IN my recent opinion pieces I have expressed concern about the increasing divisions within the ANC, and the appalling lack of discipline of some senior ANC members who are making these divisions worse through the
undisciplined manner in which they campaign against President Jacob Zuma in public.
Going through some of the recent NWC (National Working Committee) and NEC (National Executive Committee) media statements of the ANC I came upon a couple of pronouncements that could with a cursory read be overlooked, or not considered to be important.
However, I believe that these – all too easily overlooked pronouncements – are important road signs as those of us who truly care about the future of the ANC, and its position as the leader of society, try to forge a way through the current challenges that we are confronted with.
Let me first highlight those pronouncements, and reference them to the NWC and NEC media statements that they come from, and then explain why I believe them to be critical at this juncture. In the NWC media statement that was issued after the extended NWC meeting on the 4th of April (that is the meeting that was held after the recent cabinet reshuffle), the following is confirmed:
“At national government level, Conference agrees that the ANC President shall be the candidate of the movement for the President of the Republic.” (In order to contextualise this reference the full NWC media statement can be read
With this in mind let us now direct our attention to the NEC media statement that was issued on the 29th of May. I believe the importance of the following paragraphs should not be underestimated:
“On the succession debate, the NEC acknowledged that to continue to assert that the organisation was not in the grip of leadership election fever was foolhardy. The NEC agreed that we should continue discussing the principles that should guide election of leadership in the ANC but allow structures of the ANC to start discussing the names.” [My emphasis]. “Such discussions should be based on the principles discussed and Through the Eye of the Needle.
Nominations though will only be opened in September 2017…”
Dealing with the call that was made in the NEC for President Zuma to step down the NEC media statement responded as follows: “The NEC sought to have a detailed analysis of the consequences of removing the President; appreciating that some calls, especially those made by the opposition, are not so much about removing the President but rather dislodging the ANC itself from power.
The NEC concluded the matter by recommitting itself to focus on the task at hand and what our people expect from us. Implementing, refining and advancing policies that solve their problems of inequality, poverty and unemployment as we move towards the National Policy Conference.
We must also focus on ensuring unity and stability of the organisation as part of leadership transition at the 54th National Conference. Flowing from this difficult discussion, our branches are now directed to focus on their primary
tasks, work together and ensure the ANC impacts positively on society.” (In order to contextualise these references the full NEC media statement can be read at: http:// www.anc.org.za/content/statementnational-executive-committeefollowing-meeting-held-26th-28thmay-2017).
It is important to consider these quotations in the context of what the President said in his closing remarks at the NEC on Sunday evening. He told the meeting that he doesn’t understand why some people are rushing to kick him out of office, telling them he won’t step down unless ANC branches who elected him instruct him to, and that he will only step down as ANC president in December.
The cumulative consequence of these pronouncements by the NWC and NEC, as well as the President’s own remarks, is to reassert the ANC as the centre of political power in our society, and ultimately the branches of [the] ANC as the decision makers and arbiters in the execution of that power.
It has been a longstanding and unchallenged position of the ANC that the President of the ANC shall be the candidate of the ANC for the President of the Republic of South Africa. There is no ambiguity, for as long as the ANC is the majority party in South Africa, the President of the ANC will therefore also be the President of our country.
Nor is there any ambiguity about how the President of the ANC is elected. He/she is elected at National Elective Conferences of the ANC, that are convened every five years, by a majority vote of the delegates coming from all
the branches of the ANC and from the NEC and Leagues of the ANC.
The ANC branches constitute 90 percent of the delegates, while Rule 10 1.1. c of the ANC Constitution states: “The remainder of the 10% of voting delegates at the Conference shall be allocated by the NEC from among the Provincial Executive Committees, the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women`s Leagues”
Thus, whichever way one looks at it, the ANC Constitution ensures that the democratic organisational power in the ANC is firmly lodged within the branches of the ANC. Thus, the President’s logic was impeccable when he stated that he won’t step down unless the ANC branches who elected him instruct him to do so.
It follows that it was therefore never within the constitutional powers of the NEC to remove President Zuma as President of the ANC, and the overwhelming majority of the NEC members confirmed this again over the past weekend when they rejected the no-confidence motion that was tabled by Joel Netshitenzhe for the President to be removed. (Just as an aside, I am truly surprised that a long-standing and astute member of the Movement, such as comrade Joel, made such an unconstitutional proposal.
However, even more disconcerting than his notion’s unconstitutionality, is the apparent contempt that it showed for the rightful democratic power of our ANC branches to determine the ANC’s future, as it is enshrined in the ANC Constitution).
As rank and file ANC members we should be truly grateful to the majority of NEC members and the President for having stood their ground in defence of our Constitution and our ANC branches. In this instance, the political centre held together, and it bodes well for our future.
The sum total of all of the above is that after determined efforts to shove them aside, the branches of the ANC are now firmly back in the driving seat of the ANC where they have always belonged. It was an astute move by the NEC to acknowledge that the leadership succession debate is in full swing; and to allow the structures (which means primarily the ANC branches) to discuss names with nominations in mind for September.
Hopefully this unfolding process will now concentrate the minds of all of us in the ANC (especially those leadership hopefuls) to acknowledge and work within the constitutional structures, and concentrate their efforts on the branches, rather than marching in the streets of our big cities with the likes of Save South Africa, the DA and Afriforum.
Anyhow, this is not where the vast majority of ANC members and branches are. Furthermore, hopefully, the
penny will now drop for them that this is not how the ANC changes our Presidents, nor for that matter the rest of our leadership in the NEC. As President Zuma indicated when he closed the NEC, he will only hand over the Presidency of the ANC at the duly constituted National Elective Conference of the ANC in December to the next President of the ANC, who will be duly elected by ANC branch delegates.
Let us now once and for all get our heads around this: Anything else is foreign to the culture and well-established norms of our 105-year-old Liberation Movement as enshrined in our own Constitution and conference resolutions.
To try to impose decisions taken elsewhere outside our organisational structures – formulated only to serve the interests of those who have never cared one iota for the majority of South Africans (especially Africans) and brutally exploited them as colonial settlers and now White Monopoly Capitalists – is nothing else than counter-revolutionary!
As the NEC Statement declares: These calls are not so much about removing the President, but rather dislodging the
ANC itself from power. The time has come to call this by its proper name: These are efforts to engineer regime change. The bull-work against such counter-revolutionary maneuvers was always going to be the grassroots branch members of the ANC, who only have their own futures and hopes for economic justice to lose if these undemocratic and ill-disciplined shenanigans succeed.
In having re-affirmed the centrality and ultimate power of the branches the ANC NEC has shown that its political compass and revolutionary heart is still intact. Every South African who truly cares about economic justice and an
inclusive future for all the people of South Africa should give a big sigh of relief, and be truly grateful to every
one of those NEC members who had the backbone to stay on course with our National Democratic Revolution.
Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and MK veteran. All Carl’s articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www.carlniehaus.co.za