As we approach the ANC provincial conference which is due to be held in June 2018, the unity and cohesion of the ANC will face a serious test due to the critical question of leadership succession in light of the divisions that characterised the period before the ANC’s 54th national elective conference.
To a large extent, the majority of ANC members in Gauteng has warmly welcomed the leadership collective that was elected at that conference.
The ANC has a responsibility to build the unity of the alliance as a constructive leadership succession discussion will help the movement as a whole to share ideas and tackle the factors which threaten the unity of the revolutionary forces in the unique circumstances of the post-Nasrec period.
Unity cannot and should not be equated to the absence of differences within the structures of the organisation.
The challenge is to manage and turn contradictions into a source of strength, rather than a source of splits and splinters. While the contestation of ideas and leadership positions is an inherent part of internal democracy, it is usually the form of contestation that undermines the character of the organisation.
The unique feature of the post-1994 period is that deployment of cadreship and election into positions of leadership often bring personal material benefit. As a consequence, deployment and election processes get clouded by self-interest rather than principles. This has given rise to the kind of divisions that do not arise from a disagreement on ideology, policy or key issues of strategy and tactics.
In light of the new challenges we face in the post-1994 context, the movement has to perfect its political management systems on the deployment of cadres and leadership succession. There are many forces outside the ANC and the broad democratic movement who have an interest in the ANC’s deployment and leadership election processes. In some instances, these forces would dedicate resources and infrastructure to promote certain candidates. This phenomenon could lead to a situation in which the leadership of the ANC and deployment of cadres into various positions is sponsored from outside the movement.
The relationship between the ANC and its alliance partners is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. For as can be seen, similar relationships have not emerged in the course of liberation struggles in other parts of Africa.
To be true to history, we must concede that there have been difficulties as well as triumphs along our path, as traversing many decades, our alliance has converged towards a shared strategy of struggle.
Oliver Tambo once asserted that ours is not merely a paper alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders. Our alliance is a living organism, borne out of struggle. It was built of our separate and common experiences. It has been nurtured by our endeavours to counter the total offensive mounted by our enemies in particular against all opposition and against the very concept of democracy. It has been strengthened through resistance to the vicious onslaught against both the ANC and the Cosatu by the apartheid regime; it has been fertilised by the blood of the countless heroes; many of them are unnamed and unsung.
It is for this reason that our alliance partners cannot be expected to be spectators when the leadership and succession issues are raised for discussion in the lead-up to the provincial conference. One of the tasks that the provincial conference is charged with, is the responsibility of electing a leadership collective. This is a matter that should be discussed openly within the structures of the movement. Such discussions should be informed by the strategic tasks of the organisation and the challenges that it faces in the current phase. In this process, it is natural and necessary that there should be contest among individuals and lobbying by their supporters. The movement must however, ensure healthy and comradely competition, so that we emerge from this process united, with a leadership suited to the current phase.
On the other hand, if pursued in dark corners, in a spirit of self-interested sectionalism, the process could degenerate into debilitating contests which divide the movement and divert it from the major task of radical socio-economic transformation. It could also be easily exploited by forces of counterrevolution.
Furthermore, the movement must discourage attempts to mobilise on narrow sectional tickets. Individuals cannot project themselves as representatives of anti-white monopoly capital forces, CR or NDZ people, ethnic groups and so on. An attempt to use these attributes as a basis for opportunistic mobilisation is divisive and misleading. Rather, emphasis should be placed on the contribution that an individual will make or wish to make to the task of transformation.
Over the course of our struggle against apartheid colonialism, the black working class has been at the forefront of the forward trenches of our revolution. Consequently, the membership of the ANC should ensure a correct balance is struck when choosing leaders between those that are in the ANC and other mass formations such as our alliance partners — Cosatu, the South African Communist Party, South African National Civic Organisation and others.
Additionally, the ANC should systematically and consciously take more women into the blast furnace of leadership responsibility. Another issue that needs thorough examination is that of rejuvenation of the leadership in terms of electing young cadres who have done well in various fields.
This is important not only for purpose of the unique contribution the youth can and should make in the provincial elective committee, but because we should actively start building the leadership of the future in actual practice today.
In the final analysis, the right to elect the provincial leadership resides nowhere else but with the membership and their elected delegates.