Exactly a week ago the broad church of the ANC (African National Congress) turned 106. There is no other way to put this but to say, the ANC is old. Wise? If the past twenty-three years are anything to go by, wise would not be the word to describe the ANC in its old age. The ANC also turned 106 during the year when Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela would have celebrated his centenary birthday anniversary, a year after his comrade and friend, Kaizana Oliver Reginald Tambo, would have celebrated his 100th year birthday anniversary. His movement, the ANC, had declared, rightfully so, the year 2017, the year of OR Tambo. It has been announced the year 2018, will be the year of Nelson Mandela, and when it suits them, also the year of Mama Albertina Sisulu – for as you would know, in Africa women and the role they play in society are not that important – who was born 100 years ago. Officially the ANC declared the year 2018 as the year of renewal, unity and jobs.
The glorious movement of our people, the ANC, turned 106 last week Monday, the 8th of January 2018. In 1912, when its founder, Pixley Isaka ka Seme, arrived back in South Africa in time for the festive season of 1910, having spent almost two decades overseas being educated in Western schools, he found the living conditions of his people not desirable. Suffice to say Seme was not impressed. Thus, Pixley and his comrades, fellow law graduates from Britain, teachers and fellow concerned activists took it upon themselves to establish an organisation that will unite the black people of South Africa, bringing together their hopes, dreams and goals – eventually forming the ANC.
Compatriots, the ANC, ‘the titanic African army’, turned 106 last week. This past Saturday, five days after the broad church of the people of South Africa turned 106, its members and supporters descended upon the picturesque province of the Eastern Cape, the city of East London to be specific, to celebrate with the rest of South Africa this momentous occasion. The new president of the ANC, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, delivered his maiden speech as leader of the movement, and judging from the smile on his face, he had been waiting for this moment ever since Thabo Mbeki rained on his party over twenty years ago. The first commendable thing about the ANC under Ramaphosa is that the celebrations began on time for a change, and the new president couldn’t resist taking an indirect swipe at his predecessor Jacob Zuma who was notorious for never being on time. Not one to be outdone, and true to his character, Msholozi still arrived 45 minutes late on Saturday, 13th January 2018, for the party’s festivity. If being on time is a barometer with which to measure the radical changes required within the ANC, then Ramaphosa might be off to a good start.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ailing movement of our people turned 106 last week. In his speech, prepared by the ANC NEC, Ramaphosa focused on corruption, state capture, land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank, radical transformation of the economy, free education and just about every issue that needs to be addressed to ensure South Africa moves forward. Unfortunately for ordinary South Africans, as George Orwell once observed in his famous novella, Animal Farm: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ The same is true for the issues mentioned in the January 8 statement. Pick any newspaper or news channel since January 13th, and you will be under the impression that the new president only spoke about three issues: corruption, state capture and the much ‘awaited’ exit of President Jacob Zuma. I will not dwell much on the stepping down of a sitting president who has less than 18 months to go as I believe that it continues a dangerous precedent, but it is absolutely critical that the ANC as the ruling party attends to corruption and state capture. Every year illicit money leaves South African shores due to corruption and state capture. However, this disease has been framed in such a manner that is meant to make ordinary South Africans believe that corruption and state capture afflicts only a specific group of people, and therefore vindicating those whose looting would even shame the devil. In other words, the attention is focused on little guys while the big guys get off scot-free. Justice should not be selective. Anyone who steals from South Africans, big or small, should be punished. But then again, I am daydreaming. The world doesn’t work like that.
At its 54th national elective conference held at Nasrec, in Soweto last month, among its list of progressive policies it took, the ANC resolved that land will finally be restored to its rightful owners, and the South African Reserve Bank will be owned by the state, as it should it have been. But these policies are not new. At least in the past two national elective conferences, the ANC had adopted some of the very same policies it agreed on at Nasrec, yet the government that is headed by the very same ANC failed to implement these policies. What is different about the 54th ANC National Elective Conference? The answer is simple: the ANC is no longer seen by society as a revolutionary movement. In 2014 during the general elections, the party struggled to win elections which were once like a walk in the park over a decade ago. In 2004, during its heyday under the decisive leadership of the great African, President Thabo Mbeki, the ANC marched to a 69.7% victory. Ten years later that remarkable figure had slipped to almost 50%. During the 2016 local government elections, the ruling party handed the racist DA (Democratic Alliance), with the help of the puerile EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), three metropolitan municipalities on a silver platter due to corruption, infighting and lack of political will to implement its policies. These metros are: City of Tshwane, City of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Metro. You would remember that the ANC has long lost the City of Cape Town. Simply put, if the ANC government does not pass policies it took at Nasrec, by the end of 2019 they will be making noise like the EFF from the opposition benches. South Africa, especially the black people of this country, cannot afford for the ANC to lose government.
During his speech, the new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, could not stop emphasising the reason for the newly-elected ANC NEC to visit the graves of founders of the People’s Movement: to summon the spirit of the movement’s forebears to help guide it through what will be a challenging year. Shockingly, if not disappointing, the new NEC under Ramaphosa did not pay the same tribute to the ANC’s founder, Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Ramaphosa is not alone in this grave mistake. Over the years, particularly since 1994, the ANC has sought to distance the organisation from Seme, a man whose brilliance and ideas gave birth to this glorious movement. The latter-day leaders of the ANC have gone as far as deliberately allowing for recent history to credit John Langalibalele Dube, the ANC’s first president, a man elected in absentia, as the founder of the ruling party to ensure the name Pixley ka Isaka Seme is buried deep under a heap of amnesia. These people, who are denying Seme his place in history are no different from those came overseas and proceeded to proclaim that our culture, tradition, languages and our very being are backward and worthless, thus destroying our history.
At the launch of the then South African Native National Congress in the City of Roses 106 years ago, this is how Seme defined the significance of founding a pan-Africanist organisation of the character of the ANC: ‘Chiefs of royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme which my colleagues and I have decided to place before you. We have discovered that in the land of their birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The white people of this country have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa – a union in which we have no voice in the making of laws and no part in their administration. We have called you, therefore, to this conference, so that we can together devise ways and means of forming our national union for the purpose of creating national unity and defending our rights and privileges.’ Hundred and five years since Pixley ka Isaka Seme exhorted his countrymen to build an organisation that will ensure that Africans are no longer ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’, the policies adopted at 54th ANC National Elective Conference ring true of the very character of the movement Seme envisioned when he founded the ANC over a century ago. Thus, divorcing Seme from the ANC, an organisation he created, is to divorce the People’s Movement from its vision and goals.
The liberal leaders of the modern ANC – foreigners in the organisation of Seme, Mangena, Montshiwa and Msimang – might be trying hard to suppress the memory and legacy of the genius founder of South Africa’s ruling party, but like a bothersome fly, the spirit of Seme refuses to cower. The ANC was founded on the spirit of pan-Africanism, and any foreign ideology that anyone tries to impose into the organisation will bring about disaster. For years the ANC has been choking under the poisonous gas of liberalism, and until this gas is excommunicated out of Luthuli House, the people’s movement will continue to be dogged by catastrophic chaos. The ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, said it better: ‘Implement, implement, implement and implement.’ The black majority of South Africa have been waiting before 1913 to enjoy fruits of their land. It is about time the ANC stopped being distracted by noise from greedy liberals and heeded the call of its Chief Whip: implement, implement, implement and implement. Kgotsong!