ANC leadership under scrutiny at M&G debate

UDM president Bantu Holomisa. (M&G)

UDM president Bantu Holomisa. (M&G)

"Funny how the ANC would snub this debate because of my presence. They could not ascend to power in 1994 without the UDM (United Democratic Movement). Small minds – you don't have to deal with them," said UDM president Bantu Holomisa.

This was Holomisa's response to the ANC declining to attend a Critical Thinking Forum debate titled "What kind of leadership should come out of Mangaung", hosted by the Mail & Guardian and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on Tuesday.

Holomisa was expelled from the ANC for ill-discipline and for bringing the party into disrepute, by a unanimous decision of the national executive committee (NEC) in September 1996. Holomisa testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission without consulting the ANC body that Stella Sigcau received a bribe of R50 000 from hotel magnate Sol Kerzner during her time as cabinet minister in the former Transkei prime minister George Mantanzima's Cabinet. The Alexander Commission was set up to investigate the matter but accepted Sigcau's explanation and felt that no steps should be taken against her.

The panel, moderated by SAfm presenter Xoliswa Gwala, included political analyst Eusebius McKaiser, SACP's second deputy secretary general Solly Mapaila and Holomisa.

McKaiser opened the discussion saying the country should be looking at what it wants, instead of what it thinks will happen. He pointed out that the "massive systematic organisational challenges" within the ANC will not disappear by assuming that someone who leads the country next will get rid of those challenges. He offered four qualities necessary in a leadership.

"Firstly we need a responsive leadership, secondly a leader who understands the difference between ethical capacity and legal standards, thirdly someone who has technocratic ability and someone who is an inspirational visionary".

McKaiser said the country needs a leadership who is ethically responsible, and "not a leadership who is just trying to stay out of prison".

Can the ANC provide an ethical leader?
Holomisa said none of the other people who are assumed to take the seat as the next leader have spoken out about what they would do differently to President Jacob Zuma and how they would fix the problems that South Africa is facing.

"Don't expect any change to come out of a quagmire. No one in the ANC, not Tokyo, not Kgalema [Motlanthe] has come out to the public to say what they want to do so why do we even debate this issue of leadership. No one can turn this situation around. There is too much corruption and a lack of discipline and accountability. What we need to do is look at reviewing our electoral system where the public can elect its own Parliament".

Holomisa pointed out that the ANC suffers from arrogance, believing that they were the only ones in this country who "brought apartheid to its knees. Other played a role in that too".

McKaiser agreed with a different approach to how leaders are selected saying, "Two of the possible leaders should go to the podium and tell us why we should elect them. I don't think that South Africa is this perpetual teenager incapable of doing that".

End of the road for the ANC?
Mapaila objected to the notion that the ANC is a "quagmire", saying that the ANC has provided a successful leadership and government despite some on-going challenges.

"There is no doubt that the ANC has crafted the best vision for this country, anchoring our society on a collective mindset. Discipline is not an issue that has just sprung out now. The ANC thought that the actions of Bantu were ill-disciplined but that does not mean that that strips him of his credentials he has with the contribution he made to the movement. This country has experienced the success of our liberation. There isn't a single community in this country that has not experienced delivery under the ANC," he said.

An audience member, who did not reveal his name, suggested that opposition parties unite as one political party to challenge the ANC, saying it is not possible for the ANC to fix society's issues.

In response Holomisa said: "Opposition parties have been working together for the past two years on a number of issues. If we do form one party, we must open that option to the public and to the ANC".

McKaiser said that the first thing that must be done when referring to the ANC is to stop calling them a "movement". "The problem with the ANC is that it still exists in the mould of a liberation movement, it needs to rethink the reason why it exists. Apartheid was a monster from which people needed to be liberated, but that monster is long gone. What is the ANC still liberating us from?"

A vote of no confidence for the ANC came across strongly at the forum, with changes within the party as the main reason why selecting a new leader has become such a complex issue.

Concluding the debate, Mapaila said he believed that Zuma and Motlanthe will retain their current positions. Holomisa wished the alliance well with its elective conference in Mangaung in December, advising them on the following: "When you select the leader, keep in mind that he must firstly respect the decisions of the courts, be committed to review the electoral system and please avoid corruption".

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