramaphosa to stand for a second term and those who are opposed to his leadership.
Ramaphosa admitted that factions persist in the ANC
Ramaphosa responded to Motlanthe’s presentation and acknowledged the existence of the two factions.
“On the issue of factionalism, where comrades hide behind using other comrades’ names – my name, other comrades’ names – and it is worrying that it goes as the report says as high as … that is worrying. If we don’t deal with that, the renewal will never take off,” Ramaphosa can be heard saying in a leaked audio recording of the NEC meeting.
“We do need to follow it through. In some cases, it may be painful but we need to follow it through. We’ve got to take a stand as a leadership and starting with myself. And I said right at the early stage when this whole issue of factionalism reared its ugly head right after the 54th conference – it was comrade Nkosazana and myself who made it clear that we did not want to be seen to be leading any factions.
“It seemed to die down but it has flared up again, causing huge divisions in our movement. The renewal process that we need to be implementing must deal with this, and unless it is accompanied by disciplinary processes, not of the vindictive type but of a corrective type, we will never be able to rid our movement of these types of divisions. This is the time to do it,” Ramaphosa told the meeting.
Motlanthe’s report identifies hot spots where party processes are thought to have been manipulated, and calls for the NEC to appoint a team to investigate allegations of manipulation of candidate lists.
Irregularities were cited in North West, the Western Cape, Waterberg in Limpopo and Tshwane in Gauteng.
Ramaphosa supported a proposal for the ANC to establish a special committee made up of people who are not politically active to deal with disciplinary issues arising from the disputed candidate selection process.
“If we do that, it will show the seriousness [with] which we are dealing with the process of renewal and the issue of discipline,” he said.
Ramaphosa said he believed, as did other NEC members, that there should be consequences for the ANC’s candidate selection irregularities, to send a message.
“It’s also been a very good lesson for us, much as it has been bad public-wise and everywhere. This is something that we should never see repeated in the next local government election and in the next 109 years,” he said.
Ramaphosa told the NEC meeting that the ANC’s focus in the coming elections must be on addressing SA’s youth unemployment.
He said the party should be frank about its failures in government but shine the spotlight on its successes, especially the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic meltdown.
“We need to humble ourselves and acknowledge where we made mistakes. When we do so, people respond rather positively, because they see us as an organisation that is prepared to humble itself and admit our errors and at the same time be able to point out where we have done well,” he said.
Ramaphosa indicated that the party’s election manifesto had been drafted and is ready to go. He thanked the policy and drafting team led by Jeff Radebe for producing a “good piece of work under very tight deadline conditions”.
“There is agreement that the slogan must show continuity and a movement that is committed to self-correct and at the same time turn local government around. I think this time around we do have the levers that can allow us and enable us to turn local government around,” he said.
Ramaphosa admitted that where the ANC governs, things are not going well, saying: “Our local government where we control is really in a mess. But we have to put that to our people, and say we have learnt but we are going to turn it around and we have already started.
“The choices of mayors, municipal managers … we are putting people who are skilled and capable in key positions and those key positions should also include key officials like your city or town engineer or your city or town treasurer and all that.”
But ensuring that the manifesto focuses on youth unemployment is key, he said.
“This is the make-or-break moment for us when it comes to youth unemployment and therefore we have to come up with a number of initiatives that will give hope to young people.”
He said many initiatives are already being implemented and gaining traction, but they needed to be “massified”.
The campaign will also need to be more emphatic about the work the ANC has done and is doing to renew and to rebuild, he said.
“We must also be very upfront about what we’ve been doing even in the past year because what we have done as this government in the past year, dealing with Covid-19 and trying to deal with the economic situation, has been quite phenomenal and not many countries have done that.
“Of course it is overshadowed by the huge challenge that we face, but we need to go forward with confidence to go and address our people and say ‘We’ve got challenges but this is the government that has been changing this country over the past 26 or 27 years’ and then go through all the eras that we have been through,” said Ramaphosa.