I would like to go back to the piece about the Eastern Cape ANC’s provincial conference “Follow tradition for unity” (DD, March 4) by Mluleki Dlelanga, the Young Communist League of SA national secretary.
It seemed to me that this comrade failed in his basic grasp of what it is that underpins the character of the ANC. It is democracy based on decision-making by membership about what needs to be done (policy) and who needs to do it (leadership).
Every leader serves at the behest of the membership and a conference is the only platform where a leadership is ultimately elected.
In the same vein, the membership elects its leadership in appreciation of the contemporary challenges as per the analysis of the membership at the time of going to conference.
It elects a leadership whom it trusts to better serve its interests and resolve the challenges of the time.
The other very important point is that branch delegates elect on the basis of who they are comfortable with. This may be objective or subjective depending on the onlookers.
Dlelanga’s summation of the evolution of ANC leadership post the organisation’s unbanning in 1990 and post-1994 contained several inaccuracies. This was bound to be the case because of his youth and the fact that he has never served in any structure of the ANC, not even a BEC, nor in any structure of the ANC Youth League.
This has robbed him of the opportunity to learn, understand and better know the ANC. This explains some of the misinterpretations in his piece.
First, the Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile was not the first chairman of the unified ANC in the Eastern Cape.
Second, the ANC EC did not achieve cohesion under his stewardship. Rather, it was during his era that direct factionalism was recognised in the structures of the AC the Eastern Cape.
In fact, it was during his time that parallel structures started to emerge.
It was also during this era that the ANC tasted defiance in terms of its deployment processes.
Just to illustrate the above, at the ANC’s 2002 Stellenbosch national conference, the Eastern Cape as a province only just managed to get Enoch Godongwana onto the national executive committee. That is how divided we were.
Turning to the issue of seniority which Dlelanga raises, he does not seem to appreciate that post-Stofile’s tenure, the so-called progressive block contested with Mcebisi Jonas twinned to Phumulo Masualle as chair and secretary respectively.
They lost to Stone Sizani and Siphatho Handi as chair and secretary, as Dlelanga correctly says in his article.
Their election was not in itself a mistake as they had been eligible for election. Sizani, a seasoned leader of the ANC who spent time on Robben Island, spent his youth in the struggle for liberation.
Dlelanga however, omitted to mention the phase beyond their term – which was characterised by the establishment of COPE. The conference which Masualle won – River Park in 2009 – was the one in which he stood against Jonas, a leader of note and renowned theoretician who has an excellent grasp of historic materialism and who had spent considerable time in exile in the fight against apartheid.
If the seniority that Dlelanga refers to was a determinant, Masualle would not have contested against Jonas owing to Jonas’ seniority in all respects, which everybody knows including Masualle.
But because the delegates were comfortable with him he was elected as the ANC’s provincial chairman .
This reduces Dlelanga’s argument to hogwash, more so considering that for his first term Masualle was elected along with Gugile Nkwinti as his deputy. Nkwinti is regarded as a stalwart given the length of his contribution to the struggle and supremacy of his ideological grasp.
No one complained that the elder of the two had to deputise. That was because the arrangement was what the branch delegates of the ANC at the conference were comfortable with.
After all, decades earlier, in 1949, a little known Walter Sisulu from the ranks of the ANCYL was elected ahead of a stalwart and seasoned comrade, Arthur Cannon James Calata. That was because the Sisulu generation had a programme and it did not seek approval from its seniors.
Marxism teaches that there is a war when the new forces its way to birth. The old resists as it has to die and give way to the new. This means no generation has voluntarily handed the baton to the next.
In the case of the Thabo Mbeki generation, it was mentored by the Mandela, OR Tambo and Sisulu generation, meaning there came about a sense of trust and the legacy of the former was also held by the latter, hence there was neither ideological nor political contestation between the two generations.
In 2009 towards the ANC’s River Park provincial conference Dlelanga was among us and pushing for the election of Oscar Mabuyane as provincial secretary against a seasoned member of the movement, Xola Phakati.
Dlelanga did not seem to have his present view about seniority back then.
Nor did he stand back in being elected OR Tambo district secretary of the YCLSA ahead of senior cadres such as Mesuli Zanemvula Ngqondwana, Asanda Ngqukumba, Nomonde Jam-Jam, Sinethemba Godongwana, Malungisa Kebeni and others in 2008.
And nor was there any outcry about it, simply because it is understood that an ANC member accepts a nomination, not on the basis of one’s seniors having perished but as a matter of responsibility.
It is also considered an honour.
It is crucial that we as authors write from a historically informed position, not only for our sakes but for the sake of society.
My call to Dlelanga is to “come out of the nest and join the revolution”.
During the past eight years, the ANC in Eastern Cape has been under the leadership of Masualle as chair and Mabuyane as secretary.
Mabuyane is a Fort Hare graduate, a former SRC president, former chair of the SACP King William’s Town district, a former ANC Dumani Cwane (Ward 6, Engcobo) chair and former ANCYL provincial deputy chair and very principled and reliable member of the ANC.
The provincial conference will comprise 90% of branch delegates with 10 % shared amongst the provincial and regional executive committees and the leagues.
If, according to the wisdom of the ANC, Dlelanga is not going to be a voting delegate, he must allow the branches and structures that will participate to discuss the EC conference without hindrance.
He also needs to appreciate that the vast proportion of the Eastern Cape population is below 44 years old. It is therefore necessary for the ANC, when electing a leadership, to consider this reality and to elect a leadership that is able to sustain a dynamic relationship with a young society and which will inject a sense of urgency into doing both the work of the ANC and setting a radical process in place within the state machinery in order to change the status quo for the better.
Moving on, there is one quote in particular that I would like to challenge: “Once the candidates are nominated, pails of mud are dumped upon their heads. Lies and exaggerations are knowingly spread. All manner of infamy is considered legitimate. All kinds of blows are good as long as they stun the enemy. Whoever invests in effective villainous acts struts about like a peacock. Even prominent men believe themselves excused from the more trivial duties of honour.”
Dlelanga further alleges “the group calling for leadership change does not care about unity … and has no will to engage. It is just lobbying and pronouncing their slate. Politically there is no argument presented.”
He also insinuates the other group is anti-communist: “Politically there is no argument presented so far by those calling for leadership change other than using petty tribalism and regionalism, and character assassinations with anti-communist undertones.”
I found this misplaced given that Dlelanga seems to be intent on assassinating the characters of those he disagrees with.
I also hope he is not speaking on behalf of the Communist Party that I have been privileged to be a member of, the Party that has always been uniquely armed with such an extensive arsenal of analytical tools that the ANC has been largely dependent on the Party’s analysis of each epoch of the revolution and we still expect this from the Party.
There is historical evidence on this. From the leadership of the president general ZR Mahabane in 1923 onwards there were intense ideological debates within the ANC and the Communist Party of South Africa about the primacy of the national versus the class question.
In that period the Party was able to win over the majority of ANC members and some of those in leadership towards the 1927 elective congress, so much so that a communist favoured candidate JT Gumede, was elected president general.
Gumede is to this day hailed as a committed socialist. Even after his ousting by the so-called nationalist group in the ANC, communists did not throw in the towel nor bemoan this, but mobilised communities, contested and governed in local councils.
This is the calibre of communists that the ANC has appreciated in its ranks.
The strength of the party has been found in its ideological and theoretical clarity.
I invite my comrade Dlelanga to join us in ANC leadership discussions which are openly engaged in within ANC structures and where contributions from the alliance and society in general are accepted as we want to entrench a culture of democracy, openness, transparency and public confidence, doing away with any perceptions that we are an inward looking movement.
Regardless of who gets elected at the conference, let’s drop any daggers against one another as post-conference we need a stainless ANC that will be hegemonic in society. Don’t moan, mobilise!
Xolisani Malindi is a former regional secretary and PEC member of Sasco, district executive member and treasurer of the YCLSA, former PEC member of the ANCYL in the Eastern Cape and currently ANC Reginald Tambo branch chair and sub regional secretary , Ward 21, Ingquza Hill