/ 18 December 2007

Who is the ANC?

Membership of the African National Congress has grown to 620 000 members from 416 000 members in 2002. The growth spurt has been led by KwaZulu-Natal and Free State, where membership almost doubled. The Eastern Cape remains the heartland of the provinces accounting for the highest number of members.

As Idasa’s Jonathan Faull has pointed out, the ANC’s membership is largely rural, which explains the push to propel deputy president Jacob Zuma into the top spot. Zuma has carefully crafted his identity as a man of the rural masses.

In 1942, the ANC decided that it would aim for a membership of one million — a figure that secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe now believes is possible. But ANC president Thabo Mbeki asked again on Sunday whether ‘better but smaller’ was not a preferable future for the ruling party.

A national conference, the most powerful gathering of the party, is a perfect opportunity to assess who makes up the ANC. Who is the typical ANC member and what do they believe in? We went out to find out.

Moogi Ranganya (54)

Ranganya is a ward councillor from the Madeira region in Limpopo. Referring to the second day of the conference, she says: “There are no problems at the conference; everything is OK.”

Ranganya has been an active member of the ANC since 1974. Before that she was a member of the civic association. “I have a heart for poor people and that is why I joined the ANC,” she says, adding that she was attracted by the way the ANC took care of people then.

“The ANC still takes good care of people where I’m from. If someone from a poor family dies, the ANC helps with the funeral arrangements,” says the mother of two, who sews in her spare time. She poses for the camera in her black skirt with embroidered with green-and-yellow beads.

She is passionate about the ANC and would like to see it do more for her people. “I know that this party has taken care of the disabled and the poor — and those two types of people are closest to my heart — but I feel that there is more that can be done for them,” she says, adding that her four children are just as passionate about the ANC.

Suzanne Govender (23)

Govender, wearing a beige ANC jacket, has been a member of the party for only two years now. She also belongs to the ANC Youth League in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, and she joined the ANC simply because there was no big ANC structure in the predominantly Indian area in which she lives. “There was an ANC in areas surrounding my area but not in my area, so now there is one and it is dominated by Indians,” she says.

She says that she was always inspired by the ANC. “I actually used to study the history of the ANC and I was fascinated by it and the things that it did to get us all here, because they did not only do it for black people, but for all of us.” She never really wanted to be active in politics. “I guess I always knew that I’d choose the ANC if I had to choose a political party to be part of,” she says.

Govender is reluctant to speak to the Mail & Guardian as she says that delegates from her province are not allowed to speak to the media. “I will get into trouble with my province because we were told not to speak to the media, so I will not [allow you to] take a picture,” she says while walking away.

Zoleka Mashiyi (56)

Zoleka Mashiyi, a teacher at Nabanda Junior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape, says her dream for the ANC is to have less fighting within the party. “I wish for unity, love and tolerance in the ANC, because I hate it when people fight. We can differ in opinion, but there is never a need to fight,” she says.

A mother and an educator, Mashiyi believes that there are negative external factors that want to see the ANC “crumble”.

“I think that there are people from other parties involved who obviously don’t have the interests of the ANC at heart, and that is why we are fighting so much,” she says, not very keen to elaborate on her suspicions. “I don’t really mind who wins the race for the presidency. The ANC that I know and love will sit down and talk about whatever the outcome will be, but at the rate things are going, I don’t see that happening peacefully.”

Khosi Mahlati (45)

“I have been with the ANC 25 years,” says Mahlati, who doesn’t look 45. “I am a sportswoman, that’s why,” she laughs.

She is a member of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union and thinks that the ANC needs a new leader. “We have seen what the current leadership has done, but it is time for us to see what the possible new leadership can do,” she says, adding that change is good for the party. “The ANC will be the ruling party until kingdom comes. That’s fine, but we can’t have the same leader lead for longer than necessary because we need to groom more leaders in South Africa and in the ANC.”

Mahlati, who is an additional executive branch member at Thembisa Border branch in Gauteng, has two sons. The youngest, she says, is a politician. “He questions everything. The other time he asked me why he attends school at a multiracial school and not at the school that I teach at,” she laughs, and glows with joy.

Her wish is for the ANC to be the ruling party forever. “You see, that is why I want the leaders to change, because I feel that if one person or the same group of people stays in power for a long time, they change the ethos of the party.”

According to Mahlati, the ANC has changed dramatically. “I am a person who believes in change, but some change is not good change. The ANC today is not the ANC that we read about in history textbooks; the ANC that believed in democracy for all. Today the ANC preaches democracy, but their democracy is for certain individuals,” she says.

Kenny Motshegoa (18)

Motshegoa is president of the Congress of South African Students and a member of the ANC (which he joined in 2006), ANC Youth League and Young Communist League. He is currently completing grade 12, supports Jacob Zuma and is an observer at the conference.

“Basically we are 100% clear that Jacob Zuma should be the president of the ANC and that of the country. Thabo Mbeki has served for 10 years. At a point where a person stays in power forever, he reaches a stage where he can’t listen to the people. The ANC needs a person who is open and listens to the views of the people and you have not seen that in Thabo,” he says.

In Sunday’s political report, the “president covered key areas of transformation where the ANC has achieved”. In the report, he “made allegations that the succession battle is motivated by personal gain and opportunism, but he does

not talk about his permanent stay in power”.

“It’s quite obvious that a JZ presidency is around the corner and people must prepare themselves psychologically,” says Motshegoa, but it “can’t be predicted on what margin JZ will win because there has been a bribing of delegates. JZ is going to unite the ANC as if there was no succession.”

Nombulelo Ntloko (43)

Ntloko, a ward councillor from the City of Cape Town, supports Thabo Mbeki. She is a voting delegate.

“I’m not scared about the toyi-toying. Thabo won’t lose. He will win by a wide margin,” she says. “Some of the people that are toyi-toying [against Mbeki] are with us and are afraid of coming out because of victimisation.” In terms of unifying the party “it lies with us as delegates why the ANC is divided. If everybody is principled, the party will be united whoever wins.”

In Mbeki’s political report, “he covered most of the information people expected. He touched on all the problems the ANC is encountering.”

Thembisile Raputi (58)

Raputi is a proportional representative (PR) councillor of the ANC in Emfuleni, Sedibeng district, Gauteng. She joined the ANC just before 1994 and is a voting delegate.

“I support JZ; I’m mandated by my branch. If Thabo gets more votes, we’ve got to go for the third term. The noise that we hear is that JZ will win, but I can’t predict.”

The issue of unifying the ANC “is a very big challenge, because we’ve got ill-disciplined people that forget that Thabo and JZ come from the same organisation”.

Dumile Pukwana (33)

Pukwana is a community development worker in the Intsika Yethu municipality in the Eastern Cape.

“I’m supporting Thabo. Checking the balance of forces, Thabo will win by 80%. People know what they are doing,” he says. “There are delegates who fear intimidation, who masquerade as being in the Zuma camp. We engaged some of these delegates and they said they won’t be seen as if they support Thabo, but will vote for him.

“The context that we are in needs a strong person, a good leader that can bring more investors so that our economy can grow. Even the international world is concerned and they relate to a Thabo Mbeki presidency.

“Unity is a challenge to the leadership that will emerge from this conference. If JZ wins, we’ll support him, because we are doing this for the ANC and not individuals.”

Noko Ntsewa (40-plus)

Ntsewa is a Limpopo delegate who joined the ANC 21 years ago. He is a councillor in the Aganaung municipality.

“We are supporting Thabo Mbeki because he is a good leader. He has a good vision for us, especially in terms of economic policy. He has also resolved issues around the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]. Thabo is an exemplary leader, disciplined and not populist. He will win by 60%. I am saying this because in some provinces there were no secret ballots during the nominations. People were nominated by hands, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.

“If Thabo doesn’t win, we have to respect the policies of the ANC. I must respect the decision of the majority. But the ANC will come out united. The party has had problems in its history and it has solved them. The ANC needs disciplined people. There won’t be a split because we don’t differ on policy. It’s just a minor issue of

contesting leadership.”

Papo Maloka (40)

Maloka is a voting delegate from Limpopo province. He joined the ANC in 1987 and supports a third-term ANC presidency for Mbeki. “I support him because of the work he has done in government and in Africa. He has provided critical leadership in the ANC and in the country,” he says.

Maloka believes Mbeki will win. “If JZ wins, we will support him. It’s a tradition of the ANC. We won’t split.”

In terms of unity, “we will have to close ranks and work hard to unite the party. I’m worried about what happened prior the conference. There has been sharp campaigning — individualised and not collective.”