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It's time to Occupy the ANC

Khaya Dlanga

Khaya Dlanga believes the ANC has lost its identity and become a shadow of its former self, arguing that it's time to Occupy the ANC.

Khaya Dlanga believes the ANC has lost its identity and become a shadow of its former self, arguing that it's time to Occupy the ANC. (Delwyn Verasamy, MG)

The ANC has forgotten what it means to be itself. Granted, the organisation has been around for 100 years. It is old and may be suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's and any affliction of the mind that often takes its toll on the old.

Every now and then we ask ourselves, "Is this really the ANC?" It really is. But it is not what it set out to be. It has become but a shadow of its glorious self.

We have managed to create, build and mould a leadership that is obsessed with the "self" instead of the people. If what we have been reading about regarding the developments at Nkandla are true – that the state is being used to build the president a palace worth over R200-million – then the ANC has reached its lowest point since democracy. We will wait for the report to see what it says once it has been given a chance to happen.

Working for the betterment of the people has been replaced by self-interest, self-preservation and self-enrichment; and the people have been put last in the hierarchy of the needs of the leadership of the movement. The "me first" sort of leadership is not what will rebuild the movement at all. It is no wonder then that we have had more protests during this administration than any other since 1994. The people are saying, "Not you first! It is the people first!"

The anger of the people is bubbling underneath the surface. Sooner or later they will let their anger be known to those who act as though they are entitled to their taxes and their votes.

These disappointments would be so much easier to stomach if the ANC had been taken over by some foreign entity. But it hasn't. Those who have changed it have been with it for decades, and yet, almost in the blink of an eye, it has transformed into a shape that is almost unrecognisable. We lament in pain at the decay we see before our eyes. Is this our beloved ANC? Of course there are those who will deny, defend and belittle those who try to point out what it is they see wrong with the party, and as is often the case, none is more passionate than one who defends what they know to beindefensible. They hurl insults with palatable anger. Their defences are insults mistaken as arguments.

Just because you are angrier does not mean you hold a higher moral position. Nor does it mean you are right. The ANC is moving away from its moral axis. As former ANC president Thabo Mbeki said at the opening of the 52nd national conference of the party: "Accordingly, the character of our movement at this juncture calls for a leadership seized with ethical fervour that defined the great traditions of our predecessors."

"In this regard, our collective responsibility is to ask ourselves whether, in the recent past, our movement has not gravitated away from its moral axis, [upon] which have pivoted the leadership of Dube, Makgatho, Mahabane and Luthuli among others. If so, what measures are needed consciously to restore the moral force of our movement so that, within the organisation and throughout all levels of the state our movement is inoculated from the insidious enticements of corruption, patronage and lust for power?"

Clearly, it is not as if the party is unaware of the rot. It is. Yet in Mangaung, we will hear the leadership speak about corruption and how it ought to be rooted out, how it is ripping out the soul of the ANC, how disgusting it is that some take from the "poor masses of our people", how all they care about is getting to power so that they can have access to resources. The delegates will applaud but all will go back to normal afterwards. The looting and taking will continue. We know this will happen because we've heard it before. The secretary general's report in 2007 at the 50th national congress said: "The competition within the organisation for positions in government has added a new dimension to the contestation of ANC leadership positions. Election to an ANC leadership position is viewed by some as a stepping stone to positions of power and material reward within government." Yet nothing has been to stop this.

The bullying and attempts to shut down those who dare try to look deep into those who take what is not theirs will continue. We already see this in the blatant attempts to bully Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, from doing her job. Ironically, the attempts to bully her come soon after we were made aware that she was investigating Nkandla. We see right through this charade. We want to know that nothing wrong was done, that is all. Has the price tag been inflated? Did the president pay for it himself? Was he operating within the law but was excessive?

Nelson Mandela said in his closing speech at the 49th national conference in December 1994: "As I say, they are men and women of high integrity and outstanding ability and commitment. But we must never forget the saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has happened in many countries that a liberation movement comes into power and the freedom fighters of yesterday become members of the government. Sometimes without any idea of mischief, precisely because they are committed and hardworking, they concentrate so much on their portfolios that they forget about the people who put them in power."

If the ANC has become something it was never meant to be, then it is time to Occupy the ANC. Those people who complain about it, but are not members of the party, had better start joining branches to influence the party to be what they know it ought to be and could be. It is heartbreaking because we know the potential of the ANC, yet it continues to under-achieve. It has become that uncle who was full of potential but did nothing with it.

It cannot be changed from the outside. Hopefully those who decide to go within the party to change it don't end up being the ones changed to become what they loathed in the first place. I remain hopeful that someday, maybe not today, the ANC will change to what it was meant to be. There will be no messiah to change it. We, the people, are the ANC's messiahs.


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