Party chair says leaders have to reconnect with communities to turn around election fortunes
ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe says the call for younger leaders to take over the party is not political, but part of the battle for access to resources.
Mantashe, who is eyeing another term as an ANC official, said the party had since its unbanning not only attracted upright citizens, but also those who want to use it to enrich themselves.
The 67-year-old has been an ANC national official for 15 years, as secretary-general for 10 years during Jacob Zuma’s tenure and as national chair since 2017.
There are those who want him retained as national chair, and others who want him to become the next ANC deputy president. He could face stiff competition from younger leaders who are also tipped for top positions, including human settlements minister Mmamoloko Kubayi and justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.
There is also a group of former ANC Youth League leaders, who were born in the 1970s, pushing for their generation to take the ANC reins..
Change is happening around us. That’s why there is an outcry that says, ‘Let these old men go. Young people must take over’. Sometime you can see it is a material demand, it’s not a political demand
ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe
“Change is happening around us. That’s why there is an outcry that says, ‘Let these old men go. Young people must take over.’ Sometime you can see it is a material demand, it’s not a political demand. It’s the stage we’re in.
“An organisation that used to be underground … has opened its doors. This is what the Chinese describe as opening doors for fresh air and mosquitos also come in.
“The ANC must appreciate that it has opened that window, fresh air has come in and the ANC must realise that mosquitoes have also come in. How do you deal with those mosquitos? If [the ANC] doesn’t do that, obviously it will be in trouble.”
Mantashe said for the ANC to renew itself to win back the voters’ trust, it would need to do more than ask leaders who have been charged to step aside. But he said party leaders would need to reconnect with communities to resolve problems of ordinary citizens.
“The bulk of the people who have not voted for the ANC are working people. Working people have stayed at home and avoided voting for the ANC. We can’t reduce that to a working-class issue …
“Renewal is not about a resolution, it is about us … [talking] to people, listening to criticism and engaging with residents face-to-face. The people who are angry with the ANC, we must listen to them. I have been to a number of regions myself and I listen to people. People tell me all sorts of things and I listen carefully. That’s all it takes. Take things into consideration when you listen to issues and report back.”
Mantashe added that the ANC communications machinery had failed to publicise the party’s successes. This has resulted in other groups and individuals taking the glory for work done by an ANC government.
“We lost Maluti-a-Phofung [municipality in the Free State]. It is managed by a group called M16. We go back and say there is no water there, minister of water affairs, please help. Minister (Senzo) Mchunu intervenes and water is restored. I see people saying thank you, M16. ANC goodbye. It is because we don’t say minister Mchunu went to Maluti-a-Phofung and now there is water … The ANC must have a machinery of communicating what it is doing.”
Mantashe. who is also mineral resources and energy minister, would not be drawn to comment on the debate raging in the party and government that state-owned companies should be moved from the department of public enterprises so that they report to line departments.
“That is above my pay rate. Where we locate what to what portfolio in government. Only one man can make that determination … Cyril Ramaphosa,” he said.
But he was eager to boast about companies that fall under his departments.
“We have many public enterprises there. The Central Energy fund is one. We’ve got Necsa, Nersa,” he said.
“I run a mining company (African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation). I found that it was a cash cow for certain individuals. We found in that mining company [there] wasn’t a single mining expert. It was managed by people whose background was in state security.
“We are busy building a mining company now. We have a CEO (former Alexkor CEO Lemogang Pitsoe) who has mining background.”